Does charity end at the church door?


You've probably heard the story. A large party comes into an Applebees's in St. Louis. Like all parties with more than 8 patrons, an 18% tip is automatically added to the bill. When the party leaves, the woman paying, a pastor no less, stiffs the waitress, and on the receipt (above) crosses out the 18% tip ($6.29) and gives $0. Adding insult to injury, the pastor leaves a note: "I give God 10% why do you get 18%?" The waitress (unwisely) posts the receipt on Reddit. After complaints from the pastor herself, Applebee's fires the waitress.

This is wrong on so many levels. Why should the pastor retaliate against a waitress, one who makes $3.50 and hour and relies on tips, when her bitch is with Applebee's? And isn't giving to the poor a Christian virtue? Why not leave a smaller tip, like 10% or 15%, rather than none at all? And why go to Applebee's in the first place, when such chain restaurants commonly have the same gratuity policy? If you must, suck it up, pay the bill, and never eat there again.

The incident has got restaurant workers coming out of the woodwork with similar tales. According to a recent piece in Salon, waiters and waitresses dread working on Sundays, since churchgoers are so notoriously cheap. Except, it seems, when they are supporting their own projects. There was the church that responded to the Haiti earthquake by raising money -- to send solar-powered (!) bibles to that faith-drenched island. There is the church that tells its communicants that the best way to help after a deadly tsunami in Malaysia is to donate to the church's own building fund. And charity seems to come easily when it is for fellow church members or folks you are trying to get to join your church.

What is going on here? Closer to home, it's not unusual for parishes to spend all their funds to fix the roof, or replace the boiler. But I wonder how many churches have programs to help people not listed on the church roster, just for the sake of doing it, not to evangelize them or convert them? Sad as well is the lack of consciousness of the struggles of ordinary people.And the feeling that once we have given our ten percent, or whatever, our duty to God and our neighbor is at an end, and we get to stick it to others.

I am amazed that a Christian minister had the temerity to lord it over a person working for half of the minimum wage. And covering up that sin by getting the girl fired goes beyond the pale. Pastor Alois Bell, for that is her name, has a great deal of social damage to make up for. Her first act of penance, after an abject apology, would be to help the girl find a new job. And then, to publicly commit herself to paying a reasonable tip anytime she goes out to eat.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink." Matthew 25:35

If you don't get the connection, realize that in French, a tip is a "pourboire" -- literally, "for a drink."