Should giving be private?

Barney

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm in the U.K
I've always give money or tithed at church privately.
Our church is encouraging the congregation to use what's called gift aid in the UK if your a taxpayer. This way the church can receive more money.
I believe others in the church, possibly the Minister and whoever deals with accounts can know how much people give when using gift aid.
Is it wrong to not want to do this? To give secretly?
Can sin make people who give more money, more valuable?
I do appreciate that smaller churches may have a greater need of money.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
Hi Liam,
The situation in the US is a little different, since individuals claim a tax deduction rather than the recipient of the gift, but I think that the moral principles are the same. In order to claim the deduction (if it is over a certain amount), a receipt is needed from the charity, and so every year our church would send out letters certifying that such and such an amount had been received from this person and that they had received no direct benefits in return (apart from the gospel!).

As a pastor, I felt it was important that I had no knowledge of who gave what; our treasurer (an elder) obviously needed to know to send out the letters (or in the UK case to claim the taxes). However, if anyone came to me and said that they preferred to give in cash without a receipt (or if that were simply their practice), I would have no problem with that. Obviously, that is easier to say here, where there is no financial cost for the church, but I would still say that in the UK situation. The last thing I want is to give people the impression that I'm primarily after their money. I want them to give themselves to the Lord - giving will follow (2 Cor. 8:5).
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I'm in the U.K
I've always give money or tithed at church privately.
Our church is encouraging the congregation to use what's called gift aid in the UK if your a taxpayer. This way the church can receive more money.
I believe others in the church, possibly the Minister and whoever deals with accounts can know how much people give when using gift aid.
Is it wrong to not want to do this? To give secretly?

Oops! @iainduguid – I did not see your post before mine. If I had I probably wouldn't have posted at all.

Hi Barney,

I have zero knowledge of how taxes are set up in the UK so I can only tell you my experience.

I give weekly by check, and one church officer records that information. At the end of the year, I am issued a detailed statement of my giving for tax purposes. The records are not available for anyone else to see, and that includes the pastor, elders, and even the spouse of this person. The tax structure in the USA is such that at my level of income I would lose about $100 per week, or around $5,000 per year if I gave anonymously in cash.

The tax structure in our country does not consider this a government subsidy. Churches are not "exempt" from taxes–they are "immune" from all government involvement. Period.

AN ASIDE: But, and I consider this wrong, many denominations decide to become 501c3 corporations (they become a legal Person created by the State and granted "conditional" eternal life. And thereby come under government rules and regulations. If they break the rules they can lose their exemption. But this is a different subject from your question.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
If you want the benefit of that kind of government incentive, like the benefit of a tax deduction here in the US, someone at the church is going to have to know how much everyone gives so that it can be properly recorded/reported. It's usually best if that person is not the pastor, so there's no suspicion that people might be able to curry favor with the pastor by their giving, and so the pastor can shepherd freely with fewer thoughts about how his shepherding of a particular individual might affect church finances. In the churches I've been a part of, that person has been the bookkeeper or treasurer, someone trustworthy who understands that keeping such information absolutely private is an important part of the job.

Giving cash should be an option too, with the understanding that the extra privacy you get means no participation in the government incentives (or no proof in the event your giving claims are ever challenged). If you prefer to give cash, there's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with the church expressing its preference that you give in a way that can be traced back to you, if you don't mind.

It's reasonable for you to ask someone in leadership about this. Ask them who will see the giving information. That's something they ought to explain to the congregation anyway, since you are likely not the only person who wonders about it. Or if they don't have a policy in place about who may see that information, they probably would be wise to create one.

For what it's worth... It was common a few decades ago here in the US for most gifts to be made by personal cheque ("check" in the US) and placed in the offering basket. As a deacon assigned to organize the weekly collection of offerings at my church, I saw and counted nearly every cheque written to the church. I could have known how much people were giving, if I cared to remember, but I didn't care. I really could not tell you who the regular givers were, because there was no reason for me to remember that. I mention this because it's possible you are worried about a privacy issue that wouldn't actually cause anyone to think anything at all about you. Perhaps the people keeping these records just aren't nosy enough to care or remember.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Our pastors also practice not knowing who is giving what. When I was on the officer screening committee, the list of names proposed by the congregation was run past the Comptroller to see if they were supporting the work of the church in keeping with their visible lifestyle. And while one might think they know who the rich folks were, every year some 'big givers' dropped off the list and some new ones rolled on (the givers being identified by the comptroller by an account number, not by name.)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
@Barney Am I correct in reading your question as a matter of scruples rather than logistics?

That we are to give to our local congregation is clear. How we are to give seems a matter of liberty regardless of what the perceived benefit may be for those administrating the offering. (Within loving reason.)

The broader question about esteem given to the wealthy is a concern to be addressed at all levels for the peace of the church.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Can sin make people who give more money, more valuable?
Some people think it does. I heard something like the following recounted by a Southern Baptist revivalist a number of years ago.

The pastor was wanting to make some changes and a wealthy man didn't like it. Or maybe he didn't like gospel preaching that pricked the conscience.

Rich sinner: "Do you know how much money I give to this church?"

Deacon or some other leader, who was perhaps also of significant means: "How much? I want to buy you out!"
 
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