Saturday, June 4, 2011

The poor excuses we often make to keep from being generous.

Continuing the theme of Christian Tightwads regarding tipping in restaurants, on the whole, Christians are thought of by restaurant workers to be among the absolute worst tippers of any single identifiable group. Sundays after church, Christians go out in large numbers, perhaps unaware of how poorly they are representing the gospel to a very specific and largely “un-reached” and hurting people group, their servers. This post is an attempt to inform my brothers and sisters about the horrendous damage we do to the Gospel on a regular basis.

I want to list a few of the excuses that church folk give for not tipping generously. And, at the outset, let’s get this on the table: Many restaurant servers across the U.S. are paid an hourly wage of $2.13/hr which is why a standard tip of 15-20% is expected and necessary.

Now, on to some of the excuses that we Christian saints use to keep from giving a generous tip: 

1) I don’t tip at all if I get bad service. A tip ought to be earned and deserved. If they do a really good job, then I’ll give them 10%.

Answer: Bad service is in the eye of the beholder. For some, bad service is not getting your Coke refilled before you have to ask for it. Maybe you asked your server for fifteen different things and they only had time to bring you ten. You should be happy with the ten. Besides, if you do get bad service, maybe your server was having a bad day. Have you thought to ask them how their day is going, or offer to pray for them? If you think it is deserved, give them some feedback on the receipt, but don’t cut their pay. The Jesus that I know and serve is more concerned with forgiveness and reconciliation, new life, a fresh start, than with condemnation, punishment and retribution.

Tipping only for good performance is a works-based mentality and has nothing to do with the gospel. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:18 (NLT) 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. When we eat out, we need to be generous with our tips, because it glorifies God and it will bless rather than offend the one who is serving us.

2. After giving tithes and offerings at church, there’s not much left over for the tip.

Answer: If you don’t have enough left over to tip the standard 15-20%, then you probably shouldn’t be eating out. Maybe you should just go to McDonald’s where you won’t be expected to tip.

3. Here’s a good one which was given to a waitress at a Chili’s restaurant by a group of 6 church-goers who came in to be served after the Sunday evening service. As the waitress was taking their drink order, one of them said: “We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because we don’t believe in people working on Sunday.” The waitress, in shock mumbled, “Well I wouldn’t have to work on Sundays if so many church people like you didn’t come here to eat.” The manager of the restaurant overheard the customer’s remark and said, “We don’t believe in making our people work for nothing, so I will be serving you tonight.” 

Answer: Are you serious? Do I even need to dignify this Pharisaical-behavior with a response? This person has a bigger problem than she even realizes. She may not be as close to Jesus or to heaven as she thinks. It's sheer hypocrisy. So it's okay for you to go out to a restaurant and gorge yourself on Sunday, but it's not okay for the waiters and waitresses who have to be there to serve you? This kind of behavior is a stumbling block to an unbelieving world and keeps many from ever coming to Jesus. 1 Cor. 10:32-3332 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

4. I’m paying for the food. Thank your lucky stars that you even have a job. I don’t have to tip you. You’re already getting paid to do your job.

Answer: It would be nice if waiters and waitresses were paid a decent salary starting at $10-12. per hour, but it is what it is. They can’t exist on $2.13 an hour (that’s before taxes!). That’s why tips are considered part of their salary. Think of a working mother trying to put food on the table for her child and you’re “stiffing” her and refusing to tip her because you think she’s getting enough money? Are you serious?

5. We’ve adopted a frugal lifestyle. We’ve cut up our credit cards, we’ve drawn up a budget and we trying to pay down our debt, so we’ve had to cut down on our spending and that includes tipping.

Answer: Are you for real? Are you really going to use “Dave Ramsey” and getting out of debt as an excuse for why you can’t tip generously? If you’re really cutting down on your spending and you are now trying to live within your budget, then stop going out to restaurants. Stay home! Or go to McDonalds or Taco Bell. But don’t go to a full-service restaurant where a gratuity is expected.

6. They messed up our order and “comped” our meal so we didn’t feel like we needed to tip the server.

Answer: In all likelihood it wasn’t the server’s fault that your order was messed up, but even if it were, where is the grace and mercy? Where is the attitude of forgiveness? If the manager was nice enough to have “comped” your meal, instead of looking at this as a “freebie”, you should’ve thought, “Wow, thanks Lord, I now have even more money with which to leave a generous 20+% tip for my server.

Here’s your opportunity to be a kingdom believer, one who flies in the face of the norm--one who wants to live in such a way that unbelievers offer up praise to God for your life and witness. Jesus said in Matt. 5:16, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” To paraphrase that, “Let your generous tipping and kind behavior be such that restaurant employees look forward to your appearance and fight over who gets to serve you, and say to themselves, “If this is what it means to be a Christian, I just might be interested in knowing more…”

What do you think?


  1. Well, I agree. I am naturally stingy, but I force myself to leave at least 20%. Only if the server is totally rude do I leave 10%, which is extremely rare. I often order curb side pick up, to assuage my cheap side. I try to make sure I am ready to leave at least 20 if I actually go out, bc I would hate for people to think less of the generosity and kindness of Jesus because of me. Also, Dave Ramsey teaches tipping! His kits come with a tip calculating card set at 15 and 20 percentages!

  2. Love, LOVE, LOVE this post! I understand that people use all kinds of things as excuses not to fellowship with other believers, but this is a REAL problem with "church folk" especially in the Paducah area.
    I waited tables for nearly 8 years and this was always a problem. I almost walked right back out the door of the church I go to now when I realized that some people I had these kinds of experiences with were members there. My thought was, "If that's the best their leadership can teach them, I don't want to have anything to do with them" That would have been a shame had I kept that mentality, but it wouldn't make their behavior any less right.
    Just an example of one of the many things that could be going on in your servers life on a Sunday. I distinctly remember on Sunday afternoon as a teenager that I walked in the door only to hear from a colleague that a very good friend of mine had been killed in a car accident. I worked the rest of my shift that day, I needed the money, but I was dying inside.
    You have no idea what kind of pain a person could be going through, and as Christians we ought to be intentional about seeking to love people regardless.
    In fact, we should all be intentional about it together. I recommend that you go with your Sunday school or friends from church and plan ahead. Make sure everyone understands the importance of going only if they can afford the meal AND the tip, or offer to get their bill if they can't and you can. Ask the server's name. Get to know them as a friend. CONTROL AND PICK UP AFTER YOUR CHILDREN. Practice EXTREME grace toward your server even if they make mistakes. (Act like your a radical follower of a Guy that would let Himself get crucified for the sake of a bunch of screw-ups) Go ahead and leave them a tract or better yet a really nice Bible with a Thank You card inside and the fattest tip they have ever seen.

    I promise you two things - 1) You will have honored God by your behavior and 2) That server is going to be blessed... They might even visit your Bible Study.

  3. Maybe those of us who share your commitment to spreading grace, mercy and tips should make a point of eating out on Sunday and making up for the clueless brothers and sisters who have no idea what a poor testimony their lives are to those who serve them. I can see ways this could be an "intentional outreach" to the servers--not just giving a great tip at your table, but handing them an extra $5 or $10 and telling them it's to make up for the lack of appreciation they received from other patrons and thanking them for being willing to work on Sunday. I realize that this can sound really self-righteous but I don't mean it that way. I'm just saying that they will remember the extra $$ and the spirit they received it.