Many of us are guilty of “zoning out” at Mass whenever money is discussed. In our minds, money has no place in church. We think Mass should focus on spiritual matters, and encourage us to grow in our relationship with God, not tell us how to spend our hard-earned paychecks. But, for the true steward, money has a spiritual component. When used according to God’s will, our income becomes a sort of prayer – an expression of our devotion to God, and our trust in His plan for our lives.
The concept of tithing – giving 10 percent to God – is viewed by many as an unreachable goal. Most of us live just within our means, and consider tithing as an obligation we’d rather avoid. Regardless, God calls us to return a portion of the gifts He has given us back to Him. After all, “The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1).
Giving of our treasure is a natural component of true stewardship. Stewardship is not a fundraising gimmick; nevertheless, if we are to give of our all – as the gospels instruct us to do – then we must give from our wallets just as we give of our time and talents. For many, the first steps toward reaching the scriptural tithe can be painful. If we are not used to giving back to God financially, then we should expect to feel a pinch. However, after some time, tithing becomes natural – and eventually, a joy. Those who return a portion of their income back to God know the joy and blessings that comes from giving back to God out of gratitude.
And that’s what tithing is all about: gratitude. Sure, it is important for parishioners to financially support their local parish by tithing. Were it not for the weekly offertory, churches wouldn’t have the resources to operate. But that’s not the real reason we are called to tithe. We are called to do so because that’s what God has asked of us. It’s that simple.
Many choose not to tithe because they feel their parish will spend the money unwisely. This is the wrong way to view tithing. “We give to the Lord, not to our church; our church is our trustee,” writes Daniel Propson, professor of philosophy at Wayne State University, and contributor to Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. “If she has not seemed trustworthy before, perhaps it is because we did not hazard to trust her. Our role is to make ourselves vulnerable, to give God the opportunity to transform the gift we have given for his kingdom. At worst, we have done what we ought to do, and grown in character. We have lived with less, and leaned on God more.”
For many parishes, we are asked to give five percent of our income to the parish, one percent to the diocese, and four percent to other charities. This isn’t the sole focus of stewardship, but an integral part of the mix. Stewardship is about giving our all to God, and our finances are a big part of who we are. And, when it comes to long-term investments, investing in a relationship with Christ is worth every penny.