My wife says I’m cheap.  I don’t like the sound of that word.  I like frugal, conservative, cautious, economical…all fancy words to say cheap.

 Several years ago I took the family on a trip to Mackinac Island.  It was a one-price-pays-it-all trip.  That means you pay one price and it includes everything: parking, boat ride to the island, entertainment, hotel and meals (including tips).  That’s my kind of trip!

After eating at one of the restaurants I was made aware that while the meal and tip were included in the package, the gratuity was not.  WHAT?!   I thought a tip was a gratuity.  After some grumbling, I gave in and left a “gratuity.”  On the way home I looked at my wife and said, “Well, it’s only money.” She stopped dead in her tracks, grabbed me, looked into my eyes and said, “Who are you and what did you do with my husband?”

We both laughed, but I thought, is that how I am perceived? I began to think about what it means to be cheap (there – I said it).  I don’t want to be perceived that way, so I began asking God to help me be more generous and more liberal in my giving.

Funny how God answers our prayers. He will usually put examples in our lives to remind us of our prayerful desires.

After I got home, I went on a trip with a couple of guys from our church to Birmingham, Alabama to visit a church that God is blessing in an incredible way.  But my greatest lesson wasn’t learned that week by this incredible church, or by anybody I met that week, but by one of the guys that went with me to Birmingham.

On the way home we stopped at a Cracker Barrel to have dinner.  If you have ever been to Cracker Barrel, you may have noticed that the people who serve you wear a brown apron with stars on it.  The stars are earned by “experience and excellence.” That night the young lady who was serving us had no stars on her apron.

None. Nada. Zero.

We soon found out why there were no stars on her apron.  She messed up the order, not once – not twice – but three times!  We finally just ate what she brought us because we were starving.

As I went up to the register to pay my bill, I thought about our “no star” service. I felt that, as a Christian, I needed to leave a tip no matter how bad the service.  I mean, she saw us pray, she heard our conversations as we ate, and I have always said, you are the only Bible that some people ever read.  So I left a tip.

Afterward, as we were walking to the car, our “no star” server came bursting out of the door with tears coming down her face and exclaiming, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”  I saw her come running toward me with her arms open, so I opened up my arms, ready for her grateful embrace…but she ran right past me and hugged the guy next to me. I thought to myself, what’s going on?  What just happened?  I’m the one who left the tip!

But come to find out, while I had left a tip, the guy next to me had left a gratuity. A $100 gratuity, to be exact.

He told her, “Thank you for serving us; you did a fine job,” and she walked back into Cracker Barrel, shaking her head in disbelief.

That’s what generous giving is all about.  It’s not the status quo. It’s going above and beyond.

I’ve often thought about that young lady.  Was she a struggling single mom? A college student trying to make ends meet?  I want to believe that after that night, maybe when management got word about that $100 gratuity, she got her first star.  Who knows – she may have 4 stars today.  Maybe she is the manager of that Cracker Barrel.  And maybe it all started because of the generosity of one guy who loves people.

You know, we are more like our heavenly Father when we love people and are generous to others.  God showed us what generous giving is all about.  He gave his only begotten son so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

All of us should be stunned when we come to realize what God did for us when we had “no stars.”  It was at that time that He generously gave to all of us.  This kind of love and generosity ought to bring a “thank you” to our lips every day we live and motivate us to be 4-Star Christians.

I’m still working on my frugality (my cheapness) – but thank you, Lord, for the wonderful examples you place in my life.

 

From a Pastor still working on a star,

 Gary