To E-Give or Not to E-Give
There's something psychologically important about writing a check and putting it in the plate.

I stopped tithing a few months ago. Okay, no scandal here. I got married in September, and my husband and I moved to a new area and wanted to find a church. As we slowly combined our finances, it became painful. (He's a cheapskate, and I didn't want him to see every pair of earrings I splurged on.)

Within a few months we found a church that we really liked for various reasons. As the new year approached, we resolved to streamline our finances. Eager to get in our giving before 2009 ended for tax purposes, we talked about back-tithing. We decided to tithe the four months we had been married, which felt like a lot of money. It was daunting to put the check in the offering plate and watch the money pulled from our bank account. I then vowed to talk with someone about having our tithing automatically deducted from our account so we wouldn't think twice about it.

On one hand, you could argue, "It's not your money to begin with, so pretend like you never had it." On the other hand, there's something psychological about physically writing a check and putting it in the brass plate. If we all paid our taxes once a year instead of having them automatically deducted from our paychecks each pay period, we would probably feel the pinch much more. I often wonder whether I should stop the deduction so I could invest the money during the year and then pay up later. (But that, of course, requires some self-control.)

The authors of Freakonomics , economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, report that economist Milton Friedman came up with automatic tax withholding from employees' paychecks. Americans weren't paying their income taxes, as I would imagine it's hard to remember to save up a huge chunk every year. Levitt and Dubner also write a lot about the importance of incentives: We need a really good reason to eat our vegetables (think Vitamin C) and to resist the temptation to speed (think a $100 ticket).

To continue reading, please visit the original post "Confession: I Stopped Giving to the Church," on Her.meneutics, a blog for our sister publication, Christianity Today .

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–1 of 1 comments

Matt Davis

February 10, 2010  2:06pm

My tithe check is literally the ONLY check I write every week. I don't mean that it's the only one I write in a week's time; I mean it's the only thing I ever pay for with a physical check! With online bill pay and my debit card, church is the last "hold-out" for physical check writing. But I think that is OK, and here's why: When you understand tithing as an act of worship and the exercise of good stewardship, I think it's important to physically write the check each week. The Bible says there is joy in giving – not pain. Why would I want it to go by unnoticed and unthought of? Surely it's no sin to tithe via automatic deduction, but in my own life I've come to appreciate the opportunity to purposefully and consciously honor the Lord with the firstfruits.

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