I miss tipping.

Justin Moffatt



A small sum of money given to someone for performing a service; a gratuity.

I miss tipping.

It was not always so. When I first visited America, I thought of tipping as an out of control ogre: a hideous cross between a hidden tax and highway robber. Nothing was ever its actual price. It was always 15% more; and then 7% tax; and then double it with the Aussie Dollar. Add that up, and you've got one poor and frustrated visitor to the land of the free.
I still remember, with some level of bitterness, carrying my own bags to the door of my cheap hotel room one winter in New York (which, by the way, was as cold as a meat locker) after which the porter - who merely pressed the elevator button - stood waiting for a tip.

You know it.

So does Nigel Richardson in the Herald's travel section last weekend. He bemoans: Excuse me, sir, where’s my tip? And he blames the Americans.
I don't.

Bemoan tipping that is.

After three years of living in New York, I actually miss tipping. Here in Australia, I feel like a cheapskate every time I simply sign the bottom line, and leave nothing extra.  I know that Australian waiters are on an award, and Americans rely on their tips etc. But it still feels wrong.

I think that tipping in the US - even the obligatory 15% - has created a culture where performance and service are pursued. To tip is to say 'well done'. And 'do that again next time I come'. It's a vote on performance. It is to restaurants what clapping is to theatre. And on the whole, waiters work hard to please; the servings are generous; the expectations are high and the food good. I certainly felt this when I drove a taxi. I worked hard to make it easier for someone to want to leave something extra. Performance coloured the ride.

But tipping could never work in Churches, for so many reasons. Not least of which is that giving ought never to be the result of a better 'performance'. That is not why my God gave his son for me.

That is not to say that believers won't give to a vision. We will give to a clear proposal that honours and preaches Jesus. We may give a car and a home to a missionary on furlough. We may see the need for a strategic ministry, and decide to gather a group of people to fund it. We will give to relieve suffering when the needs are clear.

But none of that is about performance. It is never 15% of 'well done'. It is never clapping.

Having read the Corinthian correspondence, I can see why. The thing that stops giving becoming tipping is intentionality. We are urged to decide to give ahead of time. That is the nature of 'deciding' - it is choosing something before doing something.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that each one should give what he has decided to give. From the heart. Not 'reluctantly', nor 'under compulsion'. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul urges each of his readers to set aside a sum of money on the first day of the week 'in keeping with his income'. In other words, Christian giving isn't done in accordance with performance, but according to how God has prospered. And it is decided upon, and set aside before the money is collected.

And Christian giving goes deeper too. Giving is built on the grace of Jesus who 'became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.' That's not 15% of 'well done'. It's 100% grace.
For a believer in Christ, our motivation to give freely is simply that we have received freely.

But I still miss tipping. Is that wrong?