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So, what about online giving?

In 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?

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