George K. Howsepian wrote:
The greatest glory to God in our giving is when we give anonymously. I've advocated this for years. The passing of plates or hats or whatever in public is coercive and glorifies the donor. We don't blow horns when we drop our donations into a plate in public but we might as well be. An alternative would be to have a drop box in a private place and allow the cheerful giver to drop in whatever he will, whenever he will. That's just my opinion.
I've been thinking along these same lines for the past few years.
It seems that the widow who gave her last two cents dropped it into a drop-box. Of course, it was still possible to observe who gave what, but I suspect it was also possible to drop the money off more anonymously than our current method of passing the plate.
I've also been thinking that it's time to bring our contribution support into the 21st century. I and my friends almost never carry cash or checks; we do everything with a check-card. When I floated the idea by a few friends a year or so ago to set up an automatic debit on a year-by-year basis, they discounted the idea because it removes the weekly remembrance that we're intentionally setting aside something for the Lord. At the time, I sort of bought into their arguments. Now a year later, I don't think that's the purpose of giving. The purpose of giving is foremost and primarily to take care of the poor/needy, and secondarily to take care of local church expenses (as I understand things), not to remind me of my relationship to God.
I'm confident that Joseph the Levite did not sell a parcel of land every week to bring to the Apostles; if he can make a one-time contribution, I see no reason why I could not set up a weekly contribution once a year and then forget about it the rest of the year. The advantage is that the poor/needy and the church needs would get a more consistent gift than if I'm having to remember to write and carry a check or go to the ATM every week.
Another advantage, as you mention, is that it would cease to be coercive. I wonder how many people avoid going to church just so they don't have to avert their eyes when the plate is passed.
Combining the yearly auto-debit plan with a drop-box would be ideal, as when I have an extra 75 cents in my pocket on a Wednesday night, I might dump that into the drop-box instead of into my coin jar at home. Over a year's time, with fifteen or twenty people doing that every week, that could add up.
I might even suggest two drop-boxes at each exit instead of just one: one would be designated for the poor/needy, and one would be designated for other church expenses. After the published budgetary needs are met per period, then anything in one or the other box would go specifically to that area so designated. (In other words, if the preacher's budgeted salary payment is $5 short, and there's $10 in the poor/needy box, then $5 would come out of the poor/needy to meet the published budgetary need, and then the remaining $5 would go to where it's designated. Of course, this policy would need to be clearly published at each drop box.) I think this would encourage more people to give, because they could be more confident that it's going to help some widow with medical bills instead of paying off the stained-glass window repair, and then the church might actually have the funding necessary to do its job of
helping the needy instead of relying on Good Will and the government to do its job.