Wednesday, November 15, 2006

And Another Thing...

The comments following yesterday's post on tipping must be the most spirited conversation to date on this blog! Which is really interesting... in my opinion, far more interesting than the original post!

The comments range from "you must tip every time or you're a pietistic 'Judas'" to "sign me up for the protest against tipping." Every so often, an observation about the gospel itself peeks through the chatter... but only every blue moon.

But on the whole, the comments in the blogosphere remind me of a lot of evangelical preaching I hear (and perhaps my own, I need to go back and listen to some of my sermons). The preacher starts with a text (hopefully), offers an application, then insists on the binding authority of the application rather than the text. That seems to be the pattern in some of the comments: allude to or cite a text related to giving or generosity, apply it to tipping, then insisting on obligatory tipping. And is often the case with bad applications in preaching, some of the comments suggest or state that those not adhering to the "law of the application" are misers, stingy or greedy, while those who do adhere are generous, virtuous and righteous.

However we feel about tipping, we should certainly refrain from assigning motives and judging hearts when it comes to individual behavior in this regard... especially absent anything remotely close to a command to tip or to be "generous" in that particular way. "For the judgment we judge, we shall surely be judged."

And surely it's legitimate to raise the question of faithful and effective stewardship when it comes to giving and tipping. Posing alternatives doesn't make a person a pietist or a greedy thief like Judas. Many of my die-hard tipping friends pass a dozen homeless people on the way to the restaurant, never stopping to give anything to them, and sometimes are angrily opposed to that kind of "charity." The homeless man or woman ends up homeless for any number of reasons... some good, some bad. Shouldn't we protect the most vulnerable in society? Doesn't that include folks in dire straits? Why should anyone who chooses thoughtfully to give their money to a person on the street instead of a waiter be thought poorly of? Or, at the least, shouldn't we order a meal for the homeless person down the block from our favorite restaurant if we're not going to give them cash? How many of us absolve ourselves of any responsibility for greater social problems because we do things like tip a waiter?

These, I think, are good questions... not pietistic self-righteousness or greediness.You see? There I go... feeling the pressure to defend myself because I don't feel obligated to tip. And even now choking down the urge to say, "But I do tip, I do tip!" That pressure is not righteous; it curbs our freedom in Christ and clouds the stewardship and bigger justice questions the previous post rather ineffectively tries to raise.

7 comments:

pduggie said...

If the application is valid, then the application *IS* binding. If it's not binding, it wasn't a valid application to begin with (except maybe when discussing prudential matters)

John Frame discusses this, with a trivial example: "thou shalt not steal" is the text. Embezzling is a form of stealing (applciation), and therefore Christians shouln't embezzle is as binding as the commandment. If the application is a correct and good one, the binding force is simply there.

kerux said...

"The preacher starts with a text (hopefully), offers an application, then insists on the binding authority of the application rather than the text."

What a danger! And how easily we slip into it!

You should write more about this, brother.

FellowElder said...

pduggie,
You've chosen an example based upon a clear command with clear meaning. Try doing this with a less clear principle or teaching like "generosity" and then try to comprehend every possible application as "binding" in the same way that "thou shalt not steal" is binding. And then take something like generosity and put it in tension with other good teachings or principles, like "don't harm your neighbor" or "love does not rejoice in iniquity." Wouldn't those other teachings help to round out the biblical teaching and make it clear that every possible application of one teaching is not necessarily legitimate? So, take my homeless person example. If the brother is homeless because he will not work, my generosity is actually waste and hurts the brother by encouraging him in that sin. If you try to make every application binding in areas where there is Christian liberty and prudence required, I think you'll work yourself into a legalistic pretzel.

Ariel said...

There I go... feeling the pressure to defend myself because I don't feel obligated to tip. And even now choking down the urge to say, "But I do tip, I do tip!" That pressure is not righteous; it curbs our freedom in Christ...

This is very close to the heart of the argument, in my humble opinion. Well said.

Dan Edelen said...

Though it's almost 25-years old, this message by John Piper applies well:

http://tinyurl.com/ycuo32

Anonymous said...

Thabiti,
I don't think we should pit one type of generosity against another (regarding whether to tip your waiter or give money to the homeless). However, if you disagree in principle with tipping your waiter, perhaps you would do well to share this with him/her when you sit down at their table, instead of simply stiffing the person who serves you, or, (worse in my opinion), giving him/her $1 and a gospel tract and explaining that "I give the church 10%, and I ain't giving you no more", with a self-righteous tilt of the head. But please don't encourage even more "christians" to go out, run their waiter around and then stiff them.
Let our love overflow! If you can afford to go out to a restaurant, remember that your waiter may be a Christian, or he/she may be a lost sinner, in need of a savior. Ask them if you can pray with/for them, share the Gospel with them, and please, at all costs be charitable to them!
Remember whom you serve, and let that motivate you to be a giver, at all times, in all situations!

FellowElder said...

Anonymous,
You wrote:
"However, if you disagree in principle with tipping your waiter, perhaps you would do well to share this with him/her when you sit down at their table, instead of simply stiffing the person who serves you, or, (worse in my opinion), giving him/her $1 and a gospel tract and explaining that "I give the church 10%, and I ain't giving you no more", with a self-righteous tilt of the head. But please don't encourage even more "christians" to go out, run their waiter around and then stiff them."

I don't think I've argued in principle against tipping, as I've said in other comments, I do tip. I'm arguing in principle against any coercion in tipping. I think much of your comment above is a caricature, a strawman that's pretty easy to tear down. But it's not my position.

Thanks for contributing. Feel free to do so any time. Grace and peace,
Thabiti