It has become proverbial that Christians don’t tip well.
The picture of this sad reality is the now-stereotypical scene: family enters a restaurant for Sunday dinner; Dad makes a show of bowing his head and praying before the meal; the waiter is treated indifferently, if not harshly; and on a bill of $50 Dad leaves a ‘tip’ of merely a gospel tract printed to resemble real money.
Christian eaters have been excoriated for impugning the name of Christ with our paltry tipping, and rightly so. Yet I am not interested in piling more on in that regard.
My interest is in the system as a whole that permits one type of employer to pay below market wages and rely on the gratuity of patrons to obtain a decent wage for employees. Specifically, how should Christian restaurant owners handle setting wages for waiters?
The Scriptures are replete with admonitions for people to pay decent wages to workers, and to pay them on time. Only by modern moral stretching can this place the burden for a decent wage on the patron, rather than the owner. Legally, Christian restaurant owners can pay a low hourly wage to his waiters and expect them to earn tips to supplement that low wage. But should he?
Would it be better for Christian restaurateurs to pay their employees a regular wage, charge for food accordingly, and tell patrons they aren’t expected to tip unless they want to? Or, would it be better for such employers to guarantee a wage level that tips don’t accomplish?
While we have a gratuity-oriented restaurant system, Christian diners should tip with grace. But Christian restaurateurs are not exempted from the ‘requirements’ of grace, even if the law exempts them.