Christians are bad tippers. At least that’s what the Internet is telling us these days.
I’ve never worked as a waiter or host at a restaurant, so I can only take the word of those who have. And they’re saying that Sunday is the worst time for tips, and that the church crowd is stingy and mean. Actually, it’s an accusation that’s been around for many years, long before the Internet; I remember hearing it repeated by preachers when I was a kid.
A few Christian bloggers have responded quite strongly to the “Christians are bad tippers” concept. I’ve seen a few articles to this effect: “How dare we claim the name of Jesus Christ when we only tip 5% or (gasp!) not at all!”
Fair enough. Stingy people probably don’t represent Jesus as well as they (we?) could.
But…what if the very same attitude that motivates us to publicly shame our fellow Christians is also responsible for poor tipping? Let me explain.
When you are tempted to tip poorly, what is your reasoning? You probably feel on some level that the server doesn’t deserve your money, right? Perhaps he or she failed to serve you well. Or maybe you just don’t think the whole tipping system makes any sense. These people should just be paid a decent salary to begin with. So you give a measly tip as a way to punish the server, or the restaurant owner, or the entire industry.
But generosity springs from a heart of grace and kindness. Generosity requires, at times, that I give people the benefit of the doubt. True generosity means that sometimes I give a good tip despite the performance of the server or the flaws in the restaurant business. That’s actually what gracious generosity entails.
Those who receive grace and generosity are more likely to extend grace and generosity.
So let me make the connection explicitly now. How does the attitude that publicly shames bad Christian tippers create the very problem we hope to destroy? By communicating that our value in God’s economy is based upon our performance! We continue to perpetuate the lie that something like the size of a restaurant tip separates “good” Christians from “bad” Christians.
“Are you saying it’s OK for Christians to tip poorly?” Of course not. I’m just saying there’s a better way to address it. Instead of grabbing the nearest blunt instrument with which to beat our fellow believers, what if we consistently told them about the lavish generosity and grace of Jesus Christ? For that matter, what if we actually showed the grace of Jesus even to bad tippers?
We can be generous because God was so generous toward us! We aren’t generous because we’re afraid somebody will disapprove – the server, some blogger, our pastor. We’re generous because God has lavished His love on us.
So the next time you see or hear about a fellow Christian giving a lousy tip, try a new approach. Leave a good tip on the other person’s behalf! If you walk by the table and see a fifty-cent tip for a twenty-dollar meal, why not drop five dollars on the table? Don’t do it because it makes you a good boy or girl. Do it because that represents the generous heart of God.
Don’t bother to take a picture of the lousy tip and post it on Facebook with a scathing response. Instead, just right the wrong. After all, that’s what Jesus did for us, isn’t it? He walked by and saw how pathetic our little offerings were, how utterly weak and inadequate our attempts at goodness and righteousness. And He decided to go ahead and pay the tab for us.
And if you need to do so, in the context of your (real life) friendship with a bad Christian tipper, explain why you do what you do. Explain that the mercy and grace of Christ extends to the worst of waiters, the poorest of tippers, and the vilest of sinners.
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