You’ve likely heard the charge and criticism, even from the pulpit, so many times that you might even think it’s true:
Christians are bad tippers.
Most people who lob such accusations offer them anecdotally. Maybe they heard it from a friend who was a waiter, and the server detested working Sundays because of the so-called cheapskates who had just come from church for lunch. Or perhaps they themselves were slighted on the Sabbath or Wednesday nights back when they waited on tables in college.
At the root of the accusation is the charge of hypocrisy – that by being miserly, believers are being poor witnesses.
But is it true?
Studies and surveys actually show Christians tip, on average, just as well as most everyone else – somewhere between 15% to 20%. While a recent survey didn’t break down tippers by religious affiliation, twenty percent of diners in Ohio and New Hampshire tipped 25% or more. It also seems Southern hospitality is a real thing, as tippers in North Carolina and Alabama ranked in the top tier of generous tippers. It should be noted that several of those states have a higher percentage of church-goers than most.
The least generous? California and Oregon.
The tipping trope also doesn’t square with the fact that Christians consistently rank among the most generous of all people when it comes to charitable giving.
So why does the stereotype of the tightfisted Christian persist?
There’s a larger issue at play here, and it really has little to do with tipping at all.
As the culture has grown more secular and hostile to believers, a subset within the Church has emerged that only feeds these types of false narratives. The philosophy that drives this antagonism is not only unhelpful and unwise – but it’s also unbiblical.
“As we have opportunity,” said the Apostle Paul, “let us do good to everyone, and especially those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). In other words, we’re to encourage and lift up our fellow followers of Christ. Of course, we’re not to cast a blind eye to sin, but running down our brothers and sisters in Christ to score points, even in the interest of witnessing to others, is never an acceptable or effective posture.
This type of tension within the Church and culture may derive from several types of motivation and temperaments.
First, there’s the “I’m not like them” positioning – an attempt to distance oneself from certain types of Christians. This manifests on multiple fronts. We usually see it regarding hot button social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, or the trans revolution. It has the air of an older brother keeping a younger sibling at arm’s length to avoid embarrassment with friends.
Second, there’s a fascination with secular coolness that seems to grip some. It might have tentacles to the desire to distinguish oneself from other believers, but it often leads to hyper criticalness of fellow Christians. A person may seem enamored with what the secular person thinks of them or their beliefs, even though that perception may be completely void of biblical truth.
Third, pride or condescension can drive a divide between fellow Christians. The late Dr. Tim Keller often pointed out the irony of those who criticize believers for being judgmental since such a charge is, in itself, being judgmental.
To be sure, some Christians who criticize their brothers or sisters in Christ do so to build “street cred,” and presumably plan to somehow, someway, parlay that into an effective witness. But why would a non-believer be attracted to a faith populated by the very people the progressive types are running down?
As believers, we’d be wise to recognize our place and part in the Body of Christ as a privilege. Repeating the lies or half-truths the world holds about us won’t impress or draw others in – it will only repel non-believers and discourage Christians who are doing their best, however imperfect the effort. The world is attracted to beauty – and there is nothing more beautiful than followers of Jesus Christ united together in service and mission.