An e-response to e-opinions about e-giving

I’m all for ease and efficiency, and I love systems that work.  I am not, however, in favor of weekly church contributions that are electronically set up on a recurring basis—for more than one reason.  A recent article brought up this question, and several official church leaders were interviewed.  Below is an expanded version of the original comment I made under that article.

Sincere individuals will frequently have very nice, spiritually minded ways of working something like electronic contributions out for themselves.  The folks interviewed for the article, for instance, presented a nicely balanced, thoughtful view of the e-giving conundrum.  Thinking about the masses, though, I would put forward three reasons not to move in the direction of e-contributions:

  1. As pointed out, it tends to be neither very personal nor very communal to click or tap in a charity app—especially if that click/tap is for a one-time setup for a recurring transaction that it’s so easy to be unaware of later.
  2. Some of the “pro” rationale strikes me as very institutionally motivated rather than Reign-of-God-motivated.  Contributing to building upkeep and salaries as a member of an institution may be fine for some, but it is not as compelling for those of us more interested in simple/organic concepts and missions.
  3. Giving charitably is good, but the tithe, after all—and we simply must realize this—is not a New Covenant thing.  A payment service calling itself “easyTithe” is perpetuating the problem.  Other e-giving options may be less problematic in terms of overt nomenclature and illegitimate association with ancient Israel’s priestly tithe system, yet the very idea of regular contributions appears more connected to paying dues in a club than to the goals of the apostolic church.

I found it interesting that a (pretty good!) translation of 1Cor 16:2 was included in the above-referenced article.  It bears emphasis here that the import of the first few verses of 1Cor 16 is not a little ambiguous.  This passage certainly cannot be inextricably linked to weekly contributions to today’s church treasuries, though.

For more on this topic, please see the following posts:

In the second of the above posts, this on-target quotation appears:

There is no indication given whether this is meant to be a tithe (no such prescription occurs in the New Testament); but is is implied that it is proportional and substantial.  It seems this is to be done on a family basis and the funds kept at home.”  (emphasis the authors’, not mine)   – Orr and Walther, The Anchor Bible Translation and Commentary, v. 32, 1 Corinthians (1976), p. 356.

One can object to my objections on any one of several grounds (e.g., community-based, tradition-based), but the simple fact is that habitual, institution-supporting weekly giving to a church treasury is not explicitly supported—or dealt with at all—in canonical Christian scripture.

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2 thoughts on “An e-response to e-opinions about e-giving

  1. Glenn 09/03/2017 / 1:09 pm

    Interesting… I confess, I give online because of the convenience… and I do agree with your points, which is one reason I don’t have auto draft set up.

    But I wonder if the same argument could have been made when checks started showing up in offering plates — just way too much planning involved to make sure you had enough cash before the bank closed on Friday at 3pm. 😉

    Btw, got here from “Impressing pastors, parishioners, and accountants”. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ‘i gave electronically’ cards.

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    • Brian Casey 09/04/2017 / 8:14 am

      I’m glad you found this older post, too, Glenn. , I’d have to agree that there’s more similarity than difference between the “convenience” concerns of checks and online giving (whether automatic or not).

      The individual psychological effect of a practice should probably be viewed as fluid. I would think that, when checks started showing up, they were less personal than cash. These days, for some of us blessed enough not to live hand-to-mouth, could checks probably be almost as personal as cash used to be? Maybe, maybe not. (Personally, I didn’t even buy checks when opening our last bank account, and I’ve only used one of the four temporary ones.) Just thinking out loud here.

      Convenience is, for better or worse, a real factor for so many of us today. Those who wish to donate to a church will decide what works for them. Sounds like you’ve decided, for reasons of conscience or devotion, not to put your giving on the automatic track. Makes sense.

      As for the cards, I obviously went a little nuts with the hypothetical, extended church staff meeting, — for a perverse sort of entertainment value. 🙂 However, surely the background thinking would not be far off. Maybe I’m rushing to judgment here, so I’m open to any thoughts you might have. For now, to me, the cards seem to be about an institution’s not wanting to allow online convenience giving to be left out of the corporate tradition of offering plates. It’s about making people accountable to other people, “left hand” visible to “right hand,” and laity, to clergy.

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