It was just another day for the waitress working at the restaurant, another day of standing until her feet hurt, picking up dirty dishes, and carrying trays of food. There was an unpaid bill hanging over her head, the one from the electric company that said they would shut off her power tomorrow if she didn’t come up with the money. So she went to work, not knowing how the day would end, how she would pay or if she would have power in the morning.
Sometimes you just close your eyes and hold on to faith because you don’t know how things will turn out.
So when she saw the receipt turned over on the table, she only thought one thing: there’s a bad tip under there. At least that’s usually what a face down receipt meant to this waitress.
Then she picked it up and looked at it.
The tip read: $1075.00
On it, the anonymous tippers left this note for her:
“Jesus Blessed us and we were led to give it to you. God Bless!”
In that moment, this woman not only had money to pay her electric bill, she was humbled by the extravagant generosity of someone she didn’t even know.
“I do believe that God led you to me at this time in my life,” she told reporters about the anonymous tippers who left the money.
Thrilled to see such lavish generosity, I also wonder:
Who would choose to leave this tip without the chance to see the waitress, to witness her shock and joy, to experience her tears?
Who would give that tip and just leave?
Then I remember Jesus’ words on generosity, how you shouldn’t announce it big, but do your deeds in secret so you don’t get the glory.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)
He sums it up so well: your giving should be in contrast to the world’s constant desire for attention, for fame, for glory.
You give what you can and then you leave.
It’s a radical act to be unrecognized, anonymous, unrewarded.
When the world tells you to do things that might bring 15 minutes of fame on a video that goes viral, it’s hard to say no. It’s a few minutes of celebrity, forgotten the next day, trashed on our computer, replaced by the headlines of a celebrity’s misdemeanor.
What’s even more radical is Jesus makes it clear that it’s not about how much we give, but giving from what we have.
Using the story of the widow’s mite in Luke 21, he makes this point:
“All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she gave out of her poverty all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:4)
Like the widow, if you give radically from what you have, suddenly your life and heart is open to a thousand possibilities of how to help others.
Because you sometimes forget that generosity doesn’t always come in the form of money, but through grace, hospitality, encouragement, and just being there for someone.
Because sometimes what you give isn’t monetary, it’s priceless.
That costs more than a thousand dollar tip.
I learned this back in 2005 during Sam’s cancer. It came during his difficult months of chemo, when he was forced to stick to a rigorous schedule of long chemotherapy infusions with no deviation from the schedule, not for any reason, including hospitalization, sickness or holidays.
This meant he had to have chemotherapy on Memorial Day. Since the oncology office where he normally received chemo was closed that day, he was admitted to the hospital as a patient.
On a normal Memorial Day we worked in the garden or grilled on our patio. We might get together with friends. There was no way we would choose to be at the hospital on a holiday, but we gathered our things for the day, dread hanging in our hearts like a dead weight.
The halls of the hospital were empty of their usual visitors and the nurses were understaffed that day, so we sat and waited in our dark hospital room, staring out the window at the beauty that lay so close. We saw the blue sky and the people driving by in their cars. Normal life felt so far away. The world never seemed so lonely as that moment.
We held on to faith, not knowing how things would turn out, not knowing how we would make it through the day, or what the future held.
That’s when we got our tip, in the form of a young couple who showed up at our hospital room on Memorial Day, just because.
How they knew we needed someone there is a mystery to me. Sometimes God nudges your heart to do something radical, and you do it and find out why later.
When this couple could have been out barbecuing, they chose to go to a dark hospital room to sit with the sick.
When they could have been enjoying the lake, they chose to show up, listen, and offer themselves.
Because sometimes showing up is the most extravagant thing you can give.
Bigger than a thousand dollar tip.
Bigger than any gift you can buy.
“When it’s hard and you are doubtful, give more,” Francis Chan says.
They did the hard thing: they gave up their Memorial Day for us.
What this world needs are more people like them who give of themselves in a crazy, generous way. We need more people who show if you’re a Jesus-follower, you show extravagant love, not for your own glory, but for His.
When that couple showed up on Memorial Day, I learned what giving was.
Giving is hard.
Doing what Jesus says takes sacrifice.
Love and grace cost something.
It all starts with one small nudge to do something and then our response:
Yes to giving more.
Yes to showing up.
Yes to being there.
Yes, no matter the cost.
That’s how God uses people in extraordinary ways.
No trumpets. No fame. Nothing in return.