Beyond the Issue of Money
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
“Whoa!” my nine-year-old son Rowan gasped, leaning forward to get a closer look at the meter. “We’ve already spent five dollars, and we haven’t even started driving yet!”
I leaned across my two kids in the backseat and whispered to my husband what our friend had told us the night before. “Remember, we don’t need to tip more than ten percent,” I said into Brad’s ear. “That’s the going rate.” Brad nodded as the taxi lurched into Madison Avenue traffic.
In the nine hours we were in New York City that day, my family of four spent over four hundred dollars, which included Metro North train fare, admission to the Museum of Natural History, lunch in the museum’s cafeteria, coffee and snacks at Starbucks, admission to the eighty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building, and one cab fare.
But here’s what came to light when I looked more specifically at what we spent that day: I was willing to hand over 100 dollars for a thirty-second elevator ride and six minutes on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. However, I was not willing to offer our cab driver a twenty percent tip, which is what my husband and I ordinarily tip waiters, hairdressers, pizza delivery guys, and other people in the service industry.
“Ten percent,” I had reminded my husband. Ten percent of the fare that morning was two dollars. I had not been willing to offer our cab driver twenty percent—two extra dollars—for driving my family eighteen blocks across the city.
One might argue that we didn’t technically “owe” that taxi driver those extra two dollars. After all, we’d paid the fare, and we’d even added a tip. But look closely at the second half of Paul’s advice to the Romans, which goes far beyond the issue of money.
"If you owe respect, then respect," Paul said. "If you owe honor, then honor."
I cringe to admit it, but the truth is, I approached the cab driver that day not as a person with a history and a story and a life apart from the steering wheel and the meter, but as a cog in the machine that is New York City. I dismissed him. In quibbling over two dollars, I failed to show him respect as a human being. My stinginess sent a clear message: he was not worth a mere two extra dollars.
That morning in the cab, I would have done well to consider Paul’s advice. The truth is, our fellow human beings are owed our respect and our honor—our love, really. And one small way we can demonstrate that respect, honor, and love is to be generous as often as we can.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever thought about why you tip the people who serve you? Have you ever considered that a tip might be a way to show respect or honor?
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for reminding me to respect, honor, and love the people who offer their services to me. Thank you for reminding me to be generous, both with my money and myself. Help me to remember that every single person who crosses my path has a story, a history, and a life that is just as valuable as my own. Amen.
After we published a week of content with the theme heading Making Money, we received a message encouraging us to consider the flip side, as well. What about Christians who fail to pay well, who complain about leaving a tip or who balk at paying an honest rate, especially when doing business with other Christians? What does the Bible have to say about this, and what is fair to expect when doing business with Christians and non-Christians alike? Is there a difference? Should there be? What has been your experience? Join us for this series, Paying Well, as we consider personal stories and biblical instruction for leading well as Christians in the world, especially when it comes to determining what to pay.