Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Privacy of Giving, &tc

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.

-- Jesus, Matthew 6:3-4a
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).

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[1] and giving a gift to the on-going work of the congregation[2], 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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