Human Dignity in the Service Sector

Last year, Pastor Alois Bell of Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries in St. Louis, MO famously stiffed her server at Applebee’s of her tip.  This event made headlines as Chelsea, the server in question, was later fired for publicizing the event with a photo of the receipt:


The icing on the proverbial cake was the arrogant note Pastor Bell scrawled on the paper before signing it with her name and title: “I give God 10% why do you get 18”.

Why?  I tell you why.  First of all, because it’s company policy for parties that large.  If you don’t like it, don’t eat there.  Second, and far more important, is because your server is a fellow human being, made in the image of God, worthy of respect and dignity for that fact alone. 

The role of server is one that Jesus blessed and took upon himself when he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.  Jesus, of all people, had the right to lord his status over others, but he didn’t.  He came to give and serve.  After voluntarily completing this act of degrading service, he commanded his followers to do the same, saying, “Just as I have loved you, so you also must love one another.”  Who are we to then treat our servers as anything less than the very presence of Christ in our midst?  Jesus also said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Finally, professional clergy who act in this way absolutely ruin our collective witness to the power of the gospel.  Like it or not, people see us as representatives of the tradition we follow.  If we want to encourage others to love and follow Jesus, we must demonstrate that same love in our words and deeds.

Pastors, priests, ministers, and other clergy, hear me loud and clear: The way we conduct ourselves in public and the tips we leave our servers preach more than a thousand sermons ever could.  And don’t stop with your dollars either.  Make an effort to remember their names, especially if you are a frequent customer.  These people are treated like machines all day long, imagine the effect it will have on them when you make an effort to build community, nurture relationships, and love like Jesus!

As an act of collective repentance for what Alois Bell did in the name of pastors, I would like to share the following photo from a recent visit to Applebee’s in Rome, NY, where many of the staff members, including Alison, Lester, Matt, Amanda, Heather, Michelle, Natalie, Liz, Destiny, and Tristan, have become precious friends to our family, even though we only see each other in this one context.

Many thanks to our beloved server, Alison, for posting this photo and helping us redeem the world a little from the stain of hypocrisy left by Pastor Bell.


Alison posted the photo to Facebook with this comment:

J. Barrett Lee I put it up finally!!!!!! Thank you for being an amazing customer and more importantly an amazing person and friend! To everyone else: I didn’t know Barrett before I worked at Applebee’s. He came in one night (a particularly rough one) with his daughter and sat in my section. He treated me like a person( a concept that we have talked about many times since) an they made my night 1000 x better. They have now become friends of mine and I love seeing them. It doesn’t hurt that Barrett and his wife Sarah produce amazingly beautiful children

Anyway, my point is that servers are people too, along with the cashier who rang up your groceries wrong or who couldn’t let you use your coupon. Everyone has a story and sometimes they just need someone to listen to it! Spread the love!!!!!!

4 thoughts on “Human Dignity in the Service Sector

  1. Barrett, I have never been a waiter. I put myself through college working at Carroll’s Club Burgers. But I have sold shoes and shoveled walks and cleaned bowling alleys. One thing I learned is that my tithe is made out of gratitude, my tips are given out of respect and love. I try to be a good customer and I try to leave a substantial tip. Out of love. what sister Alois does is probably out of fear, obedience and obligation. Jesus said “I am the fulfillment of the Law.” two different types of Christianity, I guess.

  2. John, you have taken my lessons (i.e. the Biblical principles that I have put into practice) on giving well.

    Well done, my friend, well done!

  3. Michael J

    A few years back, my then pastor referred to Luke 12:37 in his homily and said something like “If we serve Jesus in those who are in need, Jesus promises that someday he will serve us”. That afternoon, thinking about the sermon, I went to visit someone in a nearby prison. On my way home, I stopped at a restaurant to get something to eat. A young, Latino waiter came to my table and said “Hi, I’ll be your server this afternoon. My name is Jesus.”

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