How Should Christians Tip?

by Alex on March 5, 2012

Here’s something the Christian community needs to think long and hard about: Tipping.

We’re lousy tippers. Every server will confirm that Sunday lunch is one of the worst days of the week. The Christians get out of church, demand more than any other customer, hang around for an hour or more, and follow it up with a lousy tip.

Prayer before a meal has become code for “they won’t tip well”.

It’s shockingly hypocritical. We’re called to be servants to all, and in restaurants we serve ourselves. We’re called to be defined by generosity and we’re known for our stinginess.

How should Christians tip? What are the rules of tipping and how do we show grace, mercy, and love through them?


Tips mean “To Insure Proper Service”. The thinking goes, if your paycheck is determined by how well you serve then you’re more likely to serve well.

In theory this makes sense; in practice it tends to fall flat.

Most servers aren’t properly trained. They don’t know anything about marketing, sales, or human interaction. Their ignorance comes from their employers who are the ones underpaying, under-training, and under-severing their employees. When it comes time to work, most servers don’t have a solid grasp of what will actually work to make their service more valuable and increase their tip. All they know are the basics of taking an order and filling drinks.

Add to that people who want a good meal, but don’t have the funds for a proper tip. I’ve found myself in a situation where I could afford a meal, but not a tip. In that instance, I decided to go somewhere I didn’t have to tip. Most people won’t do that.

So tipping is screwed up from the beginning. It’s suppose to insure proper service, but servers aren’t taught to know what proper service is and customers aren’t always prepared to reward that service.

How Christians Should Tip

First off, your tip amount needs to be higher than the norm. If the average is 15%, then your meal needs to plan for a 20% tip – especially if the service is good. If Christians are known for stingy tips, then you need to go above and beyond to prove your generosity. God is generous to us; we should be generous to all.

Second, we need to be graceful. It’s okay if the server gets things wrong. Most restaurants will go out of their way to fix a plate where something is wrong. In addition, the overwhelming majority of orders come out correctly! Show grace to your server when things get messed up or they’re having a busy shift. Christ showed grace to us, we should show grace to all.

Third, if the service is terrible (and sometimes it is), then it is okay to tip low. I recently went to a restaurant where the server didn’t check up on us at all. The kitchen was backed up, but there were plenty of servers. It took her 45 minutes to refill our drinks (not an exaggeration) and when the food finally came out (over an hour after we ordered), most of it was cold. She was unapologetic and didn’t make any effort to fix the situation.

The only thing she did quickly was give us the check. By God’s grace, we were able to pay with cash and get out of there 2 hours after we showed up.

Believe it or not, we still tipped her. The service was lousy, the food was bad, and I could tell the other servers were apologizing and handling the situation well. We opted for grace in a bad situation.

I’m not necessarily happy about it.

How much do you tip?

Alex Humphrey is a personal finance writer and coach at EntrepreLife a personal finance blog that teaches easy ways to dominate money by dropping debt, investing well, and saving for the things you love to do. When he’s not blogging he leads a youth group, spends time with his wife, and figures out new ways to teach people personal finances. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the EntrepreLife mailing list.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

CrysHouse March 5, 2012 at 7:49 am

Chris and I always tip at least 20%. We’ve felt it’s part of our calling as encouragers to those who might be stuck in a real arm pit of a job. Plus, like you said, it often takes a large number of people to undo what a small number of people have created.


cashflowmantra March 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

We always leave at least 15% tip unless the service was incredibly lousy and then 10% may be all that is left. However, it is not uncommon for us to tip higher amounts. Last night, my wife and I shared a meal at a steak place. The bill was $18.27 and we left $25 total so the tip was fairly substantial.


Penny March 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I really haven’t thought about it before, but you are right…we do have a bad reputation on poor tipping. Sometimes we seem to have the attitude that these people are here to serve us beyond what we expect. But as Christians, we are to serve others and a fair tip is a way to do that. I will definitely take your points into consideration when I tip. And also in the spirit of being wise with our money; we should expect and calculate the tip before making the decision to eat out.


Alex Levin March 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Good for you! lotsa ppl actually don’t realize that servers get super low wages because tips are supposed to cover the rest. i would love it if we adopted the European model — no tips, normal wages. also, is this really a christian issue? the only difference is that people judge your religion based on your actions.


Michelle March 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

We always tip at least 20%


Azita June 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I’d like to hear from some of the people who find it acceptable to leave some message about god as the sole tip on a meal.


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