So, what about online giving?

Online GivingIn recording tithes and offerings for churches (I’m a bookkeeper), I’ve started to ponder the whole giving electronically thing (or e-tithing). I thought I’d bring the discussion to the Ps20 world in hopes that some pastor or wise lay man or woman could settle the issue and I can go on my merry way.

In the spirit of full disclosure (yes, I know I am supposed to give in secret), I tithe electronically. I like the ease of it, the convenience, the consistency, the no-brainer aspect. I don’t have to wriggle in my seat as the offering plate (or bucket in my case) approaches and think about the clothing purchase I made earlier this week and start bargaining, “God, how about $50 less for your Kingdom?” (In case there was any doubt, I am not a saint and still need to practice the Give-Save-Spend mantra.) The tithing exercise has turned into an annuity, coming straight out of the bank account, as any other bill would, before I get my oftentimes greedy hands on it. Obviously, churches aren’t complaining about this. Churches love consistent giving, without which forecasting is nearly impossible. When church attenders go out of town on a summer vacation, for example, roughly forty percent of those contributions missed are not made up. So giving through systematic electronic withdrawals appears to be the solution from the church’s perspective.

But what about from the heart of the giver? Does giving my first fruits offering electronically impact my heart the same way? After all, if I give without love, “it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:13). Does electronic giving depersonalize tithing the same way an email letter depersonalizes a hand-written one? Am I bringing my tithe and offering to the church as an act of worship and obedience or is this just Old Testament rigmarole (I love that word, regardless of whether I am using it correctly)? Crown Ministries teaches that giving should be premeditated, that to know the full joy and reap the blessing of giving, it must not be done carelessly. Does e-tithing lead to careless giving more so than writing a manual check? When the offering plate goes by and I physically place something in it, do I more consciously remember that I am giving back to the Lord Himself? An electronic debit on my bank statement doesn’t seem to move my spirit in the same way. Is there a conscious (or subconscious) surrender of possessions when I participate in the Sunday offering or snail mail a check in to my church? Or am I missing the point altogether?

In wrestling with this whole thing, I am coming to understand that giving (whether it’s time or money) boils down to a heart issue. Am I giving, electronically or otherwise, with a heart of love? Am I positioned to reap the benefits and blessings that the Lord wants to bestow on me as the giver? Am I being stretched beyond my tithe? Is the tithe the starting point of my giving and not the limit? These are the questions that impact my selfish heart and more closely align it with Christ. Perhaps for me, a manual check would be better, but for others, giving electronically accomplishes the same mission in self and Christ-awareness: my heart follows my treasure (Matt. 6:21).

So, any thoughts out there? Should I buck the modernized e-tithe system and return to a pen and checkbook like my grandmother? Does it matter or am I splitting hairs? Is ‘obedience’ obedience regardless of how I arrive there, emotionless or not? Feedback, anyone?

~ Zoie (One of Ps20’s bookkeeper extraordinaire)

10 Comments

  1. Julie
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Well, Zoie, I’ve wondered about this as well! And I guess it comes down to your last paragraph where you say “like my grandmother”. I think because it’s a fairly new concept, that’s why we wonder if e-tithing “counts” the same as dropping tithes in the plate or bucket. If etithing had been around forever, we probably wouldn’t have any qualms about it. The question may be “where is your heart when you’re setting up the etithe?” By setting up the etithe, you’re telling God: Lord, this is Yours and I’m making sure that it goes to You first and foremost – even when I’m on vacation! God certainly knows our intentions! I don’t know, I personally like the concept but my church doesn’t offer it. Most likely for the same reasons of the questions you raised! Perhaps some folks would want to choose the middle ground and use checks for the offering plate but then use etithe for when they’re on vacation! To be honest, I’d probably fall in that group only because I’ve been old school for so long that the only time I wish my church offered etithing is when I’m away!

  2. Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

    The word “cheerful” translated from the original literally means “hilarious”.

    That puts a new spin on it. God loves when we hilariously give, no matter what we give. It’s almost like He wants us to enjoy giving as much as the reaping, if not even more.

    So I guess the question would be, do you feel like online giving is robbing you of your joy in giving? If it is then nix it. But if it hits your heart the same way handing money to the offering plate, or a sandwich to a homeless man, or a hug to an orphan…then do it! It definitely is a heart issue, as all things related to self-sacrifice are!

  3. Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    It’s weird for me too… I’ve been on both sides of the fence… Actually, 3 sides of the fence. It’s hard for a church or non-profit to survive unless there are regular, priority percentage givers. I’ve been the guy out trying to raise money and I’ve been the guy who counts the offering on Sunday. It’s tough! However, personally, whenever the $ just comes out of my bank account, I always feel like it’s just another “Bill” that I have to pay. Then, it seems more like a tax to me. However, we support some folks at Campus Crusade and that $ comes out of our bank account each month. So, I’ve given a priority %, I’ve been the guy receiving / fundraising and I’ve been the guy giving as I feel led.

    So, this year, we’re doing something a little different. We put a % of our direct deposits (payroll) directly into a separate bank account. So, the money is there, it’s just in a bank account we call “Giving”. Then, out of that account, we give some in multiple ways. We have some coming out each month to commitments we’ve made to organizations and we have some “discretionary” that we give to people’s missions trips and what not. So, it’s almost like the best of both worlds. We’re prioritizing a % for “the Lord” each paycheck and then we’re able to fulfill the commitments we’ve made as well as have extra for things like people’s missions trips or other random “needs” we come across. It’s GREAT and I’m willing to bet we’ll end up giving more this year than we ever have before… Not to mention, there is a ton of JOY in this as it fulfills all of our emotions / styles / taste.

    Bottom line, it’s all the Lord’s… If he asks us to give more or less to this organization or that, then we should. At the end of the day, my opinion is, that’s the mindset the Lord wants out of us… Not that we just feel good about giving our 10% each month.

  4. Buzzard
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    We have to get over this idea that giving is with a blessing for US in mind. Yeah, we do get a blessing, but maybe we don’t get a real reward until the end of this dispensation. I don’t know. But if I am supposed to give as if one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, it means that I am not thinking of ME. I am giving because there is a need. The gift that Paul took to Macedonia was for ONE need ONE time. It was not every year and every decade. Read it, it says “lay up every week until I come” Not lay up every week until the rapture. This was a project. We have made it into an institution. I believe I owe to pay my share of the expenses of the building – maintenance and utilities. And that IS a bill. But other than that, for a work or a mission, or even a poor man on the street I should let the Spirit lead me. And don’t go looking for a return. That’s bogus. That’s what the charlatan TV evangelists say so they can have affluent life styles.

  5. Posted June 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure if I argue with you at all, Buzzard!

    I’m assuming you’re referring to Zoie’s comment saying, “Am I positioned to reap the benefits and blessings that the Lord wants to bestow on me as the giver?” If so, perhaps the blessings that she’s referring to are ones of emotions? Maybe she’s referring to the “joy” of giving?

    I agree though… Giving to “get” is totally bogus!

  6. Sanford Levings
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Zoie,

    I think there are a lot of pluses to online giving:

    1) Online giving can be set up for recurring automatic debits. As such, it can help you get emotionally detached from giving. Matthew 6:4 says “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing”.

    2) Cuts down on needless paperwork.

    3) Automatically makes you into a priority giver.

    4) Churches need and rely on steady / consistent givers.

    5) Admin is easier for churches.

    I think it’s a good thing!

  7. Kristen
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Zoie, I feel that this is totally a heart issue. If our tithe is automatically debited out of our account each month, I don’t think about it. I like to physically write a check to my church every pay period. It helps me keep the reason behind my tithe in the front of my mind all the time. I know my pastor would love an automatic debit from me for budget purposes. I know our church’s Sunday money counters would rather have one less check to record. It took a lot of spiritual development and a lot of growth in my relationship with Jesus Christ for me to become a cheerful (or hilarious) giver. I wasn’t born desiring to give a chunk of “my” money to the church. At least at this point in my life, I need to write that check. But in the end, it’s not really about me; it’s about what brings God the most glory and furthers the church’s mission.

  8. Posted June 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    i like this post zoie! it’s funny….this morning i woke up with an email in my inbox from my sister in law. it was a nooma video titled corner. it was good! kind of about giving. rob bell says “my overflow is someone else’s necessity.” i’ve been thinking about this video all day. in fact, as i was walking in to target today to make a return i passed the jewelry section. and i thought to myself “ooo, i should see if there’s anything cute on sale.” i definitely don’t need any more jewelry! that’s for sure. and then the thought crossed my mind…instead of buying myself some jewelry what could someone in need do with that money? and then to be totally transparent i thought to myself….well – i have my “audrey money” and i’ve already got the money set to “give” in my giving account so does it really matter if i wanted to go get a necklace? you will be happy to know that i successfully avoided the jewelry department. but i was a little ashamed with my thought process.
    i like the way we set up our “giving” account this year. because it hasn’t completely taken the “joy” out of giving because we sit down on a quarterly basis and decide what organizations we really feel led to give to. it’s really fun actually! but then at the same time, i don’t like the “giving” account idea because of the exact thoughts that went through my head today. when i have my money automatically set aside to “give” does that mean i am limiting myself to give just that 10%? does that mean that the rest of the year i can use that automatic debit to the giving account as a cop out?
    thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
    maybe the danger in electronically giving is that it interferes with our ability to let god lead us on how much he would like us to give, rather than just the standard 10%. who ever said we had to tithe 10% anyways?
    just a thought!

  9. Posted September 23, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Wow! This topic is close to my heart. I am the steward of a service called eGive so I have a pro online giving view. I see people use electronic giving a number of ways but I’d like to post a quote from Bruce. ” Thanks for the great service you provide. I used to think that I needed to place my gift in the basket every week for it to feel like I was doing something good. But then when a guy finds himself unable to attend, he falls behind very quickly, and then has to try to figure out how to catch up. But with eGive, my gift is there even when I can’t be. And I am up to date on my giving, always.”

    Some of the churches that use our service receive over 60% of the giving electronically. Cultures change… Livestock and produce used to be the way people gave. Checks, online giving and the donation of stocks and other property are relatively recent developments.

    I believe that honoring God with the first fruits of your labor and giving with joy from your heart is the main thing. Any way you can do that is how it should be done. The best time to do something the Lord leads you to do is right away. With the Internet available 24 x 7 giving in that manner is possible. I believe that God is honored by a digital tithe and offering as long as it is offered joyfully from the heart with love. God’s Grace, Peace and Blessings To you! Brad

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