Tipping servers generously should be a Christian practice

As a server at a local restaurant, the best part of every shift is counting up the tips. Sometimes, I’m just happy to be making money. Other times, I’m stunned by the generosity of customers. But most Sunday lunch shifts, after serving the post-church crowd, I notice a downward droop in my total tips and average tip percentage. 

I don’t think every bad tipper is a Christian. In fact, I know many Christians who tip astonishingly well. But the weekly situation got me thinking: shouldn’t Christians be the best tippers out there? 

Scripture emphasizes generosity so much that it’s almost redundant to point it out. The rich are supposed “to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17). We are meant to freely give, since “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus praises the sacrificial giving of a poor widow, who gave a high proportion of her income to the temple (Luke 21:1-4). 

In the Old Testament, verses about paying workers well abound. The prophet Jeremiah delivered a woe to anyone “making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor” (Jeremiah 22:13). In Leviticus 19:13, God says to the Israelites, “do not defraud your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.” 

For many in the restaurant industry, tips make up the bulk of servers’ paychecks. Employers often give servers low base wages — think around five dollars an hour or less — because they trust that customers will make the difference through tips. This system isn’t ideal, but as long as it remains in place, the responsibility for paying servers even close to a living wage falls on customers. 

As a server, I’ve worked with people in many different life situations. Your next server could be like me, a college student trying to pay for groceries, an apartment and tuition. Or they could be a housing-insecure single mother. They might need a plane ticket to visit a sick parent or some extra cash to cover a surprise medical expense. Everyone has needs. The blessing of going to a restaurant is that there will be an opportunity to help, delivered to you in the form of a receipt when you finish your meal. 

So whether you’re enjoying a football game at Buffalo Wild Wings, grabbing a beer at a local brewery or just picking up coffee on the way to class, consider tipping well, twenty percent of your bill or more. It’s a kind thing to do in general; for Christians, it’s a way to practice our faith and love our neighbors.