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Tithing On Credit

Just when you think you’ve seen or heard it all, someone throws something at you that knocks you off balance. I recently learned that some churches now accept credit cards for tithes and offerings.

I am serious.

A family friend recently moved to Boulder, Col. In her search for a church home, she visited Heritage Christian Center, pastored by Dennis Leonard. She said that when it was time for the offering the pastor asked those who wanted to give to raise their hands and the ushers would pass out envelopes. He also reminded the people willing to give to a “love offering” that the church accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express.  No, he was not joking.

There’s something wrong with this picture. 

First, what’s up with asking people who want to give to raise their hands?  This is against what Jesus taught while delivering the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 6:2-3, Jesus urged, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

The reason a pastor will ask people to raise their hands if they want to give is simply to make those who don’t want to give or don’t have the means to give feel guilty or embarrassed, thereby intimidating people to give. This is why I’ve never liked it where churches ask people to come forward to drop their tithes and offerings into a basket at the altar.

But asking people to raise their hands is not as bad as encouraging them to give a love offering, using their credit cards. If this continues, soon churches, like convenient stores, will have ATM machines in the vestibules.   

Well, I decided to visit Heritage Christian Center's web site to learn more about the church and its beliefs.

But what do you know?  What I found on the website was even worse than asking people to donate using a credit card. This is what Pastor Dennis Leonard has on his website… 

“LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART NOW. It's time to sacrifice a Seed Faith Gift to God. I ask you to do whatever is necessary and Sow a Seed of $61 to claim the blessing of Isaiah 61 for your life. You may be able to give God $122 and receive a DOUBLE PORTION BLESSING. Do what you can to give God at least $61. If you don't have $61, give the nearest thing you have to $61. If that is $31, then give that. Just do your best. Now, go get a nickel and hold it in your hand, and follow these instructions: 1. Touch the nickel to your wallet or checkbook. 2. Now pray this prayer: "Lord, I claim LIBERTY in my household. I claim LIBERTY in my body and spirit and in all of my finances. You said in Your Word, 'Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established. Believe His Prophet, so shall ye prosper.' I claim LIBERTY and PROSPERITY in Jesus' name. Amen." 

Time out. How is donating $61 going to give someone an Isaiah 61 blessing?  Why Isaiah 61 and not Isaiah 60?  At least Isaiah 60 seems to have more promises than Isaiah 61.  And if you can’t give $61, he asks that you donate $31.  But he failed to tell you what kind of blessing you’ll receive with a $31 gift.  Isaiah 31 blessing? Psalm 31 blessing or Proverbs 31 blessings?  Or when you give double ($122), do you receive a Psalm 122 blessing?  

Where in the Bible does it say that someone should donate money to get a blessing?  Rather, in Acts 8:9-24 when a man named Simon offered Peter money to have the power to lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit, Peter cursed and rebuked him that the power of God is not for sale. 

Even more ludicrous is his instructions to go get a nickel and touch your pocket or checkbook with the nickel. Well then, if a nickel is what’s going to do the magic, why didn’t he ask the people to send a nickel, instead of $61?

Back to this credit card tithing.  Many churches that encourage credit card giving argue that they provide credit card facilities for convenience sake to their members.  And also to make sure people give, especially during the summer months when people go on vacations; when contributions are low.  These churches encourage their members to pay their tithes and offering using their credit cards. So that they can keep up with their tithes and offerings, even while on vacation.

An online news article of the Adventist Church says, “We've found that if we accommodate them (the parishioners), they will give," says Theodore Benson, treasurer for the Adventist Church in the Pacific Union. "If the church can't offer a service where it's convenient to pay they'll take their money elsewhere."

To begin with you are supposed to give out of what you have, not what you don’t have. Out of what the Lord has given you, not what He’s yet to give you. “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”  -- 2 Corinthians 8:12. 

Besides, if a person has to be reminded to pay his or her tithes, then it’s no longer tithing.  If no one reminds anybody to pay his or her house mortgage, rent or car note, why should anybody be reminded to pay tithes?  If a person has to be reminded to pay his or her tithe, then it’s no longer a cheerful giving; that’s giving grudgingly. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Some churches even strongly justify why they don’t see anything wrong with credit card tithing.  For example, Mars Hill Church in Seattle says on its web site, “…Some may protest that in the Bible God's people never used credit to tithe, which is true. They also did not use checks or get a tax write off like we do. Nonetheless, the principle is that God's people should give and the methods vary from culture to culture.”   

But the reason that argument cannot hold is because the real principle of giving, tithing especially, is to tithe out of what you have, not out of what you don’t have.  Encouraging people to tithe with their credit card could make people tithe out of what they don’t have.  That’s not what the Bible commanded us to do. 

Now, some churches, even though they encourage credit giving, will often warn their members about the danger of giving with a credit card. “We strongly urge no one to put their tithe on their credit card unless they are able to pay it off each month because we do not want God's people going into debt.

But, if you intend to pay off your balance each month we believe that is an issue of conscience and leave that between you, God, and your frequent flier miles;” says the online article of Mars Hill Church. 

The whole essence of tithing is to worship God with our first fruits – in this case – our income; and it is free-will.  It’s something we do to honor God, not man; to further His kingdom, not man’s agenda.  So, don’t let anyone deceive you with persuasive words that ensnare you in debt traps.

P.S. Since the first release of this article few years ago, Heritage Christian Center and the Mars Hill websites have been redesigned.  Therefore, the references quoted in this article have been replaced. Whether it's as a result of this article or not, we do not know.

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