By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
In the old days (I can’t believe I am using that vernacular) giving in the church was relatively straightforward. You came to church. You filled out your envelope and put in your cash or your check and when the basket came by you put it in the basket. Pretty simple and easy.
Today you have different ways to give. Yes, you can still give in the offering basket, but that is quite 20th century. Now you can give online, through texting, and some churches even have their own apps which you can use to give. Typically, if you are going to give in this 21st-century way, it will require you to either debit directly from your bank account or you have the option of using a credit card.
Some people have gone so far as to use rewards credit cards to do their giving because this gives them rewards back which allows them to do other things. Here is the question I want to pose to you, and I want you to think about it. Can you tithe from a rewards credit card? As I said before, welcome to giving in the 21st century.
Should You Use a Credit Card to Give at All?
Before we can address the question of using a rewards credit card for giving, let’s address the idea of using a credit card for giving in the first place. There is only one scenario when this is appropriate and one big reason when this is not.
When Is It Okay to Use a Credit Card to Give?
There is only one scenario where I would say it is okay to use a credit card to give. By the way, this has nothing to do with the rewards part yet which we will get to in a moment. The only time it is appropriate to use a credit card to give is when you pay the balance in full at the end of the month.
Many people use credit cards to pay their bills. They do this because of the convenience. Some set it up to automatically have all their monthly bills like utilities, cell phone and insurance directly billed to their credit card. In addition, they will use this same card to buy everything else like groceries, gas, etc.
When the bill comes in at the end of the month, they pay the balance in full. They use this method to simplify their lives and it requires them to only write one check per month, which they probably pay online anyway. In this scenario, when you are paying the balance in full every month, then I see nothing wrong with paying tithes using your credit card. In essence you are using your credit card in the same manner as you would use your bank account.
When Is It Not Okay to Use a Credit Card to Give?
There is one big reason why you should never use your credit card to pay tithes, and that is when you carry over a balance at the end of the month.
If you are not paying the balance in full at the end of the month, then you should not use a credit card to give online or pay your tithes. Here is the reason why. When you use a credit card you are actually using someone else’s money. In this case, it is the bank that issued the card. If you use it to give and you don’t pay it back at the end of the month then you haven’t given your money, you have given someone else’s money. When most people don’t pay the balance in full, they usually only pay a portion of it; this means you borrowed money to give online or pay your tithes, therefore incurring a debt. I can say this with certainty, it is not God’s plan that you go into debt to pay your tithes.
I heard a woman share her story of when she attended a convention and there was a well-known speaker at the event. He asked people to take a leap of faith and sow a seed. This person did not have the money to do this, but she had a credit card, so she proceeded to give this large amount, which she didn’t have, and put it on her credit card.
Let me say this as loud as I can – this should never happen.
She did not give her money; she gave someone else’s and all she did was end up in debt. It would have been better for her to give out of what she had then out of what she didn’t have, and God would have honored that. Remember the widow and the two coins.
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).
Now let’s get to the heart of the matter of using rewards credit cards.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Efetova
Should You Tithe Using a Rewards Credit Card?
The answer to this question comes down to one thing…your motive. Remember this instruction from Paul.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Giving is just like everything else you do – your motive matters. If you are using the rewards credit card to give for the sole purpose of getting the rewards back, then I believe the motive is wrong. Giving should not only be done willingly and cheerfully, but it should also be done with a thankful heart.
Your giving should be an expression of your thanksgiving for how God has provided and a recognition of him as the provider. The motive should never be if I give this then God is going to give me more back. This type of giving is a slippery slope because it can easily be motivated by selfishness or greed and many times you may not even recognize it.
Whether you get anything back financially or not, that should not be the motive in giving. When someone uses a rewards card with this motive, then it is a way of giving to get something back. I see no problem with doing this for everyday purchases or bills as we described earlier, but we should not use a rewards credit card to tithe just so we can get the rewards.
The One Scenario Where Using a Rewards Credit Card to Give Is Okay
However, with everything there is a caveat and there is one here as well. Again, this goes back to motive. What do you do with the rewards that you get from the credit card? If you use those rewards to bless someone else, maybe give a gift to another ministry, or use them to help people in need, then that falls in line with the right spirit with which we give.
If you use those rewards only to bless or enrich yourself, then be careful because that can easily fall in line with the wrong motive.
My Final Thought
I recognize this type of topic may have different opinions and I welcome you sharing yours. Regardless of which side of this topic you fall on, all I ask is you remember one thing. Even if the motive is right and you decide to use a rewards credit card to pay your tithes, this only works if you pay the balance in full each month. If you are not doing that then this is a moot discussion.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Prostock-Studio
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.