Ethics: Leaving a Gospel Tract for a Tip

What would you do Wednesday!

I’m sure many Christians have handed out gospel tracts. There are a variety of tracts and some are even made to look like money. There is a million dollar bill tract which, of course, does not look real, but there are a few in lower denominations such at $10 and $20 bills that look like real money at first glance.

Usually, these $10 and $20 gospel tracts look like a bill folded in half with a gospel message on the inside. Today’s scenario will involve a $10 gospel tract being left at a restaurant as a tip. Sometimes people leave real money for a tip (as they should) along with a gospel tract, but when the tract looks like actual money the “tipping” may become questionable.

So what had happened was…

You are out eating with a fellow church member after Sunday morning worship service. This friend has just discovered the $10 gospel tract and thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world. However, you do not yet know about your friends new found excitement for this tract until after you’ve eaten and paid.

The bill comes and the total cost for both of you is about $30 after the meal, drinks and dessert. As you both start to pay your friend says that he will take care of the tip.

“Great!” you say as you thank him.

While walking to your cars your friend excitedly reveals to you the “coolest gospel tract” he’s ever seen. He shows you the fake, folded $10 bill and explains how attention grabbing it would be for sharing the gospel.

You ask if he has ever used one yet. He says, “Yep! I just used one to leave the tip.”

“Did you leave any real money along with the tract?” you ask.

Your friend replies, “Nah, because the Waitress is going to be so surprised when she finds and reads the gospel which is infinitely more valuable than mere a $10 bill.”

What would you do at that moment?

  • Tell your friend what a great idea he had.
  • Ask why he didn’t leave two tracts so the waitress could share one.
  • Go back inside and personally hand the waitress a real tip and apologize.
  • Go back inside and give her a $20 gospel tract instead.
  • Or…
Let's connect!

tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Squirrel February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I vote for: Go back inside and personally hand the waitress a real tip and apologize.

But I would also have a long conversation with my friend – gently – about how being a Christian means striving to be exemplary in everything we do, and that Christians should be the absolute best, most understand, most forgiving, most generous customers that waiter or waitress ever has.


2 SirBrass February 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I vote with squirrel here (and disavow any accusations of voting on a secret rapture :P).

I see nothing wrong with leaving a tasteful, GOOD, gospel tract along with a real tip. The fake $10 ones can be good for icebreaking and talking with folks on the street, but when it could be confused for a moment with real money during a legitimate business transaction, it’s tasteless and rude.

3 Dave February 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

As an associate pastor(unpaid) and a waiter(paid), I know what it’s like to receive a tract as a tip. I know what it’s like when my coworkers receive one as a tip. It’s nothing new to get these. Christians need to remember that. It is a great tool to spread the gospel, but when you short the waiter’s way to earn a living, you’re hurting the cause. It just pisses them off. The tract goes into the trash and is not read. We’re supposed to give and give abundantly as Christians. Drop a 25% tip on top of the tract…money does speak loudly for servers. If you give then they will be more receptive.

If you say that the gospel and Jesus’ love is the greatest tip ever, you’re right but not for unbelievers. And talk to the waiter about Jesus first. If your rude and cheap, you get nowhere. Love the waiter and be a great witness…and tipper.

4 Zack February 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I’m going to have to agree with Squirrel 100% on that one.

5 Aaron Armstrong February 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Like so many others, I’d say if you’re going to leave a tract, leave it with a very generous tip. If you or your friend only leaves a tract, then then apologize and give generously (Maybe say, “Hey, my friend forgot to leave this, but I wanted to make sure you had it—sorry about that”—that way you’re not throwing your friend under the bus)

6 Clark Dunlap February 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Squirrel is right but FIRST I would ask my friend, “In what freakin universe would that be a good idea?”

Basically only bring out your tracts-that-look-like-money when the only other option are chick tracts.

Then I would go on with the “gentle” conversation.

7 Howell Scott February 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm


You always have such interesting Ethics questions on Wednesdays. Even though I don’t always comment, I do enjoy them. I, too, agree with Squirrel. If you are going to leave a gospel tract, then by all means, leave an overly generous tip. Christians get a bad rap because of well-meaning, but ultimately stupid, behavior such as this. Southern Baptists have a particularly bad reputation when it comes to tipping during Conventions. Hopefully New Orleans will be different. Thanks again and have a great day. God bless,


8 Dave Miller February 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Shoot your friend!!

9 Jeff February 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Not sure what I’d do, but I am sure that leaving a faux tip in the form of a gospel tract that looks like money is NOT sufficient. Yes, leave the tract, but then leave money to reinforce the generosity & faith of those who trust in the Lord. The waiter/waitress would likely not even look at the tract if he or she got stiffed on their tip.

10 Squirrel February 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

[Squirrel makes a note to never eat out with Dave Miller… or, at least, to disarm him, first…]

11 Mark February 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Thanks to Squirrel for such a good answer right off the bat. I appreciate the thoughts given and Howell’s kind words. (OK, what’s he fishing for?) 😉

I would be tempted to pull my friend back inside so he can apologize himself. I don’t like the idea of leaving a fake money tract even along with real money for a tip.

It’s nice that everyone here agrees, but this stuff is happening somewhere so where are the people leaving these kinds of “tips”?

12 Dan Smith February 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

You all are being too kind to your friend. I’d make him go back in and give her a tip personally. Short of that, I’d go give it to her myself, and then tell her it’d still be a good idea to read it if she isn’t too offended.

13 Darla February 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Q: It’s nice that everyone here agrees, but this stuff is happening somewhere so where are the people leaving these kinds of “tips”?
A: On the ground, out side of a business. Some place where someone can find it.

FAKE money should NEVER be left as a tip — even with a real tip. I don’t like the whole money tact thing anyway. How about talking to the waiter/waitress if the Lord allows.

14 Darla February 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm


15 Michael Buratovich February 15, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I’m with Squirrel on this one.
From 1 Peter 2:
“Let your behavior among the pagans be such that when they accuse you of doing wrong they will see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

“For it is the will of God that by your good deeds you might silence the ignorant words of foolish men.”

16 Steve Martin February 16, 2012 at 9:00 am

I’m much more in favor of geting to know a person and then speaking Christ into their need, their brokeness, their pain (everyone has some).

17 Craig February 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

MAke it right with the waitress and give her a bigger tip than normal. Don’t use that style of track again. Use a track that just explains the gospel as it should be given, or give it to her verbally yourself…just my thoughts. Not being judgmental or unkind.

To whomever keeps coming over to my blog from here – THANKS very much! Hope it’s a blessing!

“Never Fail – What I mean by that, is fail a lot!”

18 Peter L February 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

What can I add? A reminder that Christians do indeed have a bad rap with waiters as being stingy on tips. At least 15% at a casual place like Denny’s, 20% otherwise. Most people don’t realize that table servers only make about $3-4 an hour at small restaurants, and depend on tips for the rest of their income.

And make sure you are as polite and kind to the server as you would to your mother-in-law at Thanksgiving, or your service will be terrible.

19 Peter L February 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm

And I might add that there are other workers who depend on tips: busboys at hotels and porters at airports. And tour guides are often working a summer job and, though they make minimum wage, really appreciate a tip, especially if there are people on the tour (small, screaming children, for example) that make the tour unpleasant. I speak from experience, as I am a tour guide in the summer.

20 In Him October 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

Should we even have to have this discussion???? This is Christianity 101 people. Come on! If we have to wonder about this then are we really His children?????

21 imani in technicolor December 19, 2013 at 6:46 am

I would definitely have gone back and left the waitress actual money as well.  I would also have apologized.  I’m not sure shocking is always the best way to communicate with people.   As attention grabbing as it would in fact be, I don’t think it would be getting the right kind of attention.  It’s cruel to let the waitress think that she’s receiving tip money (which she probably relies on to live since servers make as little as $2.00 an hour outside of their tips), and to also make her potentially feel guilty for not being grateful for the gospel in that moment (just because someone is not a Christian does not mean that they don’t have a long history with the faith), or to make her feel angry for the treatment she received, or sad because she didn’t make enough money (how’s she going to focus on the Message her and her kids’ stomachs are growling?).  In that sea of emotions, the purpose of the tract will be completely lost, if she even reads it.  

Jesus didn’t just give people the Word.  He also healed and fed people as well.  The truth has to be shared in love, which means considering the other person’s needs before yourself.  If you pride yourself on how often or how profoundly you share the Word, your focus is on yourself and not the other person or obedience to God.  In that case it’s better not to share the Word at all, because if you can’t share it in love then you just can’t share it.  If you want to share the Word, why use a tract at all?  They seem, to me at least, a little deceitful.  Why not just leave a hefty tip, and alongside the tip, leave a plain paper with a verse written note of thanks or blessings?  I think the plain paper would be more honest, and with a hefty tip, she’s much more likely to read what you’ve left her anyway.

I would probably also talk to my friend about what happened, and gently encourage Him to consider the needs of each person he meets.

22 Joran Malbie August 12, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I’d try to pay for our meal using the tract bills…hopefully the cashier at the restaurant wouldn’t notice. Then I’d pray for forgiveness and that would fix everything.

23 Henry June 1, 2015 at 11:34 am

I’d just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it’s simply this:-

Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. as part of your email signature.

An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email applications will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details – but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

For example, it might say something like, “p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon …” or “p.s. have you seen this?”.


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