Did you hear the story about the stingy, hypocritical pastor? Well, I’m sorry to hear that my friends mentioned my faults to you.
But there’s another story that’s hit the news recently, about a pastor who, as The Consumerist reports:
Earlier this week, we posted a story about a restaurant customer who not only chose to deny the waitress a tip, but also wrote “I Give God 10% Why do you Get 18?” on the receipt. Now we’ve learned that the server who posted the receipt online has been fired.
Why was the waitress fired? Because “the customer who had left the receipt contacted her Applebee’s location, demanding that everyone be fired, from the servers involved to the managers.” With such a dramatic ending to the story, it has gone viral, with hundreds of media outlets reporting on it.
Thankfully, the pastor has since somewhat apologized for her mistake, saying, “My heart is really broken. I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry…[it was a] lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.” The Smoking Gun reports that, “In addition to her fledgling ministry, Bell has authored three slim books–covering topics like fasting, prayer, and religious teaching–that are available for purchase through an online vanity press. One 28-page volume examines spiritual nourishment, complete with references to candy and junk food” (emphasis added).
Let’s be clear: don’t you hope that Bell goes beyond these words and offers financial assistance to the fired waitress and does what she can to assist her? Her lapse in judgment has affected more than her own ministry, but harmed an innocent woman who rightly exposed this religious hypocrisy and stingy spirit.
What can we learn from this experience? As we enter Lent, a time for reflecting upon our own sins, I’d like to suggest you try a “25% fast.” That is, whenever you purchase something at a restaurant, coffee shop, and other place where tipping is customary, that you give a 25% tip during Lent.
It is a bit of an arbitrary number, but the basic idea comes from a fuller perspective of tithing in the Old Testament:
The Old Testament Law required multiple tithes which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent, not the 10 percent which is generally considered the tithe amount today.
First, I find it interesting that we’ve rounded down the Old Testament tithe to a mere 10%!
Second, in light of the New Testament, I believe Christians are to understand that 100% of our financial resources are God’s. So the question of “giving God” 10% or 23.3% is nonsense. All of our money is God’s; we are required to be faithful stewards with every cent. We are called to imitate the example of Jesus. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (ESV).
In any case, none of this, properly speaking, has even the remotest connection to tipping. A tithe is a special gift to God in order to support the ongoing ministry of the Temple (or the church). A tip is a cultural way of honoring those who serve us in various capacities. And, because of how the laws and terms of employment are structured, it is often a system that wait staff and others depend upon to make a living wage. The only connection is that a tithe can teach us to become generous and this is meant to overflow into generosity towards our neighbors.
So I picked 25% because the idea of doing the math on a 23.3% tip makes my head hurt. 25% is relatively easy math. And since we seem to have a tendency to round down when it comes to being generous, let’s round it up this time.
Lent is often about giving something up. To practice a 25% tip will probably require some belt tightening in other places. Whenever you’re tempted to give reluctantly or begrudgingly, remember that Jesus gave you not 25%, but 100%, and smile.
What a great opportunity we now have to turn a terribly negative event into tens of thousands of positive interactions!
I hope you will join me in practicing a “25% fast” for Lent. Please invite your friends to participate with you, especially when you go out for meals after church each Sunday. It may take some courage to speak up for a higher than normal tip, but think of how much your waiter or waitress, hair stylist, barista, and so on, will appreciate your generous valuing of their time and effort.
I pray that our neighbors will be blessed and that God will be honored by your decision to do a “25% fast”!
(See also Ed Stetzer’s recent post on tipping and Christians – Stats Don’t Show that Christians (and Pastors) are Bad Tippers, but We Must Reverse the Stereotype).