But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.And yet, when we take up a collection at church, we pass around a plate, making it obvious to all what is (or is not) being put into the contribution (especially on Sunday nights in some congregations, in which individuals are less-able to blend into the crowd).
-- Jesus, Matthew 6:3-4a
Some churches use a soft cloth bag, which adds privacy and which protects against spills in case of a drop, but also perhaps adds to the potential of having funds stolen out of the bag.
The Temple used a drop-box (Mark 12:41), but it also offered no privacy. (I think a locked drop-box would work well at the doors of a building, encouraging even small gifts of pocket-change as one walks in/out of the building.)
The early church was well aware of some big contributions by individuals (Acts 4:36-5:11), thus demonstrating that the early church didn't always get all the details quite right in following Jesus' teachings (see his teaching in quotation above).
Should we rethink our plate-passing tradition in favor of something more private?
Should churches offer an auto-debit plan from a bank account, or on-demand credit/debit-card capability?
Should the average Christian in the pew have the power to distinguish between giving a gift for the poor and giving a gift to the on-going work of the congregation, or should that budget decision be solely in the hands of the elders?
I ask these questions because we get comfortable in our traditions, and sometimes those traditions then become man-made commands, which we then teach as doctrine, which as we all know is "vain worship". And sometimes questioning can lead to a better, more efficient, sometimes even more Biblical, way of doing things. For example, would it be more Biblical to make our giving more private than passing around a plate in full-view of everyone? It's good to question every so often why we do things the way we do them.
1. 1 Cor 16:1ff (which was a one-time year-long fundraiser as per 2 Cor 8), and its related passages in Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:25-28; Acts 24:17; Gal 2:10
2. 1 Cor 9:1-18, esp v. 14; 1 Tim 5:17-18; Phil 4:10ff
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