ATM from God


While preparing for a bible study on the concept of giving, I started playing around on the Internet looking for various ways in which people tend to donate money to different charitable organizations and churches. Thanks to our campus chaplain Nathan Teigland, I now know that the term tithe is only used in the Old Testament under the old law; the New Testament, according to Teigland, addresses the topic of giving in the law of the spirit: people should give what they can, as long as they are giving from the heart.

Because so many of us tend to forget our checkbooks come Sunday morning, the Stevens Creek Community Church decided to place an ATM in its church building. Luke chapter 16:13 states that “one cannot serve both God and money.” The Stevens Creek Church has found an interesting way of asking people to think about which master they serve just before entering the sanctuary. I usually take the easy road by asking my wife to write a check on Sunday morning. The thought of all of those numbers being dropped into a basket is difficult at times. I wish my church would get an ATM that takes your $ with one quick swipe of the card. It is a good thing the machine does not dispense cash; it would get spent in a candy store — remember those childhood days.

It was one of Stevens Creek’s three “Giving Kiosks”: a sleek black pedestal topped with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip reader. Prompted by the on-screen instructions, Marshall performed a ritual more common in quickie marts than a house of God: He pulled out a bank card, swiped it and punched in some numbers.

The machine spat out a receipt. Marshall’s $400 donation was routed to church coffers before he had found his seat for evening worship. “I paid for gas today with a card, and got lunch with one,” said Marshall, 30. “This is really no different.”


12 thoughts on “ATM from God

  1. In the last year, we’ve gone to using our bank’s online bill pay for our contribution check. This eliminates any of the forgetfulness or the temptation to hold back for one reason or another. It’s automatically scheduled each month for a set amount.

    It’s not just another bill in the sense that we’re always looking for ways to increase it rather than decrease it.

    Overall, I like the idea of a contribution box (or ATM) better than passing the baskets, but I also realize that peer pressure can be a powerful way to get more money.

    Favorite contribution joke:
    One Sunday as a man passed on the basket to his wife he had an upset look on his face. His wife asked him what was wrong and he said he had accidentally put in a $20 bill instead of a $5. She said, “That’s okay, you only got credit for the $5 anyway.”

  2. Wow! I did not know you could shop your church online. The ATM thing bothers me. It seems a little forced. I will stick to the collection plate.

  3. I’m not sure that the idea behind giving is to make it as easy as possible. I thought we were to give sacrificially. And last I checked, the meaning of sacrifice meant that it cost you something.

  4. Kristi,

    You are right. I think that is what Matt’s joke is saying – it is all about the intent. Still, I at times understand what that man is thinking regarding the $20 bill. ATMs make giving too easy. The challenge, as you stated Kristi, is giving sacrificially. Funny, I always assumed it would get easier as I made more money. I am wrong. It gets harder, which is sad.

  5. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Sometimes I hate the way Americanism has affected the Church. We do so much less good than we could. Hmm. Perhaps there’s a blog in all of this.

  6. I like the sound of that. Speaking of making more money, do not forget to keep an eye on our science dept. Well, if Kansas does not workout.
    When you are done with school, you have two things to look forward to: 1. Taxes 2. Paying more in contribution on Sunday.

  7. The ATM is certainly an interesting adaptation of the church to American consumer culture. However, Marhsall’s quotation disturbs me, “I paid for gas today with a card, and got lunch with one,” said Marshall, 30. “This is really no different.”

    If Marshall is a fair indicator of the attitude of American culture towards offerings in church, then how discouraging to see an activity once performed as joyful obeisance to The Lord reduced to the same level of consideration as buying gas and eating lunch. At least the offering in church compels a confrontation with The Lord: whether it be a guilty conscience over forgetting one’s wallet, a justification of the money going into the offering (in a good or bad light), or perhaps a simple prayer of thanks for the Lord’s blessings as you perform the action befitting such a prayer. A “giving kiosk” or automatic bill pay, however, aids in abstracting God from the process of contribution to a church. I see such an event as a sordid state of affairs because although “giving is all about the intent,” I believe that an offering to God should at some point encourage a person to communicate with God, rather than be percieved merely as a donation to a charitable cause.

  8. Hey Mr. Carson,
    I typed in ATM in the search bar of my computer as I was trying to donate to my church and your article popped up! Thanks for your always insightful contribution to the blog scene. I would just like to spend a quick moment clarifying my thoughts on tithe and giving.

    My father’s church (Chicago, IL) does not ever preach on tithing. I found this very interesting, especially given their huge growth both numerically and financially over the past decade. The pastor does, however, communicate the concept of giving very regularly. They may have an offering for a family in need or for a specific ministry that the church supports. They also work very hard to share their resources with those who have none (Acts 2).

    Though the NT (New Testament) does not speak directly to the issue of the tithe, I feel it does very much speak to the issue of giving. Our attitude should not be to satisfy the measure of the Law (tithe) as much as the spirit of the law. What I mean by this is shown from the story of the Widow’s offering (Mark 12). This is the type of giving that I believe most honors God. Christ says in Matthew 5 that he did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. If we are looking for an excuse to not give to God or to His church…keep looking, you won’t find it. What you will find is a promise of God’s never-ending, all-suffiency. In the fiscal sense, that is one heck of a return on a 10% contribution.

    Giving 10% of our income to God should only be the beginning of our giving.

    If you want to “measure” your giving in reference to the Widow’s mite, check out and then see how hard it is to sacrifice your 10%.

    Peace and Love
    Pastor Nate

  9. Nate, thanks for clearing that up. I appreciate the knowledge, energy, and scholarship you bring to our Christian community. The study went very well. I even sounded like I knew what I was talking about — go figure.

    Keep up the good work.

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