Christians Behaving Badly: On Tips and Tithing


Don't be this kind of Christian

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me."                     --Matthew 25:45

In case you missed it, there was a dining incident in St. Louis that has gone viral.  A St. Louis pastor went to Applebee's as part of a large group that ran up a tab of over $200.  When the bill came, an 18% gratuity had been added to the total--a practice very common in the restaurant industry.  The pastor balked, and wrote a note on the bill saying, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?"  She then crossed out the $6.29 gratuity and put a big, fat 0 in its place.

Another server saw the receipt and posted it online.  The pastor then called the restaurant and demanded that a whole chain of people be fired.  In the end, only the poster of the image was fired.  The pastor has since called it a "lapse of judgment." 

Uh...yeah...and a lapse of a whole lot of other things as well.

To begin with, the pastor's action represents a complete misunderstanding of the Christian practice of tithing.  I've got a whole sermon on it, but the upshot is that the "tithe" was established to support the maintenance of an active worship community.  "Offerings" were above and beyond that and were (and still are) necessary to care for those in need.  Good for the pastor for helping to support the church she serves with her 10%.  Bad on her for not remembering that God cares about how we use the other 90% as well.

Those who proclaim themselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and especially those in positions of authority in the church, are called to model the Christian ethic.  Very high on the list of Christian virtues is generosity.  We proclaim an abundant God who gives and gives and gives to us, even when--perhaps most particularly when--we least deserve it.  The singular thing that set the earliest Christians apart was their lavish generosity with those in need.

The waitress snubbed in this incident made $3.50 an hour.  With tips she could get up to $9.00 an hour.  If she worked a 40-hour week and made the maximum every hour, she would gross a yearly salary of $18,720.  If the pastor couldn't afford to add $6.29 to her $34.93 bill, she shouldn't have been eating out in the first place.  Pastoral salaries aren't known for being enormous, but at least in my experience, it is those who make the least who give the most--perhaps because they know what it's like to live a life where every single dollar matters.

So, thus far we have a lapse in theological understanding of the tithe, and a lapse in Christian charity.

Thanks to the public world in which we now live, those lapses found their way to the Internet and the pastor was called out for her bad behavior.  So...what are Christians supposed to do when caught in bad behavior?  Confess, repent, and ask forgiveness.  What did this pastor do?  She called the restaurant and demanded that everyone be fired. 

So now, a person who earns at best $18.720 a year earns nothing at all--even though she checked the employee manual to be sure there was no rule she was breaking in posting the photo.  If she worked full time and had benefits, her health insurance is gone, too.  This only fueled the online anger at the pastor who finally issued an apology saying that the incident was a "lapse in character and judgment" that was "blown out of proportion."

That is not an apology.  It wasn't blown out of proportion.  Her "lapses" cost one person a living wage and a second person her job.  All in the name of God.  If the pastor were truly repentant, she would work to get that girl a new job.  And she would suck it up and admit that she failed to live the life to which Christ has called her.

Christians, nowhere is our faith (or lack thereof) more evident than in the use of our money--because we proclaim that it really isn't our money.  From Genesis 2 onward, it is clear that our role on this earth is that of steward, not owner.  God gives us use of resources so that we can be a fitting reflection of the generous, loving Owner and provide a channel for getting those resources out to those who need them most.  Steward.  According to the Bible, It is the role that defines us as human beings.

Sure, we all fail this standard from time to time.  But when we do, we are called to honest confession of the way we have harmed both other people and our witness in the world.  Only then do we truly understand why grace is so amazing.  I hope that one day this pastor gets the memo.

Share this
Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)