Should Christians Be Better Tippers Than Non-Christians?

Jim Daly

Waiters and tipping have been in the news a lot lately. Consider these stories:

  • A lesbian waitress at a New Jersey restaurant that claimed a family left a judgmental note instead of a tip (an allegation that was proved a hoax)
  • A St. Louis-area server who posted a receipt signed by a pastor that says, “I give God 10% why do you get 18” (the pastor later apologized and said folks at her table left cash tips)

There has to be a reason these stories go viral. Might it be that, right or wrong, Christians or conservative-leaning people might have a bad reputation among some restaurant workers?

The unfortunate thing is any negative perception that might exist against Christians would appear to be undeserved on the whole. Earlier this year Ed Stetzer reported on a study, “Are Christian/Religious People Poor Tippers?” that found “the average Christian tips 17 percent of the bill when receiving good restaurant service and only 13 out of 100 Christians receiving good service leave a tip below 15 percent of the bill.”

There’s one more story making the news rounds: An extravagant tipper going by @tipsforjesus was recently identified as Jack Selby, a former PayPal vice president. Selby would tip a ten times the bill, such as the $1,000 gratuity he left on a $111.05 bill.

These stories tell me something: for better or for worse, the way we engage with our wait staff in the service industry might say a lot to them about our faith.

Think about the time-honored custom of going out for lunch after Sunday church service, or the emerging practice of meeting at a coffee shop for Bible study. It might be the youth group stopping at a fast-food place for burgers before heading off to their Friday night activity. Everyone in that restaurant knows it’s a “Christian group.”

I think it would be a great thing for us to seize those everyday moments as evangelistic opportunities, don’t you?

Below are three suggestions on doing just that.

1. Tip well.
Did you know that the minimum cash wage for a tipped employee is only $2.13? Simply put, the men and women who serve you at most restaurants need your tip to make ends meet. A proper gratuity would tell your server you care about him or her.

2. Intentionally interact with staff.
I’ll illustrate this point with a story relationship expert Ken Sande recently shared at a Focus chapel.

One day Ken stopped to get coffee at an airport coffee shop when he noticed the barista took the time to create a beautiful work of art in the foam of the latte the customer before him had ordered. She was about to place the plastic cover over her artwork when Ken stopped her. He smiled and said, “You’ve done such a beautiful job on his coffee; don’t cover it until he sees your artwork. With that kind of artistry and customer care, you’re going to be successful wherever you work.”

Can you imagine the type of impact Ken’s encouragement had on that barista’s day? What a simple way to show the love of Jesus. 

3. Pray for your server.
You’ll probably learn a little bit about your waiter, barista or cashier after a short conversation. Whatever you learn can be quickly turned into a little prayer.

And who knows? The Holy Spirit might even prompt you to go beyond prayer. If so, that’s an opportunity to step out in faith and obedience!

More often than not, living out our faith means that we keep an eye out for “divine appointments” as we go about our day – even if it’s just getting a burger or a cup of coffee.

I’d love to read your suggestions on how to engage service staff well in the comments section.

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