Chelsea Welch is a former Applebee’s waitress, recently fired for uploading a picture of a receipt from her work. Said receipt had been issued to a party served by one of her co-workers. The paying customer, Alois Bell, a St. Louis area pastor, went well out of her way to avoid a tip.

The large party had triggered the 18% auto-tip on the meal. Rather than paying the tip, pastor Bell marked out the auto-tip and added “$0″ to the bill. Making matters worse, the “pastor” wrote “I give God 10% why should I give you 18?” across the receipt. She made sure to add the word “Pastor” above her signature.

After the story went viral The Smoking Gun heard from Bell,

“My heart is really broken,” Bell added. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

A spokesman for Applebee’s said it apologized to Bell for violating her “right to privacy” and confirmed that Welch “is no longer employed by the franchise.”

Look closely at the receipt and you will see the party of 8 people spent only $34.93 on the meal. That is an average of $4.37 each. Have you ever eaten at Applebee’s? Spending that little means

sharing meals or eating only appetizers. Typical menu entrees can exceed $11 each. The current special is 2 for $20. A party of three people eating a normal entree with tea or soft drinks can easily spend–before tip–as much as Bell’s entire party. [A friend suggested the $34.93 was only Bell’s portion, not the entire party. This seems to be the case. 2nd Update: A CNN interview claims the 18% was included in the total and charged to Bell’s credit card. The image does not seem to support the report. -MD]

Sad as it is that one server was chastised and stiffed by a customer, and Welch fired by her employer, I am incredibly thankful they brought this nonsense to light, and I’m compelled to write this open letter to Chelsea:

Dear Chelsea,
On behalf of some followers of Jesus Christ, I apologize. One dirty little secret of Americanized Christianity is how badly some of our tribe tip at restaurants. This is a terrible reality, but I am thankful you have brought it to light. Whether you realize it or not you have done us a great service.

Even though pastor Bell is embarrassed now, we should have been embarrassed for years. We have known about this attitude for a long time. Even though our Savior was generous, too many of us are stingy.

In fact, the excuse given–“I give God 10%”–is something I have heard in the past. After reading your story a friend of mine posted to Facebook about family members, both of whom are restaurant servers. They know servers must split tips with staff who do not work the floor. They know Sundays are the worst days to work, since many Christians do not order expensive drinks or tip well on what they do order.

Before the annual meeting of my own tribe social media becomes a flurry of reminders to tip well. I often wonder why the stinginess of many followers of Jesus is so well known it creates this cause for concern, but it remains so common.

I know it’s likely you made less than $3.00 an hour from the restaurant. If your former employer is like most restaurants your tips are part of your salary. Our chintziness is certainly no blessing to you.

It is obvious such poor character on our part is evidence that every negative thing you have heard about followers of Jesus might be true. Believe me that it is not a universal problem, but it is far too widespread. According to Yahoo you said, “I’ve been stiffed on tips before, but this is the first time I’ve seen the Big Man used as reasoning.” The “Big Man” is not the reason; He’s a convenient excuse for our own lack of generosity.

For many years my wife and myself have tipped 15, 20% or more on almost every meal. We have given gift card balances to our server far exceeding a regular tip. Only utterly awful servers do not receive good treatment. I dined with one pastor who left a $100 tip, well exceeding the cost of the entire meal. Many of us “get it.” I am so sorry you had to deal with one who does not.

Believe it or not, the God we (and pastor Bell) claim to serve is not chintzy, cheap or stingy. He is, in fact, extravagant. That we do not follow His lead when dealing with hardworking people in your field is to our shame.

I have no idea whether you will see this. The Internet can be a strange beast, so maybe you will. If you can email me through the “Contact” link above I will send you some money to help offset your loss of income. My family is not rich, so this will not be like that Nicolas Cage split-the-lottery movie. But, I will send you something. Please consider it a tangible apology for our pitiful habit in this area. Jesus is a lot better than how we tip.

Very Sincerely,
Marty Duren

The original image upload was on the sharing site under the title, My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.