Shameful, Part 2

Apparently the story that prompted yesterday’s post is not a hoax. In fact, it is so legit that the server who posted the picture of the receipt that sparked it all was fired after the pastor complained. You can find this story just as easily as you can find the original one with a few key strokes and a search engine. But, in Joe Friday fashion, here’s the facts:

* The pastor is Alois Bell, a pastor at Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church.

* The restaurant in question was an Applebee’s.

* The originally-posted picture of the receipt did not redact or in any way obscure Bell’s signature (which is no doubt what led to the firing, since it violated her privacy).

* Bell complained to the manager at the Applebee’s where the incident occurred, leading to the firing of Chelsea Welch, the waitress who posted the original photo.

* Bell told The Smoking Gun, “My heart is really broken. I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

Indeed you have, Pastor Bell. I suspect I am one of thousands, if not millions, of people who looked up Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church to see if I could find the church’s web site. I did not find one; I did find a church in Michigan with the same name, but I do not know there there is any relationship between the two, as Bell’s church is in the St. Louis area. I did find a YouTube video of Bell preaching, and that will no doubt get thousands of hits. Unfortunately, not for any good reason; in fact, the negative and judgmental comments are already piling up in the video’s comments section.

Scripture makes it clear that we are to be careful in judging others, lest we too be judged, and I want to be careful that I am not judging Bell in a holier-than-thou manner. After all, I have made plenty of mistakes, and will no doubt make plenty more. There have surely been times when my actions have not brought honor to the Lord. And I am sure that Bell is embarrassed. Sadly, as we all know, we humans are sometimes more sorry that we got caught or called out than we are sorry for what we did. And though I don’t know Alois Bell, I cannot help but think that she would not have given her receipt comment a second thought if it had not gone viral on the world wide web.

So what can we learn from all this? I think James 1:19 is relevant: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Bell did not speak, she wrote, but the principle is the same. When we are irritated or frustrated or aggravated…those are the times that it is more important than ever to slow down before we open our mouths, pick up our pens (or sit down at our keyboards…).

I have not taken the time to read every article that pops up when this story is searched, so I do not know if Bell has said anything more than that she is embarrassed. If she has not, though, then her statement is lacking. Yes, she surely has brought embarrassment to her church and to her ministry, but that is not even close to being the most important thing. Most import is that she brought embarrassment on the Lord. To paraphrase what David said in Psalm 51, Alois Bell needs to acknowledge that it is against God that she has sinned; that is far more important than anything else. She has embarrassed her church, she has damaged her ministry, but she has sinned against God. She misused His Word in an effort to justify skimping on a gratuity, and that violates 2 Timothy 2:15:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Alois Bell identified herself as a pastor, but she now has reason to be ashamed, because she did not rightly handle the Word of God. I hope and pray that she is ashamed more than embarrassed, and that she asks God for forgiveness and can learn from this experience. She needs to apply His word much more carefully, and to bring honor to the Lord, not shame.

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