Maybe I'm over Thanksgiving. Maybe the Scrooginess of Advent is setting in. Or maybe I'm just looking for a fight. But I want to go on record (for what it's worth) as being against the idea that lavish, flashy, over-the-top tips for servers is a good, Christian idea.
Yep, I said it.
Here's an article from NPR about people leaving HUGE tips for their servers and only identifying themselves as @tipsforjesus. I've seen some colleagues post on Facebook about how wonderful this is. But I'm not so sure.
What makes us think that the Christian thing to do is dump a bunch of cash in the hands of someone who works waiting tables? I waited tables. I got some fabulous tips, and I got plenty of crummy ones. One group of 12 made me so angry that I almost chased them out the door and threw their pocket change back at them. I only worked as a server for a brief while, and I never made a serious effort at it, but I still know a little bit of what it feels like. I would have done backflips if someone had left me even a $200 tip. I get what it means to open that little black folder with hope in your heart that the number on the signed receipt will make you smile. Still, though, I might not be the right person to judge, but I think that money would be better spent in at least a dozen other ways.
How much more could that $10,000 do if it was given to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or an organization that specializes in micro-finance? How much more could be done with that $10,000 if it was given to a church? A community resources center? A political action committee that is focused on raising the minimum wage?
Yes, Jesus talked a lot about money. Yes, he talked about the Kingdom of God as a place where people aren't rewarded based on the world's criteria but as God sees us--with shocking equality (Matthew 20:1-16). And, yes, it's nice (cute? sweet? astounding?) that a rich person would give a presumably less rich person so much money, but is the result really the manifestation of God's reign here on earth?
Most of us (me included) are asking ourselves, "What sort of person does that?" We're wondering what "AshleyS" did with the money. We might even speculate as to the motives of @tipsforjesus. But I haven't heard anyone talking about the kingdom or the laborers in the vineyard or how this stunt brings us closer to the good news of Jesus Christ.
I feel certain that Jesus was a good tipper--starting at 20% and only going up from there. And I'd like to think that he's the kind of person who even tipped a little bit more when the service wasn't all that great because he assumed that the person waiting tables was having a tough day and needed a pick-me-up. But I don't believe Jesus would have left a tip like that--at least not if he was going to sign his name. Even if we don't know who @tipsforjesus really is, this story is still all about that person or group of people. It's not about Jesus. It's not about the server. It's not about transforming unjust societal structures so that the world we live in looks more like God's kingdom. It's just about someone throwing a lot of money around in a seemingly generous way to get attention for all the wrong reasons.