A former pastor once told of an experience as a caterer. He served two groups in the same day that could not have treated him more differently. The first was a gathering of homosexual folks; they were warm, friendly, and left a great tip. The other was impatient, grouchy, fault-finding, and left no tip at all.
The second group was a pastors’ luncheon.
Tipping has become a flashpoint in our social consciousness. I suppose it was inevitable that the smartphone age would allow us to capture and publicize everyone’s tips. (Here’s a montage of tips that would be hilarious if not for their rudeness.) But it’s worth talking about for Christians, because any question of generosity becomes a checkup on how we’re doing as the salt of the earth.
Some Christians respond to this call by leaving tracts for their waiters instead of tips.
It’s the worst thing ever.
Look, I get the reasoning. Tracts can potentially lead to salvation, and salvation is worth far more than few bucks.
But we Christians aren’t supposed to be operating on our own reasoning. We’re supposed to be operating on God’s. Here’s it is, if you’re interested:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
My friends, waiters and waitresses live off their tips. When I worked as a pizza delivery driver (a nice earner during football season, I would mention to the college folks), my tips usually amounted to two to three times my actual wage. It was still only marginally worth the wear and tear on my car (and my gas tank). Very rarely will eight or nine bucks an hour get anyone through college. So trust me, your waiter isn’t there for the joy of minimum wage.
God understands and appreciates the practical plane, and he ties the validity of our works to it with cords of Scripture. Jesus teaches that meeting worldly needs is a terrific opening to the Gospel (and not the other way around). Christians’ failure to meet these needs gives the world an easy opportunity to beat us at our own Christ-commissioned game: generosity.
Never offer a prayer to which you can be the answer.
But there is an even greater matter on my mind today. Suppose your waiter or driver gives you bad service. Drops food, rolls his eyes, or something. It is often our practice in that instance to withhold tips, in the hopes of “encouraging” better service next time.
I just want to ask one thing.
Is that anywhere close to the way Jesus handles us?