Hodges: Tip-averse pastor preaches tithing, but may need lesson in gospel of giving
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After dining at an Applebee's, a St. Louis pastor, in lieu of giving the server a tip, opted to write on the receipt, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18[?]"

The automatic gratuity was added to the bill because more than eight people were in the pastor's party. The server posted a copy of the receipt on the Internet and was fired after the image went viral.

The pastor has apologized, but the incident exposes a great misunderstanding of the Scriptures.

The tithe is 10 percent of one's earnings given to the church as a gift back to God. It is to be used to support the ministry. The command to tithe comes from the Hebrew Bible. When God instituted the law, he said to his people, "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from soil or fruit from trees, belongs to the Lord."

While Christians are no longer under the law, tithing remains an essential part of spiritual life. Returning a portion of one's possessions to God is an expression of thanksgiving. The act acknowledges that the Christian believes that God is the source of all material blessings.

The Scriptures repeatedly warn Christians against falling into the trap of materialism. One who does not give freely to God and others is in danger of becoming a slave to his earnings. Giving, then, is the antidote to materialism.

Giving is at the heart of the gospel. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to save humanity from eternal damnation. Jesus then willingly gave his life and bore the sins of the world. Christians are expected to emulate God's love for mankind and give freely of their possessions. The Bible repeatedly encourages Christians to give to the poor and even promises an eternal reward for obeying this command.

But Jesus taught that God is not interested simply in right behavior; he also judges motivation. In the New Testament, the Pharisees tithed, which Jesus said was good, but they neglected justice and love of God. They were tithing out of obligation. Thus, God was not pleased with their actions. You have to question the motivation of a Christian who takes pride in the act of tithing but complains about giving $6.29 to a server whose pay relies mostly on tips.

If we're going to identify ourselves as Christians, we should act like Christ — we should love and give. If this pastor were struggling financially and could not afford the tip, the best decision would have been not to eat out.

Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at coreyjhodges@comcast.net.