Pastor Clay Faulk

A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a young woman who went to dinner with a few friends. She and her friends had a wonderful dinner and the service was excellent. At the end of the evening, she told her friends that she would pay the bill. She quickly gave the waiter her credit card and signed it when she returned. She liked the service so much she gave a generous tip of $25.00. How much? Forgetting to use the decimals and accidentally adding a zero, she gave the waiter a $25,000 tip. Due to the fact that the credit card was her father’s and he was a corporate executive with plenty of credit, the amount cleared and the waiter was cut a check. Days later when the error was realized, the question was asked, “Should the waiter return the tip?”

What do you think? This is not a legal question. The law is clearly on the side of the waiter. Thus, it is a question of ethics. The young woman, a college student, was well meaning in trying to be generous for the service rendered, but there was clearly an error.

Should you keep something that is clearly legal, yet obviously unethical? I have heard of multi-millionaires and the like give extravagant tips/gifts. (Elvis once walked into a Cadillac dealership and gave a car to a woman who was window shopping.) But in the case of the tip, it was a mistake. The reason I bring this up today is this. What is legal and what is ethical? 

Many Bible passages speak a great deal about money and possessions, but the one I want to highlight today is found in three of the four gospel stories in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It goes like this, “…some Pharisees and followers of Herod tried to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one. “This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?” “Caesar,” they said. Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” Their mouths hung open, speechless.” (The Message Mark 12:13-17).

The question today is… “What is God’s?” Every year at this time churches are wrapping up stewardship campaigns. Each is hoping to get enough to fund their church programs, staff salaries, and outreach. Some will increase, some will maintain, others will have to cut. But, most churches would have more than enough… “if.” That is a big “IF.” If people gave unto God what is God’s, most churches would have more than they need to operate. Our church like so many others are big on keeping tithing information secret.

Only you and God know what you give and how close your giving is in line with ten percent. Like the waiter, most folks can get away “legally” with giving any amount we choose. But what would happen if every Christian’s tithing were to be published in a public way? Would it matter? Probably not, maybe embarrassment would help a few, but I’m not sure. I am sure of this. Jesus calls us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (the government) and give to God what is God’s. Funny isn’t it… we seem to dread giving to the government through taxes and many Christians have associated that same feeling with giving to God. And since there is not a “K.R.S. (Kingdom Revenue Service)” to audit anyone, it might be easier to cheat on our giving to the church. Yet, you can get away with it … your wages won’t be garnished or penalties added, it is right – legal … but is it ethical as a Christian? Should you keep it? Isn’t it God’s? 

I really dislike talking about money, but Jesus sure didn’t – so forgive me. Jesus calls us to live in obedience and giving is part of that life of discipleship. He does love you so. And no, if you give to the church, don’t expect to win the lottery or get money in return, but you will feel better and know you are walking the way of a disciple. Isn’t that enough? Like the $25.00 tip to the waiter. Until next time, Blessings …