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Should I Tithe by Credit Card ?

Predatory Lending Credit Trap

credit card tithe tithing givingToday I might be opening up a can of worms by writing about tithing with credit cards.  You may not agree with what I’ve written in today’s post, but I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

If you’ve attended church for more than a couple of years, you’ve probably noticed that many churches are taking steps to keep up with technology.   The goal is to stay relevant to the growing population of tech savvy people and the technologies we all use.

Some churches are way ahead of the curve technologically.   But some are woefully behind.  However, most are at least trying to make it into the 21st century.

 

Tithing by Credit Card

One way churches are doing that is by accepting tithes and offerings online and via credit cards.

Some churches will have you fill out the usual giving envelope during the service with your credit card info. and others have resorted to payment kiosks in the foyer, payment through the church website, and even automatic drafts to the member’s bank account.

On the one hand this can be a great thing.

Of course, I’m all for giving to the church.

I’m in favor of technology that makes life easier.  Especially ones that can break down barriers to giving.  Electronic giving is a great thing because it benefits both the church and the giver by making the giving process more frictionless.  It’s certainly easier than writing a check or handling cash.  Also, it cuts way down on time spent counting the money and keeping records.

Should You Tithe With a Credit Card? via @DrCabler

 

Drawbacks to Tithing by Credit Card

All those are great benefits that help churches run their operations more efficiently.  That’s a good thing in these lean economic times.

But I think there are also some drawbacks to using electronic payments in a church setting.

  • First of all, all of your donated money does not make it to the church.  Credit card companies, PayPal, and other payment services typically charge anywhere from 2-4% in fees for each transaction.  Even if they offer a discounted rate to the church, there are still fees.
  • Second, if you use a credit card, you’re incurring debt by your giving.  If you know what the Bible says about debt (it keeps you in bondage), you may realize that giving by placing yourself in a bondage relationship with a credit card company may not be the best way to go.  Even if you pay your card off every month, you are giving out of what you don’t have instead of giving out of what He’s provided you with already.

 

Giving by Credit Card Can Overextend Your Finances

I’ve counseled a person in the past who was in financial trouble mostly because she did the majority of  her giving with a credit card.  She got way behind financially because she gave much more than she had the ability to give.  It was too easy for her to feel generous when she was using money she didn’t actually possess.  Of course, not everybody will be irresponsible in that way, but I still think it’s wise to give out of what you have instead of what you don’t.

Just as research shows you tend to spend more on the average purchase simply because you’re using a credit card, you may be tempted to give more as well.  I can hear some of you protesting now, “But Doc, giving more is a good thing right?”  Yes, giving more absolutely is a good thing for the church and for the giver.  But when you end up giving out of what you don’t possess and put yourself in a bondage situation to do it, that is lacking in wisdom.   Where wisdom is lacking, so are blessings.

King David knew this concept well (read about it in I Chronicles 21:18-25)

I think the best ways to give are:

  • Cash
  • Check
  • Debit Card (by filling out a slip and putting it in the offering during the worship service)

 

Giving by Credit Card Can Inhibit Worship

In my humble opinion, giving your tithes and offerings is part of worship and is best done in a worship setting.  Having an auto draft come out of your checking account or charged to your credit card periodically doesn’t always lend itself to a worshipful giving experience.  I know it’s easy and maybe you’re more likely to give if it’s done automatically.   But I think it eliminates something important, something intangible that the actual physical act of giving does inside of us.

The act of passing it through your hands into the offering plate is a very tangible act that you can feel.   Every time you give you can be reminded of why you give.  You can be reminded that this is a sacrifice and an act of worship.  An electronic transfer, in my opinion, just doesn’t have the same effect.  At least not for me.

 

Giving by Credit Card, What’s Your Opinion?

So what do you think about this?  Do you give electronically or the old fashioned way?

Question:  Do you think I’m way off base and just plain weird (you wouldn’t be the first)?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment

Read more posts on the CFF “Credit Cards” Page

 

Resources:

More Articles About Giving

The Best Return on Investment

Be Financially Irrational

Seven Huge Credit Card Lies We Tell Ourselves

Slavery

Control Your Money and Your Destiny

The 20 Best Ways to Use Credit Cards Wisely

You Know What You Should Be Doing, So What’s Holding You Back

 

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  • http://www.figueroafinancial.com/ Jose Figueroa

    Great topic. The first time I ran across this was at a previous church. Since I don’t use credit cards any more it really bothered me. I have a problem with borrowing money to tithe which is what you do when you use a CC to tithe. I brought up this issue with the staff and I was told they loved the convenience and that since people would it pay it off at the end of the month, it was not borrowing money. Dangerous slope but reflective of the culture.

    I currently use the option of giving online (e-check) at my current church. I agree that there is something lost when you don’t do it as part of worship but I am ok with that. The church also allows credit cards which again bothers me because it does not warn people about the dangers of credit cards and it puts them on a dangerous slope.

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      The problem is, studies have shown that about 51% of people don’t pay off their balance every month. Either way, it’s still borrowed money, whether it’s for 30 days or 12 months.

  • eze

    OK 1st define what were talking about. Credit or Debit…… Debit cards are fine because there your money. Credit is not your money. You pay tithes with money you have. Whether its electronic or paper makes no difference Lets not put restraints on something the bible doesn’t.

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      I agree, debit cards are fine. It’s the credit cards I’m concerned about for the same reasons you are. Only use money you have, not someone else’s.

  • Cynthia Owen

    I am sad to say that our church is now getting ready to install a kiosk in the foyer. I totally disagree with this kind of giving. The Bible says the borrower is a slave to the lender and we are supposed to give from what we have. More and more churches are going the way of the world and trying to follow what the mega churches are doing. You can’t have one foot in the world and another following God.

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      I hope your church will at least stress giving with a debit card or auto withdrawal. I prefer giving when offering is being taken up as part of the worship service, but not everybody agrees with me on that one. I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful or unbiblical about using the kiosk unless they stress using credit to give to the church. That would be unwise in my opinion.

  • Morgan

    My church has started this and I wish to find a new church!!! The atmosphere is being set up for the fulfillment of Revelations When we all need ID to do transactions money will be of no value. We will need to have the mark of the beast. With the turning more into worldly technology the saints will be come numb to the changes and the things of the world will consume and break the church. The will allow the coming of the Antichrist
    The church will no long have the Godlyness but be of the worldliness.

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  • Leigh

    Brilliant! Wish I could see others readers’ comments – it says there are 7, but I can’t seem to access them. The way I learned it, I am to tithe 10-20% after taxes from every paycheck (after taxes because the tax money taken out was essentially never mine to begin with). I have enjoyed tremendous spiritual and material benefits from tithing out of earned income. Using a credit card is, for most people, tithing out of future income, and indeed, robs money (and peace of mind) from one’s future, and eradicates the spiritual benefit and experience of God’s abundance TODAY. Credit cards are an interesting idea, but few of us have researched this “interesting idea” sufficiently to use the cards intelligently and responsibly (which fundamentally means using them sparingly and paying the entire monthly bill immediately). Good post. I wish I saw more of this sort of financial prudence around the web. Thank you!

  • Andy

    I just started using a credit card for pay for tithes and offerings. The credit card I use gives me 6.25% cash back on all charitable giving. I asked the church organization about their credit card fees and they said it averages about 1.8%. So if my tithe is $100, I’ll give $101.80 using my credit card, and I’ll get $6.36 back. The result is that God gets $100, and I pay $95.44. My purpose for using a credit card isn’t because I lack the cash to give, but because I want to make the most of the resources being offered to us.

    To address the 2nd item in “Drawbacks to Tithing by Credit Card” you can always overpay a credit card before you use it if that bothers you. By doing this you will not actually incur debt. If my credit card did not offer more cash back than the credit card fees, I would stick with paying with cash equivalents (cash, check, or debit).

  • Ted Williams

    Good article and I share your opinion on your points. However; I want to just point out the common misnomer of using the word “tithing” as taught by “pastors” and “churches”. Scripture does not instruct anyone today to hand over ten percent of our gross earned income to a 501 C3 religious institutional corporation on a weekly basis. Dave Ramsey(and this is the only point he teaches with which I disagree) teaches the same “tithing” misnomer in his material. The reason I think this error is so prevalent is because this is a traditional hermeneutic of scripture passed down by “leadership” that sounds good but just is not true. Scripture teaches on giving and sets no bar (unless you consider “cheerful” or “willing” as a bar).
    For a more accurate hermeneutic of the text check out these resources:
    http://www.gty.org/search/tithe
    http://www.tithing101.org/

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      Wow, thanks for the comment Ted.  I will definitely check out those links.

  • Tracieclaiborne

    Excellent! I do think the “act of giving” is an important part of worship and sacrifice to the Lord. That giving can be your debit card written down on an envelope but for me, the actual money in my hand resonates more deeply with me as I give.

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      Me too.  I think regular giving during the service is an important part of the worship experience, and for me, I wouldn’t get as much out of it if it was a monthly electronic debit from my account.  I want to put it into the offering plate myself and pray over it as well.

      Thanks for the comment Tracie!

  • Em in Minneapolis

    Debit card, certainly.  My church credit union (Lutherans do things that way, see Thrivent FFI) will do an automatic withdrawal just as you’d have for the gas or power company.  I like both of those. 

    Credit cards — the more I look at credit card misuse, the more I see ego inflation for people who don’t know how else to get that.  There are good places to use credit cards as when you are not too sure about a vendor (I’d never pay for a hotel room in cash or check, only by CC) or for emergency cash outlay, like when you blow a tierod on your car halfway home in the sticks–that mechanic isn’t likely to be too happy with your paper check and using your debit card might blow a hole in your bank account. 

    Beyond that, I think CC use has a lot of misplaced vanity behind it.    Do we have an unaware Pharisee there:  Look how good I am, I go into debt to support the church. 

    ummmm, no, not quite clear vision.

    • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

      I like the point about ego inflation.  Using too much credit can be a way of overcompensating for low self esteem.  

      As for being unsure about a vendor, if you run the debit card transaction through the credit card system by signing your name instead of entering your PIN, you get the same protections as you do when using your credit card.

      Regarding the potential tierod incident, I always recommend and teach maintaining an emergency fund so you don’t let an emergency, which ALWAYS happens at some point, doesn’t mire you down in a bog of debt.

      Cash, check, and debit card are always better than credit in my book.

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