Why Tipping at Restaurants Speaks to Your Walk with Christ

Raymond Johnson, a PhD student at Southern Seminary, just published a very helpful essay on tipping and the gospel at Baptist Press, the official media outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It’s worth reading and considering.  Here’s a snatch:

Whether Christians are aware of it or not, a subpar tip is a stumbling block in communicating the Gospel. It causes unbelieving servers to think that we, as Christians, value money over everything and everyone else (1 Timothy 6:10). So, my coworker, like many other servers, interprets such actions (poor tips from alleged Christian people) as stingy. Tragically, the result — though it may be unfair — is that many servers have identified the majority of Christians as a contingent of people who care little for others. They hear Christians promise them that God is just and fair and that He is a generous King who is lavish with His mercy and kind toward others. Christians promise them that the Gospel they preach is for all people right before they metaphorically clinch their money in their fist and tip poorly; refusing money to laborers who are worthy of their wages (1 Timothy 5:18; Matthew 10:10).

Read the whole thing.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisblackstone Chris Blackstone (@chrisblackstone)

    I guess I don’t see how tipping well became the new measure of someone’s Christian maturity and gospel-centeredness. Staff at a restaurant are hired to perform a service – serving food. If they do a poor job at that, shouldn’t that have consequences? Doesn’t poor performance in other professions have consequences? Are we to do away with those as well?

  • Kevin Figgins

    Chris,
    The point is we, as Christians, should represent Christ wherever we are. Therefore if you are in a restaurant you should be generous in your tipping whether or not the service is good or bad (it is up to the employer to issue the consequences not you by the way). Just as Christ was generous with us (Romans 5:8). I always try to remember, especially when I receive bad service, that we never know what is going on in that persons life that day and hopefully their rudeness or bad service is not being provoked by you but by outward circumstances that they don’t have answers for but you do (the hope of the Gospel) and your tipping generously may point them to that hope.

  • http://www.twitter.com/cgarbarino Collin Garbarino

    Ten years ago, when I was a server in an Italian restaurant, an unbelieving coworker became very hostile to Christians. The reason? Someone left him a gospel-tract that looked like a $5 bill on the outside. No other tip, just the tract.

  • Ryan Taylor

    Owen,
    Good article and I totally agree. Having grown up in Maine and now living in Wyoming, a lot of the locals in vacation states depend on tourists’ tips. Waiters are not necessarily high schoolers or college students on summer break, they are often the owners. They work really hard to make the experience amazing, and I feel it is a rarity that poor service is given during tourist season because tips often can be very generous from visitors.

    One thing I’ve seen, though, is a “Christian tourist” leave a tip that is subpar despite amazing service. Even worse is the pathetic tip from a local Christian that is known to the proprietors. Remember, we are representatives and ambassadors for Christ, even to those who are serving us. Showing Christ’s love in us, despite horrible service, through a generous tip can go a long way. We don’t know why we receive bad service. Maybe the waiter is going through a very difficult time and is struggling with issues in his or her own life. Let that be an open door! What a perfect opportunity to show Christ’s love and message, whether you are a first time customer or a regular!

  • http://brenthobbs.com Brent Hobbs

    I agree with both perspectives expressed here in the comment. I think it’s a good idea to tip well and hopefully represent Christ and his grace through that. It can also turn into a pretty prideful thing as well. Like C. S. Lewis mentioned in his chapter (Mere Christianity) on Charity:

    “Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity: we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.”

    He was writing in a different day, so that should be taken into account, but might be something to consider.

  • Jun

    Beg to disagree. First of all tipping is a cultural thing, not a gospel thing. I’m not against it but there’s a reason why it’s called a tip, it’s supposed to be optional not mandatory. It’s theresponsibili of the business owners to see to it that their employees are paid well, not the customers. Another thing which puzzles me a lotis this: the chances that we are giving more to servers than our churches are high. Some of us tend to give at least 15% as tip and we don’t claim it as tax deduction but when we give 10% to the church we not only claim it, we oftentimes are even proud of it. Just my 2 cents

    • http://www.twitter.com/cgarbarino Collin Garbarino

      Jun,
      You’re wrong on a couple of points. Yes, tipping might be a weird cultural thing, but it’s not really optional. Serving tables is different from from other jobs because the servers works both for the restaurant and for the customer. Here in Texas, its still customary for servers to make $2.13 per hour. That’s our American custom, and if you fail to tip, then you’ve robbed your server of his labor.

      Second, you cannot deduct a tip from your income tax just like you would a tithe because a tip is NOT charity. It’s payment for services rendered. The IRS requires servers to pay taxes on their tips because tips are income. Bottom line: if you don’t tip, then you’re not paying your bill. Render unto the server the things that are the server’s.

  • http://standingonshoulders.net Adam B. Embry

    Worst statement I heard as a waiter was on a Sunday afternoon by a man who told me he just gave God 10% so why should he give me 15%.


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