The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Lousy Christian tippers

In a recent sermon, I told a story to illustrate the notorious stinginess of those who follow Jesus. People gasped as I shared, but I couldn't tell if the gasps were in agreement or shock. Nonetheless, I think people were jarred.

I told of how when I used to work in the service industry, waiting tables, no one ever wanted to work the Sunday brunch. I could never figure it out. Even the hardiest partiers could drag themselves out of bed by 10 a.m. and paste on a "server smile." Right?

"What gives?" I asked.

"It's the Christians," was the reply from some of my non-Christian co-workers. "The Christians always come in for brunch on Sunday mornings after their church service, and they don't tip. At all. Christians are the worst tippers ever."

When I heard that, it was like a kick in the gut.

But it's true. Christians don't tip very well. As a matter of fact, we're pretty cheap. What makes this worse is that we paint "cheap" with a religious-sounding veneer and call it "being a good steward." Nothing like hiding behind the Bible to camouflage your stinginess.

And yet God is so generous. We are most like God when we are being generous--generous in all things, but especially with our dough!

There was enough reaction that night to warrant further discussion. I wrote about "lousy Christian tippers" on my blog, and the response was, shall we say, overwhelming. It seemed everyone had a "war story" to share about how they'd been stiffed by Christians.

Courtney, a server, said, "It was almost 100 percent true that the worst tips were on a check with a Bible verse or fish symbol."

Jeremy agreed, "It makes me sad that Christians are the worst tippers, but I absolutely believe it."

Another commenter, someone who calls himself "Former Server, Former Christian," said, "I think that Christians might just naturally be the lousiest tipping population." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for people who follow Jesus. Kyle (another server) summed it up well when he said, "[Even if you get bad service] it's a chance for you to actually offer real grace to someone. You say you're kind and generous, so prove it."

In the sermon and on my blog, I laid down the "Fat Tip Challenge," where I challenge people to tip more than they normally would the next time they go out to eat. Usually put 10 percent down? Try 30 percent. Are you a 20 percent tipper? Bump it up to 50 percent. If you're feeling really crazy, try an 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent tip next time you dine out! Make up for all those lousy tips from other Christians throughout the years.

As children of this great and generous God, can't we afford to part with a few more of those tightly pinched pennies? God can afford your generosity. So go on, be generous.

Check out this week's articles:

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Also: Worship 101.

Also: Wartburg Seminary to restructure.

Also: A call to everyone in the ELCA.

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Posted at 2:40 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/6/2009

Are we maybe lumping Christians with Church-goers as an all-in-one group? 

Today's daily devotional from Bob Hoekstra reminds us of Jesus' summation of the 'great commandment': " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Mat_22:36-40)

But perhaps this has nothing to do with tipping, except for some of us Christians -- even on a Sunday brunch?  I always seemed to feel particularly compassionate around universities and colleges and would tip even in the cafeteria, much to the chagrin of most of my friends.  But as a former student, I knew these student servers surely needed it more than the 'professional' waiters/bussers in the world.

Jesus also said:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you" (Joh_13:34).  Surely with the generosity with which God has given us, we can give to one another, or is that only for the Good Samaritan?
Jack Labusch

Jack Labusch

Posted at 10:38 am (U.S. Eastern) 1/7/2009

Good post, Justin; I learned something.  Interested readers may want to check their state's minimum wage laws to find out how much waiters and waitresses depend on tips.  I'm not sure where I rate overall on the generosity-stinginess continuum, but I try to make my tipping mistakes on the generous side those few times I eat out.

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