More than tipping -- tithing!
A sermon on
By the Rev. Roy Roderick
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-16
It has become habit, when paying your check after finishing a meal at a
restaurant to include a tip in your payment 10 to 15 percent. It's the accepted way
to say "thank you" for the service received. This common courtesy is
diminished when the menu or check either instructs you to include a tip or notifies you that a service
charge has already been added on. Your gratitude is no longer a voluntary choice, but forced on you.
I'm convinced we should eliminate all forms of "tipping" except for extraordinary service!!!
That goes for barbers, taxis, letter carriers, et. al., at Christmas!
Although followers of Christ are not to
expect thanks for sharing the Good
News entrusted to them, this does not mean that no gratitude is necessary
religion. For faith, ingratitude is a
tragedy. As King Lear said in the day
of his own tragedy, "How sharper than a
serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." So many never even give
God a grace before a meal, but feel
compelled to offer a tip to the server
afterwards. Writes the Psalmist:
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget
not all his benefits."
Important for Christian experience is
the recognition of the one from whom
all things come. It is always necessary
to give thanks to God. It's got to be
more than tipping! Tithing!
In the first reading, Elisha cures the
foreigner, Naaman, of leprosy. Elisha
refuses to accept his gift of gratitude. Elisha believes that he has been
as an agent for God and will not be compensated for what God has done. God
alone is to receive thanks.
It is significant that in this story, Naaman,
a man not of the Israelites, not of
their faith, comes to recognize the absolute
authority and allegiance due to God. The cured Naaman would prefer
to worship the Lord only. He asks to
take home two mule-loads of earth from Israel the idea being that a God
could not be worshiped apart from
his own land literally! Further in
this chapter of the 2nd Book of Kings, additional emphasis is given of
this need for gratitude to be expressed to
The sequel of our passage
tells of the curse upon the avaricious
Gehazi the servant of Elisha. Gehazi
thinks, "My master has let that
Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not
accepting what he offered
... I will run after him and get something out of him." Elisha's servant uses the
pretense of aiding two other
prophets who have just arrived
to gain gifts from Naaman for
his own benefit. Upon his
return, Elisha perceives what the culprit
has done and lays a curse on him. "The leprosy of Naaman shall cling to
you and your descendants forever." So, we have in this Elisha saga, two stories: a typical Hebrew
literary device, an antithesis, a dramatic rhythm and balance of the whole
in doublet form!
Where Naaman is shown as proud when he is sick and humble when he is
healed. The noble pagan is a leper at
the outset, while Gehazi, the servant, is
a leper at the end. And the overall antithesis is of the unselfishness of
Elisha and the avarice of Gehazi.
Both readings, Old Testament and Gospel of Luke, have as their theme
stories of a cure for leprosy, and the
response of thanksgiving. The absolute
necessity to be a thankful people is
given serious attention.
Basically, it comes to this: God gives,
we receive, and receive and receive!
Unless we give thanks as individuals
and as nations, something goes wrong. We become unhealthy, no longer
There is the story of a doctor in South Wales who would prescribe in
certain cases of neuroses what he called his
"thank you cure." When a patient
came to him discouraged, pessimistic
and full of his own woes, but without
any symptoms of a serious ailment, he
would give this advice: "For six weeks I want you to say 'thank you'
whenever anyone does you a favor. To show you
mean it, emphasize the words with a
smile." The patient might complain,
"no one ever
does me a favor."
wise old doctor
would reply with a
quote from scripture,
you will find".
Six weeks later, more often than not,
the patient would return
with quite a new outlook. He
was freed of his sense of grievance against life, convinced that people
suddenly become more kind and
Living unthankfully to God is living with a low-grade fever, as dangerous
our health as leprosy. Not contagious
or dangerous in itself, it leads to disfigurement,
decay! Living gratefully to
God, on the other hand, gives us a healthy glow that comes from turning
to our Creator. Giving gratitude to
God means coming to feel good about
In the story of the cure of ten
lepers, Jesus praises the one who gave praise
to God. God expects our thanks. I've
discovered from my traveling abroad
that when you find yourself in a country
where you don't speak the language, and very few of the natives
speak English, that it is important to learn at least two phrases in the
tongue. The first will be some kind of
greeting and the second is "thank you."
It's always good to acknowledge another
person's presence and be ready to
Visitors to Honolulu frequently
make the error of guessing that the meaning of the word mahalo is
"trash." It's a natural mistake, since the word is seen
printed on street
wastebaskets all around town, so It is
a natural mistake.
But the meaning of mahalo is not
"thanks" for depositing
Oscar Wilde once defined gratitude as a lively appreciation of favors
to be received. Wilde was a cynic. Unless we too are cynics or
confused, like visitors to Hawaii, we need to be aware of the importance
a healthy part of living.
We need to be able to say "thank
you" in whatever circumstances we
are. For, it is obvious our family, our
schools, our church, our friends have
all made investments in us.
true in dollars and cents. I read
that parents alone have spent more than
$120,000 on each child by the time he
or she finishes high school. And that
doesn't include the investment of energy
and emotion late night feedings,
walking the floor and waiting out
the time your teenager returns home
with the car! Less obviously, our
country, our culture, all past history these and countless other
have contributed favorably to what we
are. People need to be able to say
"thank you." But with a difference.
The truly grateful do not think of themselves
they think of God and are
Thanks must be directed outward in a
positive way. Thanks must be for, not
against; negative gratitude is expressed
in such statements as "I'm grateful I'm
not him, he has it rough" or, "I thank
God things aren't that bad." That's
negative gratitude being thankful
for what isn't, instead of for what is.
It's an "in spite of gratitude.
Jesus set the example in positive
thanks. He didn't wait until afterwards! He gave thanks before an event
he gave thanks before he raised
Lazarus from the dead he gave thanks before he gave bread and wine
to the disciples at the last supper for
the forgiveness of sin.
Arlington Robinson wrote,
"Two kinds of gratitude: the sudden
kind we feel for what we take, the larger kind we feel for what we give."
This "larger kind" of gratitude is the one we need more of the kind that
given given to God and given for
others. Learn to say "thank you" not
just on Thanksgiving Day, but learn to say it the rest of the year!
In the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus, it was only the Samaritan
who returned to thank Jesus for cleansing
him of disease. Jesus had given them all directions to follow the Law of
Moses for the cleansing of leprosy.
The nine were simply following his instructions.
But the tenth one, the outsider, recognized the hand of God in
the healing and knelt at Jesus' feet in
order to give thanks.
Only the one who was otherwise out of place, except for the common
condition and isolation of the disease that brought him together with the
other nine only this one was able to see clearly the importance and
source of his cure and the need to be thankful.
Thanks is not a tip we give. Thankful
is what we are!
This, says Jesus, is faith!
The Rev. Roy Roderick, a retired
ELCA pastor living in Mount Arlington,
NJ, delivered this sermon at
Atonement Lutheran Church, Staten Island, NY. It was published in the
Spring 1999 edition of
Faith in Action.
ฉ Copyright 1999, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in Faith
in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA
and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
Copyright 1999, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.