As followers of Christ, we’re to be characterized by generosity, humility, and gratitude. That extends to how well we tip those who serve us at restaurants and other places. Scripture says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21). I have heard many stories from restaurant servers, both believers and unbelievers, who say that they get the smallest tips from people who come to eat after leaving church on Sunday mornings. This should not be.
Many people, including myself, regularly leave a small book or booklet with a waiter or waitress who serves them (I use my If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? and Heaven and God’s Promise of Happiness booklets). However, when I do, I always leave a tip that's a minimum of 20%, usually more like 25%. This is partly because I genuinely appreciate them serving us, and partly because they likely saw us pray before the meal, and when they see a gospel booklet I don’t ever want them to associate the Christian life with a lack of generosity, but with greater generosity. Grace is giving and when the gospel of God’s grace touches your heart, it will always demonstrate itself in cheerful giving.
I think it’s vital that Christ-followers not invalidate the message of the gospel by leaving a stingy, ungenerous tip and worst of all, no tip at all. (If you feel like you can’t afford it, you can reduce your bill by just having water, choosing less expensive items, or skipping dessert and include that savings in your tip.)
Thom Rainer shares some helpful thoughts on this subject and why it’s so important:
Seven Concerns about Christians and Tipping
The following is a true story. Granted, it happened several years ago. But I wonder how often such scenarios unfold.
Two pastors were at lunch together. The older pastor paid for their previous meal, so the younger pastor picked up the tab for this meal. The younger pastor paid cash for the meal, so his older friend asked if he had included a tip. He said he forgot the tip, so he put some cash on the table.
As they were departing, the younger pastor said he forgot something, and returned to the restaurant. The other pastor saw him through the window. The younger man went back to the table, picked up the cash, and put it in his pocket.
Hopefully, such stories are rare. But we do have reasons to be concerned when church members and Christian leaders treat restaurant servers and other service employees so poorly. Allow me to outline seven key concerns.