Thank you for your question to us. I wish there were a simple answer to give, but I suspect that every situation differs somewhat from every other.
I have made it my personal practice to seek to not know what anyone gives, with certain exceptions. I have asked the deacons that if anyone’s giving is so low that it could not possibly be a tithe on a livable income, to please let me know that fact so that I can make inquiry. (Do they need financial assistance? Is there a spiritual problem? etc.) On one occasion the treasurer informed me that a prospective candidate for elder never gave anything to the church. We spoke with him and rectified some errors on his part dealing with it (as it was a spiritual matter). Otherwise, I really don’t want to know because (as you note) it could lead to unconscious favoritism. In a small church, that is not always possible. In fact, some people actually approach the pastor to ask if they may make a particular sizable gift toward a particularly noted need. We are currently installing a “lift” (small elevator) in our facility, and one person approached me to offer to cover 10% of its cost apart from that person’s regular giving.
Those who care for the church funds obviously know who gives what and have to so record it. Beyond that, I have found in various pastorates that they exercise great discretion, as have the elders with whom I have worked. They are aware of the spiritual nature of their work, and also aware of the dangers (and sinfulness) of gossip. Is it a guarantee that they will never be indiscreet? Of course not. We all fail in our own ways. We are conscious of our sins, and seek to guard from any favoritism (as we are instructed in Jas. 2).
If a particular request were made that a gift be kept as anonymous as possible, extraordinary efforts would be made to honor that request. In one of the ecclesiastical roles in which I labor, a very large gift was given with the request that it be kept anonymous. We proceeded to record those funds under the name of a particular historic year, and only those immediately involved ever knew the source. This was years ago, and the donor’s name is still only known to those who were immediately involved.
So, the answer is that we are conscious of the dangers involved in dealing with God’s money in his church. I will add that I have found the officers to be cautious in these matters, though never perfect.
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