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The headline caught my eye — “Why are Christians such bad tippers?”
It was a story responding to something that recently went viral on the Internet when a restaurant server was fired after posting a copy of a customer’s credit card receipt online.
Apparently, a pastor in St. Louis ate at an Applebee’s and when her bill came she scratched out the 18 percent gratuity that is often standard restaurant policy for large groups and wrote a big zero, adding, “I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?” She signed it “Pastor Alois Bell.”
I can’t begin to tell you how insanely furious that made me when I first heard about it, for a number of reasons.
My youngest daughter has been a restaurant server for more than a decade, and she says church people are some of the worst customers. She says many — not all, but even one is too many — are whiny and demanding. They ask rude questions such as, “Why aren’t you in church?” if she’s working on a Sunday. (“Um, so I can wait on you?”)
She said when she asked one customer if she’d like a glass of wine with her meal the woman sat upright and said, “Young lady, I’m a Christian and I don’t drink wine.”
My daughter said she bit her tongue to keep from saying, “Jesus drank wine — are you saying you’re better than Jesus?” She said she also wanted to say, “Well, maybe if you did have some wine you wouldn’t be so mean.”
Also, she said church people like to leave gospel tracts with their stingy tips — sometimes tracts that look like real money. I’d say unless you’re leaving a generous tip, don’t do that.
What bothered me about the pastor’s comment on her bill — where do I even start? How about thinking her tithe of 10 percent absolves her from her duty to give to others? Many restaurant servers earn well below minimum wage and depend on tips to pay their rent and feed their families.
How about her arrogance by calling herself “pastor” but not acting with humility, mercy and kindness?
It turned out that after the Internet backlash the pastor apologized for her “lapse in my character and judgment,” as she told “The Smoking Gun.” She said she realized her comment on the receipt brought embarrassment to her church and her ministry.
I’d add that it probably made God blush, except God knows that his people are sinful and he’s not at all surprised when we act sinfully.
Still, if we want to call ourselves Christians, and if we want others to be attracted to Christ, we have to stop being so arrogant and obnoxious “in Jesus’ name.”
In the “Why are Christians such bad tippers?” story, the writer, Karen Prior, made an interesting point, that Christians are among the most sacrificially giving people and there must be something deeper than just stinginess going on when it comes to meager tipping.
Prior suggested it has more to do with bad theology than bad manners. She said (and I agree) that many Christians divide the world into “secular” or “worldy” and “sacred” or “spiritual,” thus elevating what they consider to be spiritual and demonizing what they consider to be secular.
Therefore, giving to “God’s work” is considered good because it’s “spiritual” and using money on secular activities, such as eating out, is less good. Also in this line of thinking, certain occupations are “higher” (pastors), which makes others lesser (restaurant servers).
I’m not a theologian, but I don’t think God uses the same separations as we do. I don’t think he considers giving our money to a Christian charity better than leaving a tip for a server who puts up with our bad manners. In fact, he might consider that even better.
The Bible tells those who call themselves Christ followers: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:30-32).
Maybe in God’s eyes everything we do is spiritual; everything we do, whether it’s in church or in a restaurant, reflects his name.
Maybe if we remember that we wouldn’t turn so many off to Jesus.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at email@example.com.