Friday, December 06, 2013

"Tips For Jesus" A Blessing or Distraction?

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His Instagram account says he is "doing the Lord's work, one tip at a time."

This mystery man, who is leaving thousands of dollars in tips across the country, remains, at the time of this writing, well.....a mystery.

Some are saying it is Jack Shelby, former VP of PayPal. Others are saying it is a group of men on a mission. No identity has been verified at this time.

Why he (or they) are doing it is not so mysterious. He says he is "Tipping for Jesus."

What he is doing, as one can imagine, is catching national attention. And the attention of servers in restaurants and bars.

He has even visited the great Northwest. He left a $5000 tip at Moondogs, Too, in Port Orchard, WA.

I spoke with Darryl Baldwin, the owner of Moondogs, by phone yesterday. More on that later.

People are stunned when they see the amounts of the tips he leaves behind. They range from $500 to $10,000. The tab always carries a handwritten note, "Tips for Jesus--God bless you."

Is this a Christian witness or a distraction from the message Jesus brought to us?

The mystery tipper is posting copies of the tabs on his Instagram account with the actual amounts billed and the tip he leaves for the server. In each case, he writes he is "tipping for Jesus."

And the amounts clear his credit card account.

The servers and bar tenders who receive the "tips" are obviously pleased---joyful---overjoyed.

But is this a positive gospel message or a distraction?

The Los Angeles Times reported this: "On receipt after receipt, the anonymous tipper has left gratuities that have ranged as little as $500 on a $24 bill at Jumbo's Clown Room in Hollywood. The largest tip, at least according to the social media account, was for $10,000 at a bar."

The Times says the man is elusive. "Media reports provide few clues as to the man's identity, but apparently he's a college football fan. On some receipts, he writes the USC call, "Fight on!" The date on that receipt at a South Bend, Ind., restaurant coincided with the USC-Notre Dame game. For the $84 tab, he left a $5,000 tip.

The Times is asking the same question many are asking. Why is he doing this? What is the real motivation?

The Times says, "But what exactly is motivating the generosity? That, too, is unclear, but the Instagram account's tagline says the mission is 'doing the Lord's work, one tip at a time'."

Fox News reports that the owner of Moondogs bar in Washington [Port Orchard] "was shocked when he and his staff received a $5,000 tip on a $576 bar tab."

Fox says Darryl Baldwin recalled asking the man if he was sure he wanted to leave such a large gratuity.

Baldwin says, "The guy goes 'Absolutely, you know, I made a lot of money in my life. This is my way of giving back'."

Baldwin shared with me yesterday by phone how this encounter may have impacted him personally. I'll share that in a moment.

The generosity is not lost to Katherine Weber writing for the Christian Post.

She notes that this story stands in stark contrast to a number of stories that have been circulating lately criticizing the way some Christians are tipping---or not.

She says, "The TipsforJesus campaign comes after a series of stories in the media of restaurant patrons being stingy tippers. In a recent story, a gay waitress in Bridgewater, New Jersey claimed she was stiffed a tip by a couple who didn't agree with her sexuality. The couple reportedly left a note that read: 'I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I don't agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life.' The couple has since come forward to argue that they did in fact leave a tip and that they are victims of a hoax. In an earlier case, a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri named Alois Bell gained massive criticism after she neglected to tip an Applebee's waitress, instead writing a note on the receipt that read: "I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?"

Weber also notes that the South Bend Tribune reported that the $5,000 tip left at the Legends Bar is "pending" because of a fraud investigation.

However, following that story being published, the tipster posted a picture of his/their credit card statement to prove the validity of the tip, with this message: "Lets be clear, The Legends of Norte Dame tips were processed by AMEX and paid. Tipsforjesus pays its tabs. God bless! @ notredame Your move."

What do you make of this?

I must be honest, when I first heard the story, I was a bit skeptical regarding its legitimacy. And, I don't go to bars, so was pressed to see including a $5,000 tip when paying for several hundreds of dollars of alcohol, as a terrific way to share Jesus with someone.

However, as I have read the accounts in a number of newspapers, I have come to believe the tips are for real.

But can this have any positive spiritual results?

After having spoken personally with Darryl Baldwin by phone yesterday, I had to think of Mark 9:38-41 (NIV):

"Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward."

Baldwin, who owns the Moondog in Port Orchard, told me the newspaper reports are true. The guy paid the $5,000 tip and his tab---and it has all cleared. Baldwin shared the tip with all his employees.

I asked Baldwin how this had impacted him personally. He said he was shocked. Beyond that he said this kind of act may cause people to think of how they may help others---how they can give to others in need, particularly during this season.

I asked him in that it was called "Tips for Jesus," if it caused him or others there to think about Jesus' message differently.

He said it probably made him more aware that there is a higher power. It may cause a person "to go to church or have a little greater interest in religion."

What do you say? I welcome your comments about this event that has captured the attention of the nation.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.