What’s the difference between being frugal and being cheap? I consider frugality a virtue, being cheap more of a character flaw. This trait runs deep in me – shopping for clothes is relegated to the clearance rack, buying a car can’t be done without some sense of a giveaway, toothpaste has to come on a palette from Costco. (So do hot dogs, but don’t get me started). And yes, I look for the best bang for the buck at restaurants, too. Calories per dollar is an objective measure. The number of adjectives a sandwich has increases its value as well (so the longest name at Panera would be the sandwich of choice – “Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT” for instance).
This last week I went to Panera with the other pastors of our church. We had a good time together talking about all kinds of things. In line, I told Kernie about my “number of adjectives” theory, but against my frugal instinct, ordered the old school comfort lunch – a grilled cheese (they add the adjective “Classic” since there are no other ingredients to season the name) sandwich and tomato soup. In my defense, it was one of the cheaper options.
But then….the cashier told me that that combination was an “unadvertised special.” Looking at her incredulously, I asked “what?!” “Yes,” she said, “you want a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, right?” I nodded. “Yeah, it’s not on the board, but we have a special on it.” The price was even lower! I LOVE this country!
What’s an unadvertised special anyway? What purpose does an unadvertised special serve? I was ready to pay the
advertised price. I had settled on those items. All they did was lower the price (which is AWESOME. But still…). In a retail store, an unadvertised special will entice you with the special purchase price when you walk by the item. But here at Panera, there were no indications of the special, no incentives offered to buy the sandwich. It was at the discretion of the cashier to inform me that I had selected the magic combo (kind of like finding the “Daily Double” on Jeopardy).
I was thankful for the offer. I smiled and it kind of made my day. The frugal in me was amply rewarded that day at Panera. I was the beneficiary of unmerited favor that Tuesday afternoon.
Do you know what the difference is between grace and mercy? Mercy is not getting something bad you do deserve. Grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve. I didn’t do anything to earn the favor of the price reduction (unlike, say, having the price reduced because I had enough points on my Panera card).
I think the advertised special of the Christian faith is salvation. It’s eternal life. It’s a life pardoned from the wages of sin. But there are a lot of unadvertised specials too. Like love…and joy…and peace…and patience (this is starting to sound like Galatians 5). An unadvertised special of the faith is community. I find friends and colleagues and comfort in the people who call themselves of The Way. And each of those specials, of which there are an infinite number more, are of infinite more worth than the Panera deal too.
The life of the apprentice of Jesus is one large dose of grace. It is, maybe, one big unadvertised special. Whether you are frugal or a connoisseur of the finest, what God has to offer is way greater than the price of admission—which is free in the first place. My kind of price!
Back from lunch,
…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:7-9