Top seven reasons why Christians should give anonymously

I recently released this article on Persevero! News, but thought it would also be well suited for Axe to the Root. I don’t expect to get a lot of “likes” from this Rogers OutRank because I’m asking you to take the axe to one of the most sensitive areas of your life: your wallet.

The church elder stared wide-eyed with surprise. Surely, he thought, he had not heard correctly. He looked across the table at the Florida businessman in front of him and asked quizzically, “What did you just say?”

The businessman shrugged. “Just what I said. If you let me pick out your next pastor, I will pay his salary for the first year.”

boardThe elder’s jaw dropped. He was relatively new to the elder board at the church, and was not aware of how the board had been accustomed to conducting affairs behind the curtain, concealed from the eyes of the congregation, but he had to wonder now what they had done in the past to make this businessman feel so shameless about even proposing such an idea.

Fiction? No, that really happened recently at a church in Florida, and it’s just one example of how our churches and church ministries in America have become corrupted by an unholy love of money that Jesus Christ condemned at the temple when he said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13, 1599 Geneva Bible) Part of that corruption is seen in how ministries have become “respecters of persons” as James 2:1-9 condemns, giving special favoritism to the wealthy and disdain to the poor.

Dr. R.J. Rushdoony recognized how often causes are skewed to favor the wealthy when he wrote about how tithing is helpful to “restore power to the little man.” He said:

“Today, it is the rich man who dominates most causes; his money counts; he can donate a hundred thousand or a million and make his influence felt. But a thousand little men who tithe can far outweigh the rich man. They can keep a Christian cause from being dominated by a handful. Tithing is the way for the little man to have power with God’s blessing. A hundred men paying an average tithe of $100 a month means $10,000 monthly, which mean that a relatively small group is capable of great things and will gain God’s blessing in the process.” [1]

Acknowledging how ministry can be skewed by the the human tendency to give favoritism to the wealthy is the first step toward a correcting a huge problem in the modern Church. But God’s Word provides an underlying principle on giving that would easily correct this problem in the Church, if followed, and many other potential problems as well.

Jesus Christ presented that underlying principle when He communicated on a different occasion about giving to the Lord. This time in Matthew 6:1-5 on the Sermon on the Mount, where He said (emphasis added),

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”

Jesus called upon the Church to give in secret. So secretly that even the individual giver’s left hand would not know what his right hand was doing—much less other people. In Jesus’ day, when someone gave, they put coins into a plate or box. Once the money was cast into the container, there was no way for anyone to track who had put what inside. The only way anyone would know how much you gave would be if they saw you put it in when you did, as we see in the example of the Widow’s Mite (Luke 21:1-4). In other words, “giving in secret” in Jesus’ day meant giving anonymously where no one other than God would know how much or how often you gave.

Today we are more sophisticated. Today not only is there an opportunity for us to “give our alms before men” when we put the gift into the plate, but even after that. If we write a check, our name is on the donation so people can see what we gave afterwards. If we make a donation online with a credit or debit card, our name is on the card. So our giving is seen before men beyond the point of donation. At a minimum, the ministry sees it and the civil government sees it.

So how many Christians today truly give “in secret”? You may say, “Well, I don’t publicize to everyone what or how much I give,” but that’s not the point. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t tell most people.” He said to give completely in secret. But the fact is that hardly anyone today truly gives in secret.

sprdsht1Today, if you make donations to a church or non-profit organization, your donations get put into a spreadsheet with all the other donors to that ministry. The total amount of your donations is identified beside your name, and then the donors get ranked. Yes, ranked. That means that the biggest donors get put on the top as “VIPs” and the smaller donors get listed at the bottom.

Virtually every ministry does this. Some ministries say that only the church treasurer may look at this list, but there is usually little or no accountability to ensure that procedure is followed. Even so, the donations are not truly in secret because some human knows what people are giving. Moreover, the reality is that most ministries do not impose even this procedure, so every leader in the ministry usually knows exactly how much each member or donor gives.

What’s wrong with that? You mean, besides the fact that it doesn’t really follow God’s command to “give in secret”? Let’s go beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law, and consider why God may have issued this command based on the full context of Scripture. Here are the top seven reasons for why Christians should give anonymously:

7. Christians should give anonymously so that there is no respect of persons.

We’ve already touched on how easily people tend to give special treatment to donors who appear to have more money to donate. This tendency is especially strong when a church has incorporated itself into a non-profit business that is operating under the special pressures of the marketplace. Suddenly, a ministry finds itself competing with other non-profits for donations, and the most efficient way to do that appears to be by honing their efforts on courting the wealthier donors.

What happens is that as the wealthy are courted, the lower income families become increasingly ignored. This was the problem James was writing about when he said in James 2:1-9,

“My brethren, have not the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons. For if there come into your company a man with a gold ring, and in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, And ye have a respect to him that weareth the gay clothing; and say unto him, Sit thou here in a goodly place, and say unto the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool, Are ye not partial in your selves, and are become Judges of evil thoughts? Hearken my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, that they should be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not the rich oppress you by tyranny, and do they not draw you before the judgment seats?”

Do not they blaspheme the worthy Name after which ye be named? But if ye fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, which saith, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well. But if ye regard the persons, ye commit sin, and are rebuked of the Law, as transgressors.”

Re-read that last phrase and let that last phrase sink in. If you regard persons, you commit sin. There is no ambiguity here about the level of condemnation associated with the practice of discriminating against lower income families.

When we discriminate based on wealth, we treat people kindly not because we are doing it out of a love of God, but out of a love for money. We want the wealthy person’s money. Conversely, when we fail to treat poorer people kindly, we are withholding from them the love God’s Law requires of us because we see no monetary profit in doing so. Such failure is likewise rooted in an idolatry for money.

This means that much important ministry is neglected. In the case of James, widows and orphans were not being cared for because they were not wealthy. (See James 1:26-2:10.)

God’s Word tells us that we are to give to the Body of Christ without expecting anything in return—giving to the Body as an expression of our love and gratitude for Christ. “[F]reely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8, KJV).

Several Christian motivational speakers have noted that there are only three basic motivations in humanity. The humanistic world can only relate to the first two of these, but the Christian can experience the third as well. They are:

1) The fear of what I might lose – the primary thrust behind communism

2) The hope of what I might gain – the primary thrust behind capitalism

3) The love of what I might give – the primary thrust behind Christian stewardship

While all of these motivations are in play in true Christian ministry, the foremost motivation—the one that separates Christianity from all other systems—is the love of what I might give. Although the first motivation is trying to avoid an effect, and the second is trying to cause an effect, the third is an effect. An effect caused by God’s love in my life. It is a motivation of gratitude because of what God has already done. “We love him, because he first loved us. … And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:19 & 21, KJV).

Giving anonymously frees our fellow Christians from the temptation to treat us well, not out of love for God, but out of love for money. It encourages all within the Body of Christ to minister in kindness for the right reasons.

6. Christians should give anonymously so that church discipline is not wrongly influenced.

In American civil courts, if a judge has had past personal business dealings with a person who is brought up in trial, the judge is supposed to recuse himself from judging the case. This is because our jurisprudence has long recognized the conflict of interest in a case where a judge could be predisposed to favor or disfavor a party to trial based on his personal feelings about him from his past business dealings. He may feel inclined to give a profitable business associate a favorable ruling even though the law is against him, or he may be predisposed to rule against him even though the law is in his favor. Since no man can see another’s heart, the best precaution is to simply recuse the judge from the case.

However, when church disputes arise in a Matthew 18:15-18 scenario, and are brought before the church, church leaders are more likely to be skewed in their judgments if they know who their big tithers are and who their small tithers are. If a pastor is afraid that excommunicating a wealthy member will so offend him that he won’t give anymore, he is less likely to apply God’s Word faithfully even if the wealthy tither is in the wrong.

5. Christians should give anonymously so that there is no conflict of interests in ministry.

dollarsignWhat was wrong with this Floridian businessman’s proposal I mentioned at the beginning? What would be problematic about allowing a wealthy donor to pick the next pastor and pay his salary? The Bible presents the qualifications for church elders/pastors in passages such as and I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, and none of those qualifications involve financial sponsorship. What if having a financial sponsor became a qualification for ministry leadership that replaced these Biblical requirements?

What if the ministry wanted more donations from such a wealthy person that they were willing to bring on a pastor who does not meet many of the Biblical requirements?

When churches and non-profit “para-church” ministries begin looking to their donors rather than God for provision, a conflict of loyalties takes place. These ministries often begin to not only water down any biblical messages they may be afraid would offend their donors, but they also begin to work (whether self-consciously or subliminally) to target their efforts more on winning the support of the wealthiest donors.

This conflict of interests is why many churches have geared their services more toward entertainment and “seeker friendliness” rather than toward Scriptural soundness.

4. Christians should give anonymously to avoid showmanship.

I was visiting a church recently where they were conducting a special fund-raiser for a building expansion. At one point in the service, the pianist played a song while people were told to “come forward” in front of the rest of the entire church and place money into a special box for the fund. The peer-pressure was thick, and the offering was turned into a show.

Jesus was definitely concerned with the problem of showmanship, which is why He said, “do not [do] your alms before men, to be seen of them” (Mt. 6:1). Jesus spoke more than once against the way that the Pharisees made an effort to look more holy than they actually were. (See Matthew 23:23-29.)

From the first-century church we see an example of tragedy that occurred when giving was unwittingly made public. Barnabas spontaneously felt led of the Lord to sell his land and donate the proceeds to the Church. (See Acts 4:33-37.) Apparently, this act by Barnabas earned him some popularity because soon others began imitating him, but not all of them with pure motives. Ananias and Sapphira sold their land, but lied in telling the apostles that they gave all of the proceeds from that sale to the Church, when in fact they had kept back part of the price. Because they lied about this, God struck them both dead. (See Acts 5:1-10.)

Significantly, this would not have happened if the Church had followed Christ’s command to give “in secret.” Ananias and Sapphira were not obligated to tell anyone how much they gave, but because church giving had become something that appeared to draw prestige, they were motivated to exaggerate how much they had given.

In a Church were all giving is done in secret, this kind of thing does not happen. Christians are not tempted to exaggerate their contributions because there is no forum in which for them to engage in this kind of showmanship where they are competing with one another for attention based on how much each one gives.

3. Christians should give anonymously so that the Church looks to God and not to men for provision.

When we become fixated on the human donor, we fail to recognize that it is ultimately God who provides for His Church—not humans by human ingenuity. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Jesus said, “if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:30-33).

2. Christians should give anonymously because the tithe and other commands of Christian giving are only between God and the individual.

A few years ago, a father was approached by a young man about the possibility of courting his daughter. The father thought the young man looked fine, but wanted to check with his church elders about his testimony before giving permission. So he privately went to the elders and asked them about the young man. The elders of the church reported that the young man was not a faithful tither according to their records, and so based on that report the father refused to allow the young man to court his daughter. Unbeknownst to the elders of the church, however, the young man had been a consistent tither and donor to many different forms of Christianity ministry. The reason why the elders did not know this is that the young man made most of his gifts anonymously. Of course, had the elders spoken to the young man about that directly rather than slandering him to this father, they might have known their mistake, and perhaps a courtship would have blossomed into a fruitful Christian marriage.

But perhaps the reason why this mistake happened was that theses church elders really had no business trying to monitor how much their membership was giving in the first place. God does not authorize, especially in the New Testament, any human authority to impose or regulate the giving of tithes or other donations. To the contrary, as we’ve already noted from Matthew 6:1-5, Jesus Christ said that giving is to be done privately. It is a duty for which each individual is only accountable before God. While a church should preach and teach on the duty of Christian tithing and giving, the Lord does not allow anyone to presume to govern others in how they give.

1. Christians should give anonymously because that is what it means to give “in secret.”

The Greek word for “secret” in Matthew 6:4 is κρυπτος (kruptos), which means “concealed, private, hidden, and inward,” according to the Strong’s Concordance. It is this Greek word that the Apostle Peter used to speak of adorning “the hidden man of the heart” in I Peter 3:3-4. This is literally speaking of a something so private that only the individual and God knows about it. That is how secret our tithes and donations should be before God.

The Verdict

For the reasons presented in this article, I have determined before the Lord to do my Christian giving anonymously. In the past, I have from time to time (usually because I was in a hurry), failed to give secretly, but as much as possible I have tried to make it my habit to truly give in secret as Jesus Christ commands.

Moreover, the church I am presently pleased to be a part of planting in the Powder Springs, Georgia community has adopted the same policy. At FRONTLINE Community Church each person gives anonymously. The money is collected anonymously, and the funds are distributed from the church as a whole without anyone knowing how much each person gave. [2]

The immediate question that usually pops up when we tell people about this is, “But how do you document your donation for the tax deduction?” My answer to this is two-fold.

First, I don’t give to any church or ministry merely to get a tax deduction. If the law were such that I had no choice but to disclose my identity (which would mean not giving in secret, as Christ commanded), I would still have to give anonymously because “I must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

To his credit, Mike Huckabee recently expressed this sentiment at a Southern Baptist conference last week when he said that “I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so about about the tax code and start thinking about the truth of the living God, and if it means that we give up … tax deductions for charitable contributions, I choose freedom more than I choose a deduction”. [3]

Second, however, there are several methods that different Christian CPAs have suggested for creating a paper-trail for your taxes that allow you to protect your anonymity and still retain proof of donations for a tax audit. We may explore several of these at another time, but one I will mention now to get your creativity flowing would be to use a cashier’s check. With a cashier’s check, your recipient has no way of knowing who issued the check, yet you retain a receipt of the purchase of the check to prove the donation later if you need. [4]

When the Body of Christ begins giving again, as Christ commanded, not to be seen of men, but in secret, then will Body of Christ be able to work together to advance the Great Commission without any conflict of loyalties, and God promises that He will reward her openly. I challenge you follow this command, and then brace yourself for some real blessing.

Footnotes:

[1] Dr. R.J. Rushdoony, “Tithing & Dominion” 5 (Ross House Books, 1979).

[2] Money Saving Mom posted a guest letter called “The Joy of Giving Anonymously” as an additional testimony in favor of giving secret, which you can see here.

[3] See ABP article “Huckabee questions church tax exemption” by Bob Allen on 6/11/13 at this link.

[4] For some more ideas to spark your creative secret giving, see “Five Simple Ideas to Give Anonymously” on Igniting a Life of Generosity at this link here.

4 comments

  • My son-in-law who is a graphic artist recently took a job with a MegaChurch and as an employee they monitor tithing. My daughter left her lucrative career to be a stay at home Mommy and they are tithing 10% of Net Income. Recently the HR department met with my son-in-law and said that as a church emplyee he must give at a minimum10% gross (before taxes etc). Have you seen any good articles on thus type of church abuse ?

  • Since 1954 when LBJ got the 501C3 bill passed through the back door of another bill the Church has fell into obediance to the government. The Church according to the IRS tax code for churhes did not have to sign up for this but the church so quickly ran to the governemnt for this tax benifit rather than trust GOD for their financial postition. Along with this love for money that the church agreed to the government with along also came the obligation of church is now required to uphold public policy over the word of GOD. No wonder the Church is in such a mess. It’s time to shed this attachment to the IRS 501C3 and give back to God what is his anyway.

  • Read your blog on anonymous giving found it very informative. You mentioned there were other methods to give anonymously besides cashier’s checks. May I ask you to share or where can find out about these other methods?

    Thanks Ted

  • I know that I can go to my Churches website to Tithe and an option to donate anonymously. But I suspect someone still knows because I use a credit card. Only sure way might be to just put cash in an envelope with no name on and place in the collection basket..

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