What does tipping say about your faith?

Gratuity, or tipping, is something given voluntarily or beyond obligation, typically money or a gift, usually for some service provided.  It is common practice to tip waiters in restaurants, drivers and hotel workers.  I wonder how Jesus would tip if He were alive now?  Is how we tip a reflection upon Him? 

To illustrate my perspective on this, let me share a story.  Shortly after graduating from college, I moved to a new city to take a new job.  I knew virtually no one there so I decided that instead of sitting around my tiny apartment by myself, I would at least use my time while not at my main job to earn some extra income.  So I found a part-time job as a waiter, two of them in fact, working evenings at one restaurant and weekend mornings at another.  Three jobs was a lot, but I saw no sense in being lonely at home when I had college loans that needed to be paid off!  My weekend waiter job was at a high-end hotel in South Park, Charlotte, where many NBA teams and business travelers stayed.  One morning, when hotel traffic was slower than usual, I had time to talk a bit more with hotel diners.  One of those was a man who was in town for business.  He also had some down time, as his meetings were not until later in the day.  So, after he ate his morning oatmeal, he started a conversation with me.  The usual questions ensued, such as where are you from, what brought you to town, etc.  He told me briefly about his travels and his work, I told him about my recent adventures of being a new college grad and about my career aspirations.  He thanked me for the conversation and I thanked him for the encouraging words, then he left the restaurant.  I never saw him again, and was thankful for the pleasant conversation and to have gotten a nice $5 tip for merely serving a bowl of $7 oatmeal.  

The next day when I came to work, a co-worker told me that someone left a note for me the night before.  Curiously, I opened the envelope to find a card filled with accolades of the good impression I had made and a $100 bill!  Even now, some twenty-plus years later, as I write this article I am reminded of the way that made me feel. 

The Greek language has two words for time, chronos and kairosChronos refers to chronological or clock time, that which can be measured.  Kairos refers to a time or period of opportunity, or an appointed period of time.  Thus, chronos was more linear and quantitative, and kairos was more nonlinear and qualitative. 

Back to my story, this gentlemen did two things that made a lasting impression upon me.  First, he took time to get to know me and was generous with his time.  He probably had an agenda for the morning, but he was open to having that agenda shifted in order to take advantage of an opportunity to encourage someone whose path happened to cross his.  He recognized and seized a kairos opportunity.  It was unplanned and unscheduled by either of us, but God knew that a kairos moment was in the works for both of these otherwise passing strangers.  Through our conversation, this man was able to share a gift of encouragement to a young man who needed it.  I appreciated that! 

Secondly, the traveler took advantage of an opportunity to be generous with his money.  Regardless of how financially successful he was or wasn’t, a tip of $100 was abundantly generous!  Especially to a young guy who just graduated from college and didn’t have two nickels to rub together!  To me, even more than the money itself, it was a recognition of, and appreciation for, my hard work.  It filled me with optimism that what lied ahead for me was good, and that my hard work was going to pay off. 

I wrote the man a ‘thank you’ card and told him how I appreciated him investing time, encouraging words and money in me.  I never heard from him again, but I have little doubt that he continues to share generously with others. 

So, the next time you are in a situation to tip someone, spend just a few minutes getting to know the person who is serving you.  Ask God how you can bless that person.  Maybe you’ll share some encouraging words and a smile, an inspiring note or an extra-large tip; or maybe all three!   

May God richly bless you and others as you leave room in your busy, jam-packed chronos schedule for impromptu kairos moments where you can share the love of Jesus with those you interact with!