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FIRST-PERSON: Danger of electronic giving: neglect of biblical principles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Electronic tithing or automatic bank drafts in lieu of church offerings may come at a cost: decreasing the significance of the biblical principle to bring an offering to church as an act of worship.

The use of electronic offerings by some mainline denominations in recent years has been driven by the same mindset as paying utility and other bills electronically, but also with the motive to increase declining offerings and reduce the accounting task on administrative staffs.

The concept is, however, built on the weak premise that once the process is in place one need never consider it again. This concept appears to be totally process-driven, void of the basic biblical principle of Malachi 3 and 1 Corinthians 16 that the tithe belongs to the Lord and should be brought, and not sent, to the local church (storehouse) on a regular basis (weekly) as an act of obedience and worship to our heavenly Father.

The time has come in our postmodern society that we as followers of Christ understand and apply the biblical principle that God is the absolute owner of everything and that we can worship him through obedience by returning to him what is rightfully his. God doesn’t need our gifts to carry out his work, but he allows us the distinct privilege to be a channel to accomplish kingdom work while teaching us obedience (Deuteronomy 14:22-25).

While the electronic process could in certain circumstances provide assistance to the homebound or those otherwise restricted, an electronic delivery system in no way should advocate or imply a “one less thing to worry about” paradigm. Those who follow Christ should always maintain a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit of God every time a gift is offered to our Lord.

Many times in my Christian experience as I have paused to consider my tithe and offering, God has impressed my heart to increase my gift or impressed on my heart a need in another’s life and prompted me to meet the need.

Advocates of the electronic tithing rally around the system aspect of the ease to collect and handle funds rather than the more important issue of a heart that desires to be sensitive and flexible to what pleases God.

Recent dollar figures that have been quoted by advocates of the electronic system do show some increase in average monthly giving, but in actuality, if biblical tithing is factored into the numbers, the family incomes fall below the median family income level for our country — thus indicating that tithing is not part of the initial consideration.

Churches in a postmodern society should have as their goal to teach and model through application the biblical principles of tithing and related biblical financial concepts in a way that draws Christians to obedience and sensitivity to the heart of God.

Years of counseling families, active in evangelical churches, often affirms that the family financial crisis began when the principle of tithing was compromised. In contrast, there are a number of successful examples of Christians who, without compromise, hold the view that God is never less than sovereign and we are never greater than a steward, and set out to demonstrate their obedience to him by bringing the tithe as an offering just as Abraham did to Melchizedek.

In a time when the average reported giving in evangelical churches — 3.5 percent at best — falls considerably below the tithe, perhaps our priority should be to first teach the biblical principles that promise to open heaven’s windows and fill our lives with a blessing too great to receive rather than default to an ease-of-giving process that enables the majority of church members to further distance the reality of biblical giving from their day-to-day walk with Christ.
Wilkerson, of Nashville, Tenn., is vice president for business and finance with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and also a financial counselor who has counseled families in crisis for more than 14 years.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JACK WILKERSON.

    About the Author

  • Jack R. Wilkerson