There is a story making its rounds on the Internet these days about someone claiming to be a pastor using a “theological argument” to protest paying an automatic 18% gratuity. If you haven’t seen the story, you can Google it; it won’t be hard to find. But here is the bottom line: a customer at a restaurant in the St. Louis area write a note on his receipt, that included the 18% automatic gratuity, “I give God 10% why do you get 18” and then signed his name “Pastor [redacted].”
Not that it necessarily matters, but when I first saw the receipt (yep, the stories include pictures of it) I wondered why there was an automatic gratuity since the total was only $34.93–not exactly a huge bill, and not a total that would usually trigger the automatic gratuity policy. Upon reading the story, though, I learned that the pastor was a part of a large group that accumulated a bill exceeding $200. Apparently the pastor asked to have the charges broken down in order to avoid paying the automatic gratuity.
I have several problems with this incident, if it did happen. (After all, as Becket Adams points out on The Blaze, it could be a hoax “designed to stoke some sort of anti-Christian sentiment.”
First of all, as Adams also correctly points out, the automatic gratuity policy is not the decision of or the fault of the waitress who served the party in question. Not only is it pretty standard for restaurants to charge an automatic gratuity for large parties, the menu at the restaurant where this incident occurred clearly states that gratuities of 18% are automatically added for parties of eight or more. So either the pastor read it and figured he could get around it after enjoying his meal (shameful) or did not read it and did not like it when he found out (lazy). Furthermore, the automatic gratuity for large parties is, as I said, pretty standard, so I cannot believe this individual was truly surprised even if he did not read it.
Second, the argument scrawled by this pastor does not hold water. Many people–quite possibly this pastor included–spend more than 10% of their income on a variety of things, most notably car payments and mortgage payments. Too, the idea of a 10% tithe applies to one’s entire income, not to percentages on any given purchase. The restaurant did ask the man to pay 18% of his monthly paycheck as a tip.
Third, the argument is not even biblical. In Luke 10:7 Jesus Himself tells His disciples, “the laborer deserves his wages.” In I Timothy 5:18b Paul quotes Jesus, writing, “The laborer deserves his wages.” The waitress in the incident in question deserves her wages, too. And let us not forget that gratuities are part of those wages. Restaurant wait staff are exempted from minimum wage laws; the per-hour pay they receive from restaurants is quite low. But they compensate for that through providing good service and earning tips. So this alleged pastor is not only using Scripture out of context in his note, he is ignoring Scripture that speaks very clearly to the issue at hand.
Unfortunately, this idea is not new and is not rare. Whether this incident really happened or not, I have heard for years–and you probably have too–that wait staff will consistently say that Sunday afternoons is when they get the worse tips. And who is often eating at restaurants on Sunday afternoons? The folks who just left church. (Even worse, the professing Christians are not only among the worst tippers, they also tend to be among the most rude). What kind of testimony is that? According to the server at the restaurant in the story that prompted this post, “They had no problem with my service, and told me I was great. They just didn’t want to pay when the time came.” Shameful…and damaging to the cause of Christ. If we’re going to bring God into an argument, as this individual clearly did when he included “Pastor” with his signature, it better be to bring praise and honor to Him, not to misquote Him for our own ends and bring scorn and mocking on Him.
When the server shared this story originally on Reddit she included this caption with the photo: “My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.” Yes, her irritation is evident in her statement, but she is also right. If I am going to avail myself of the service provided at a restaurant where someone serves me, I ought to compensate the wait staff appropriately. Not only is it polite, it is literally the server pays his or her bills. If I don’t like it, I can always eat at home or go to any fast food restaurant where I pick up my meal at the counter.
Over the years my wife has developed a fondness of sorts for watching my tipping habits. She can tell if I am unhappy with some part of the service, and she will sometimes even say, “the tip just went down, didn’t it?” Usually she’s right on, too! But there is also another truth in that statement–notice she says, “it went down.” That implies that it had already been “up.” Fifteen percent is a standard rule-of-thumb for a gratuity for restaurant servers, and that should be what we expect to add to the bill when we have finished dining. I do not think lowering that is wrong if the service is lousy; after all, a grumpy or incompetent server is not “worthy of his wage.” But there is also nothing that says fifteen percent cannot be increased. The other part of the guess-the-tip game my wife likes to play stems from the fact that she sometimes thinks I tip too much. I’ve never given anyone a life-changing tip, but I have been known to tip well above fifteen percent when the service is outstanding. Nothing wrong with that, either.
So, remember…when you dine out someplace where someone serves you, expect to compensate them accordingly. And please, do me a favor…if you just can’t do that, and you happen to be a Christian, please keep it to yourself.