Against tithing: tipping, justice and ignorant pastors

Brian Bennett
02/06/2013

Against tithing: tipping, justice and ignorant pastors

The story has gone viral. The pastor left a note on her check that said, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18?" In the aftermath, the pastor has come and sort of apologized (more of an "I'm sorry I got caught" than a true "I'm sorry"). The waitress who posted the receipt on Reddit (not the waitress who actually waited on the pastor) has been fired. Several problems arise in the telling of this story and all of them are with the pastor and her understanding.

First was her ignorance of the restaurant's large party policy. She was in a group that automatically garnered an 18 percent tip. Don't like the policy? Don't eat there.

Second was her ignorance of servers' wages. Servers are paid incredibly poorly. While minimum wages for most hourly workers have continued to rise, servers' hourly wages have been exempt from such raises. Servers are dependent upon tips for a living. Tips are not merely extras that supplement servers' pay.

Third was the pastor's ignorance of tithing and rendering to God what is God's. I continue to speak against tithing if we hold on to the false belief that when we tithe, we give 10 percent to God and the rest is ours to do with as we please. Tithing does not provide a firewall between money that belongs to God and money that belongs to me. After all, the earth is the Lord's and all therein.

When it comes to our money, the reality is that everything we have is to be used for God. Yes, there is money that we give to God through the church for its mission; that is one way we participate in mission. It is not the only way. Supporting our family falls in there as well. Serving our neighbor does as well. I suggest to people that intentional giving is important when deciding what to give through the church. Because by practicing intentional giving, we can learn to be intentional with everything we have.

The pastor mistakenly believes the money she is paying for her food at the restaurant is somehow separate from her Christian vocation of serving her neighbor. She avoids justice by failing to provide for her neighbor's needs. If she cannot afford to eat out and pay the bill, she should not eat out. Hiding behind God and her office of ministry as a justification for shafting the server is unjustifiable. Justice is ignored. Servers are often on the edge of poverty. Not tipping for her food can very possibly take food out of the server's mouth.

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Originally posted Feb. 1, 2013, at A Pastor in the Parish. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Brian Bennett's blog A Pastor in the Parish at Lutheran Blogs.

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