Unless you’ve been living under a rock and that rock doesn’t have Wi-Fi then you’ve probably heard about the pastor that stiffed a waitress at an Applebee’s over the weekend. The pastor in question was part of a large group and as most restaurants do in such cases a gratuity of 18% was added to the bill. The pastor believed that because she gave God a 10% tithe that the waitress did not deserve more than that and so she left her with nothing. Questions were raised yesterday asking whether this was real or an Internet hoax, but now the pastor in question, Alois Bell, has gone public. While the pastor seems apologetic, “My heart is really broken,” “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry” because of her complaints Applebee’s has fired the waitress who was originally stiffed and posted the receipt on Reddit. Applebee’s claims that the waitress violated the pastor’s right to privacy and I guess they have a point.
So, what lesson can we all learn from this? John Wesley’s first General Rule of his Methodist Societies was to “Do no harm” probably taken from the Hippocratic Oath. Do no harm, if we were to translate this to the parlance of our times then we might say “don’t be a jerk” or we could go even further and perhaps cruder and say “don’t be an a**hole.” Don’t be a jerk and tip your waitperson. These folks make less than minimum wage and live off their tips. I can’t stand a stingy tipper. This pastor and Christian is not alone in her actions. Sunday Church-goers are notoriously bad tippers. Stories of leaving little notes and/or gospel tracts instead of a tip abound on the Internet. The worst being this little number that looks a $100 bill, but turns out to be a gospel tract. Surely you don’t think you can leave that as a tip and not expect spit, or worse, in your food the next time you come in.
This pastor did harm to the waitress involved because not only did she get stiffed out of her tip, but now she is fired. The pastor did harm to herself because every waitperson in her area will know her and God only knows what they might do to her food. If I was her I would be eating in for the next year or two. The pastor did harm to her church. Who wants to attend a church with a jerk for a pastor? (Maybe we could ask the members at Mars Hill. Sorry, couldn’t resist mate.) She also did harm to the Church Universal. How many people were turned off to the Church and to God because of this pastor’s actions? How many had their suspicions and prejudices confirmed by her actions?
As Jeremy Smith writes on his blog, “every moment I have an opportunity to seek the best possibility that God is placing before me.” If we are known as Christians, then we are being watched by the world. Our actions can either do harm or do good for the Kingdom of God. Holding the door, treating cashiers and attendants with respect, and yes leaving generous tips reflect not just on us as people and as Christians, but on the God we serve as well. It is a tremendous responsibility and we won’t always succeed. When we do fail, it is our responsibility to make amends.
Remember, do no harm and don’t be a jerk.