The man behind “tips for Jesus” has finally broken his silence by speaking with San Francisco Magazine, though not without adding to the confusion. While his Instagram account claims he is “doing the Lord’s work,” the anonymous man responsible for this largesse phenomenon says his actions are “agnostic.” The large tipper—suspected to be Jack Selby, former vice president of PayPal—has become famous for leaving his calling card on restaurant receipts, along with thousands of dollars in gratuities for surprised servers.
Speaking on the condition of not having his name released, the large tipper explained his reasoning for beginning the campaign [language warning for link]:
“For someone who’s just spent several weeks being harassed by me and countless other reporters, the tipper is unaccountably forthright, funny, and warm—uncommonly well dressed, perhaps, but otherwise normal. The way he tells it, the whole Tips for Jesus ‘movement’ was created as something of a guerrilla effort to encourage more people of means to give back—to foster a kind of ad hoc charity culture attractive to a generation that may be turned off by traditional philanthropy. Tipping $100 on a $3.99 Oreo Blender Blaster at a Sunset Boulevard Denny’s may lack some of the gravitas of, say, Marc Benioff’s endowment of a children’s hospital—but it’s direct, instantly gratifying, and relatively easy….
“The goal isn’t just to tip in a vacuum, he says—it’s to create a stream of copycats. ‘And we wanted to harness social media to do that,’ he says. If, after all, you want to spread the gospel of extravagant giving, there’s no better way to do it than through the social web. Before we meet, he emails me a news story about a trio of diner waitresses in Caledonia, Illinois, who’d each been tipped $5,000 by a woman ostensibly inspired by Tips for Jesus. When I ask him about it, he breaks into a wide smile and tells me that this is exactly what he had hoped to inspire from the beginning.”
But his comments did little to clear up what the movement stands for. While many Christian outlets have reported on the movement, the anonymous benefactor does not want to encourage the connection:
“Tips given by him have the words ‘God bless!’ scrawled across the receipt and the handle @tipsforjesus stamped next to the signature. But it's not Christian generosity, he said. ‘The movement we have started is intended to be agnostic,’ he was quoted as saying. The magazine, however, doesn't explain what he meant by the word ‘agnostic.’ ”