Fair & Loving Treatment of Service Staff: Christians Stop Being Pharisees

As usual, I will try to use less than 1000 words to address a topic you could probably write a Ph.D. paper on. Nonetheless, as a Christian and as the son of restaurant owners, I feel as if I have ample ability to properly address a crippling issue inside of Christian Culture. I believe that the largest objection to the Gospel in the service industry is simply Christian customers themselves, who often refuse to show love and service to those who serve them.

Fair and equitable treatment of all people is a large theme of The Bible, especially in regards to those who are in financial need. The books of: Psalms, Proverbs and most of the prophets, and even more tell us to be fair and equitable to all people because God wants Justice for his creation. In the New Testament, Jesus expands on this in his teachings to the Pharisees as he quotes a Jewish prophet named Hosea in Hosea 6:6. He tells them that God desires mercy and not sacrifice and that though our sacrifice and dedication to God is good, God wants those things to turn us from our self-seeking desire to a drive us to love and serve others. God’s wants his love to be shown through the love of those who serve Him, serving others.

I can not begin to tell you how crucial it is that Christians start honoring and showing love to service staff. Christians have a nagging reputation for being demanding, bossy, highly expecting customers who tip poorly. Perhaps we see service as a key part of the Gospel and therefore have a higher standard for service then most people do. This is edivdent and reflecting in the heavy consumer culture inside of the church where we often seek to receive rather than to give. How often do Christians seek to serve those who serve them in a restaurant setting? Christians often expect their waiter to serve them alone, where in reality they need to learn to return the favor.

I have most likely waited on 300-500 tables in my lifetime and only once has a table offered to pray for me as I dropped off their food. It was an amazing feeling because working in the food industry is hectic and usually waiters fight an uphill battle with people to win their approval, serve them well, and hopefully make a living. I remember clearly the man and woman from Grace Ministries in Raleigh, NC who offered to pray for me that night. I include this detail because as a Christian I fail to serve those who serve me as well, and now today whenever I eat out I always try to ask my server if I can pray for them before I eat.

Prayer is powerful, prayer is holy, and prayer is amazing. But let me be clear, if you think that you can pray for your waiter in place of tipping them, you are very mistaken. I am not saying you need to tip massive amounts when you eat out, but you need to at least try to give a fair tip. I will add in my additional content section tips on how to properly tip a restaurant waiter. Now, this is not an attempt to beat up on financially poor Christians, but instead it is a plea for mercy regarding the people of the service industry. Keep in mind, these beliefs I am stating relate easily extends to most other services you pay for whether that be a contractor, an accountant, a mechanic, etc.

Let me give a biblical example of how the people of God are to serve those outside of God’s Kingdom. King David shows us all how to serve those who serve us, well when he wanted to purchase a man named Araunah’s threshing floor in 2 Samuel 24: 18-25. That threshing floor is actually a BIG deal because it would soon be the ground for The Holy Temple the Jews would built under David’s son Solomon. The land, often referred to today as The Temple Mount, is considered one of the holiest places on the Earth. David wanted to get it from Araunah, who was a Jebusite. Now the Jebusites, were not part of God’s people and they were not part of God’s kingdom, so one may think that King David could have just merely taken the land from the man who owned the land inside of David’s city. But Araunah, who wasn’t even necessarily trying to serve God, respected the king and was willing to give the threshing floor away to him for free, along with animals for sacrificing on it. This sounds like a good deal, I mean who does not appreciate a free gift from those you expect to receive from? So, what did King David do in regard to obtaining the threshing floor from this heathen outsider?

David, whose heart was set on honoring God, paid FULL PRICE for the threshing floor. He asked what we all should be asking, “What good is a sacrifice if it cost me nothing?”. If Christians are going to be cheap, stingy, and highly expectant of their servers, then they are not serving them. If we are called to show love, mercy, justice, and equity to the poor (not to suggest all servers are poor by any means) then we need to serve those who serve us well.

Let me end the body of my argument with the most well known Christian saying in the service industry. Christians are known to tell their waiters, “10% is good enough for the Lord, so it should be good enough to you”, in regards to tipping (which should be between (15%-20%). Bibically, the giving of 10% of one’s income was established as a way for people to joyfully give back to and serve the Levite tribe of Israel. The Levites, served as the spiritual leaders and teachers of Israel. Giving to God, was and today still is a blessing and not a heartless obligation. If we take the logic of the stated phrase above as an axiom let me ask my reader if they would be satisfied with 10% or even Half of their Jobs wages? Would my reader be satisfied with their spouse doing only 10% of their marriage role in the household? If “10% is good enough for the Lord and therefore whatever else I say” where would you be afraid to see this applied? If you try to twist scripture to limit your obligation to serve the needy than you are being a Pharisee and not a Christian.

This is not written to condemn anyone, but it is instead a call to repentance. To repent is to return or turn to God, from one’s sins. The kingdom of God is one where service is the standard for greatness and humility the standard for success. We all need to treat those who serve as people we want to serve as well. Christians should lead the charge, sacrificing whatever they can to show mercy to those who need it so that the love of the Gospel can shine through.

Bonus Content: How to properly leave a Tip

Again this is not a condemnation on the poor who eat out once a year and can barely afford their bill. Waiters are far more understanding people than we give them credit for. By and large, most customers will go out to eat with the financial means to afford to tip. Rule number one would be to order with the tip in mind. If you only have $20 to spend, limit yourself to maybe a $16 check, instead of saying “I can spend 19.50 and just apologize for not having more cash. Accidents happen, but we must be diligent to not be ignorant. As far as percentages are concerned I usually tip 20% of the total bill. Now you really do not have to tip on the tax, so if you want to tip 18% as a high on the total bill, that is okay. If you can only afford to give 15%, then that is more or less acceptable. If your bill is something like $200, then tipping 15% is not really fair because chances are there was a lot of work involved in bringing $200 of product to your table. Remember your tip goes sometimes to a bartender, and busser who all are involved in taking care and providing service for you. Now if your bill is $150 and $80 of it is a bottle of wine, I would not feel inclined to tip the full 20% on the $80. There is much debate on this but to be honest the annoyance of opening a $10 vs. a $100 bottle of wine is usually the same work. But if your waiter knows the wine well, helps explain it to you, and pairs it well, it is fair to reward their hard work. Now, this sounds like a money seminar on a Christian blog, and to an extent it is. But your money is not what I necessarily want from the reader as much as I want you to have a heart that looks upon those who serve you with a willingness to love them sacrificially. If you are poor and can’t afford to tip 20% you are not a bad Christian. Find whatever way possible to love and be a blessing for your waiter. If it is a busy Friday night and they clearly look rushed, do not be afraid to verbally encourage them and be a light to them in a dark and busy setting. Lastly, I want to point out that waiters do not make minimum wage, but instead because they are known to work for tips, they usually are paid and are taxed on roughly $2 an hour. So I challenge my reader to look upon their mistakes with grace and be loving and hospitable towards them.  There are a lot of caveats and debates in these conversations, but I want this to be at the very least a conversation starter.

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