When a Christian determines the tip percentage of the bill based on quality of service or uniqueness of the dining experience, he or she contradicts grace and flirts dangerously with greed. It is flirting with greed because it forgets, at least momentarily, that underserved grace is shown to us every day.

Recently, I have dialogued with many Christian people whose argument for tipping poorly -- or less than generously fair -- goes something like this:

"Servers understand that their job is to sell themselves to me so that I tip them well. So, if they fail to meet my dining expectations then I am not obligated to reciprocate with a fair tip after paying for the meal."

Though this may seem reasonable, it is precisely this desire to prefer the self (in this case, by preferring the dining experience) that must be crucified when it comes to tipping generously. When the patron, especially the Christian patron, prefers himself by preferring the dining experience, he fails to communicate that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of grace, that because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ there are things that are far more significant than a pleasurable dining experience. The real heart issue when it comes to poor tipping is a lack of awareness of how great and vast the debt was that God generously and graciously forgave because he loves us.

Now, the reader should understand that I am not saying that patrons do not have the right to communicate that their dining experience was poor. I am saying, however, that leaving a subpar tip does not communicate that the dining experience was poor (unfortunately, it often happens, as in the account mentioned above, when service was superb and when the patron had no complaint). Rather, the Christian patron should tip generously and then notify a manager or supervisor of the lack of service. Regardless of the dining experience, all persons created in the likeness of God deserve a fair wage (Genesis 1:27). For the server, tips are wages, not donations.

Sadly, a large portion of the people that I work with have received less than generous tips from many customers who have identified themselves with the Gospel. As a result, a significant portion of non-Christians working as servers have distanced themselves from the Gospel preached to them by Christians. It seems the only way to rectify this is for Christians to recognize our position in Christ -- we are the recipients of unmerited grace by a generous God -- and give generously so that others may know that their treasure is indeed found in Someone else, Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:19-21).

Raymond Johnson and his wife, Meghan, live in Louisville with their two daughters, Abigail and Charlotte. He is a PhD student in New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is on the ministerial staff at Ninth & O Baptist Church, and is a server at Mitchell's Fish Market. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter Facebook , and in your email .

(c) Baptist Press. Used with permission.

Publication date: July 16, 2012