In yesterday’s post we discussed why tithing is a commendable goal, in terms of personal and parish finances, rooted as it is, in God’s word. And, while giving 10% to the Church is not strictly required by Church teaching, we do well to review and respect the tradition of tithing and also to explore its blessings, as promised by God.

In today’s post I want to explore the biblical roots of this practice. And, while the roots are deep in the Old Testament, as we shall see, the one time Jesus mentioned tithing, he indicated it ought not be neglected.

Perhaps a good place to being in simply to note that finances are simply too important to ignore and thus, it makes sense Scripture would address this issue. In fact, in the New Testament there are almost 500 verses devoted to prayer, 500 verses devoted to faith, and almost 2,000 verses devoted to our possessions and how to deal with them. Sixteen of thirty-eight parables dealt with finances (e.g. The hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the fishing net, the wicked tenant farmers, the marriage of the King’s Son, the rich fool, The parable of the talents, The unjust steward, Lazarus and the rich man, the servant of two masters, the two debtors, the widow’s paying of the temple tax, the lost coin, etc.).

God knows that were our treasure is, our heart will be. And, whether we like to admit it or not, our money and possessions are important to us. God, to reach our heart, has to discuss these things. Money isn’t just about money, its about what we value, and we have to allow the Lord to help us think properly of and deal with money, if he is going to mend our hearts. A conversion that does not reach the wallet is far from complete. While God does not need our money, he IS interested in our hearts. How we deal with finances is an important indicator of our heart and our priorities. Thus in teaching of of the tithe, God is not after our money, as much as our heart.

In studying the teaching on tithing (giving on tenth of our Income back to God and God’s Church), we see not only a obligation of which God speaks, but also of blessings he wants to bestow. And what are those blessing? It is the increasing blessing of a heart that is right with God and neighbor in our use of money, and heart that is increasingly free of financial bondage such as debt, overspending and destitution, and a heart that is more able to be generous with, and less fearful about money.

The Teaching on tithing and the way to these blessings can be seen in three stages as laid out in Malachi:

Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7-12)

Hence we have here a kind of three-step plan to greater financial freedom and blessing rooted in the practice of tithing. The Three steps are: 1. Review your faithfulness, 2. Release your funds, 3. Receive your fruitfulness. With a hat tip to Rev. Adrian Rogers who is a significant source in a lot of this material, Lets look at the steps and the teaching in detail:

I. Step one – REVIEW YOUR FAITHFULNESS – The text of Malachi begins by asking us to review our faithfulness to God in terms of our finances. God takes up a voice of complaint and rebuke in doing so, saying, Even from the days of your fathers you are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, Wherein shall we return? [The Lord says] Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings [says the Lord]. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.

In his “suit” the Lord lays out three aspects of the problem of our possible lack of faithfulness in our finances:

1. RESISTANCE - For the Lord says, that even from the days of our fathers we depart from his ordinances and do not keep them. Note here, it is not simply finances which the Lord deals with in Malachi. The obedience to the tithe is part of a larger picture of overall obedience. God is after the heart, the person, not the wallet. I WANT YOU says the Lord. and So he adds: RETURN TO ME!

Among the other issues God rebukes them for through the prophet Malachi are defiled, deficient and half-hearted worship, the dishonoring of God’s Name, that the priests were not instructing the people and giving good example, that men dealt treacherously with their wives through divorce, that the people considered the Lord’s way tedious, and that they exalted the arrogant and the evil-doer. And yes, also that the tithe was not being returned to the Lord.

So, there is an overall resistance to God’s will, of which the refusal to return one tenth of their income to God was one part. And God does not hesitate to call the withholding of the tithe  by its proper name: robbery. And this leads to the second aspect of our examination of our faithfulness or lack thereof.

2. ROBBERY - God says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? And God responds In tithes and offerings.

Robbery? This is strong language! But to withhold the tithe, the first tenth of our income, is robbery in the Old Testament teaching, because the first tenth belonged only to God. And to, take, withhold or keep what belongs to another is robbery.

For the Jewish people there were very clear instructions from God about the tithe. Here are some of the more significant texts that indicate that the first tenth of income belongs to God and is to be returned to him:

(1) Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD.
(2) Deut 12:11 Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; there shall you bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow unto the LORD.
(3) Deut 14:22 You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes forth from the field year by year.
(4) Prov 3:9-10 9 Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase: So shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine.
(5) Mal 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse [i.e. the storehouse of the Temple],
(6) Mat 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Thus, a clear instruction of the Old Testament was that the first tenth of income or harvest belonged to God. It was the Lord’s, and the failure to render it was thus a form of theft, or robbery.

The final quote (6) is a New Testament quote, and while Jesus considers other matters such as justice to the poor and mercy to be more important, it is clear that he indicates that the tithe is not to be neglected. Thus it is hard to argue, only on a biblical basis, that the New Testament set aside the old practice and/or abrogated the practice.

It remains true that today the Church does not specifically or legally prescribe a tithe be brought to the Church, but there is good evidence that the early Christians did observe some form of the tithe (more here: Sermon on the Amount: Blest Be the Tithes that Bind). The Church’s current lack of a litigious approach on the tithe does not mean that the biblical verses have no application for Catholics today. The Biblical text still goes a long way to set forth the ancient teaching, namely,  that it is commendable for us to consider the first tenth of our income to be God’s alone even if the principle is understood today more as a spiritual practice than a mandated one.

Indeed, concerning the biblical teaching on the Tithe, the following summary is memorable:

Abraham Commenced it
Jacob Continued it
Moses Commanded it
Jesus Commended it
So why cancel it?

So, consider the tithe to belong to God, and thus, to refuse to offer it back is a form of spiritual robbery as the text sets forth. Do this however as a spiritual practice, for the Church does not currently require it, and in no way should we today consider our brethren who do not fully render the tithe, for reasons of their own, to be thieves. Leave it to the Lord to assess each one’s financial faithfulness.

3. RESULT - Where there is a lack of financial faithfulness God announces a result. You are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Indeed, Do you think we can receive financial blessing if demonstrate a lack of fidelity in terms of the finances we already have? Scripture says elsewhere:

(1) Luke 16:11-12 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

(2) Prov 11:24 One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

(3) 2 Cor 9:6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

In other words, if God can’t even trust you with ten cents on a dollar, why should he trust you with greater things? Thus the curse comes at our own hand in terms of a meager harvest. Since God cannot trust us with little, he certainly cannot trust us with more. Hence we are cursed with a lack of resources, due to our own lack of trustworthiness.

So step one is to review our financial faithfulness. To the degree that we must make adjustment and repent we ought to do so. Are you and I being generous and faithful with the funds God gives, or stingy and sinful. Having made an assessment of our faithfulness, we arrive at step two.

II. Step two – RELEASE YOUR FUNDS - The text from Malachi goes on to say in verse 10: Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house. And herein God defines exactly what we must do regarding our finances. He sets forth a definite proportion, to be brought, to a designated place, for a definite purpose.

1. DEFINITE PROPORTION – The text says, Bring ye all the tithes. The tithe is the first tenth of all our income. In Genesis 28:22 Jacob said and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Leviticus 27:32 also says, And concerning the tithe of the herd…the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. That it should be the first tenth, is also indicated for example, in Prov 3:9-10: Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the first fruits of all thine increase and so shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses burst out with new wine...

So, there is a definite proportion called for: the first 10% of all our income. This is very different from giving God the leftovers. Too many are not honoring God with the first fruits. They say, “Well I have these responsibilities, I have the car payment, I have the house payment, I have insurance, I have taxes, I have the barbershop, I have the Amazon bill….ta da, ta da, ta da… And after I pay all that, we’re going to look and see what we have left to give to God.”

Does this seem right? Does this honor God, that he should have to takes the leftovers? Scripture says, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Matt 6:33.

So the designated proportion is the first tenth of our income.

2. DESIGNATED PLACEThe text says to bring the full tithe “into the storehouse.” The ancient Jewish temple had a storehouse. Thus the designated place was the Temple.

For us the question is, where is our storehouse, where is our temple? For most of us it is our parish. It is the place were we are fed spiritually and cared for, where also we worship. There are some Catholics, who for various reasons, worship or attend more than one parish regularly, and one can see that the tithe might be divided proportionally in such cases. But for most of us the full tithe should go to our one parish.

The tithe includes our regular Sunday offering and may also include special parish offerings like a maintenance fund, or a school support fund. Generally however, our offerings to the poor apart from directly funding parish programs for them, ought to be considered as offerings separate from the tithe, since the Tithe is described as being directly due to the storehouse, i.e. the Temple and for its functions. This as we shall see will permit the temple, i.e. the parish, to undertake the works of God which are the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the liturgy and sacraments, and the works of service required of any parish.

3. DETERMINED PURPOSE – the text says the whole tithe should be brought to the storehouse so that “that there may be meat in my house.” In other words, that there may be a wherewithal to do God’s work.

People come to Church to be spiritually fed, to worship God in a dignified and properly apportioned place, and to receive other care from the clergy and the staff. How will that happen if there’s no “meat” (i.e. no resources) in God’s house?

Do not underestimate the expenses associated with the upkeep of your parish. There are buildings and grounds to be maintained and repaired, staff to be paid a decent salary, for the office and management of the church, musicians and other costs related to worthy liturgy, outreach to the poor, education costs related teachers and materials for the parish school or religious education program, capital expenditures, and lots of other things. Most parishes have budgets well north of one million a year. My own parish of 900 families has a 1.3 million dollar budget.

Hence if we are going to be financially faithful, we have to release our funds in a way that corresponds to the what is just and to the needs of God’s Church. Scripture sets that number at 10% of our gross income for the parish, and it is a good goal to aim for even if the Church does not specifically command it by law.

But here comes the best part. God will not be outdone in generosity. And if we will be faithful in our finances, God will release blessings. Thus the text from Malachi concludes its threefold plan. Having reviewed our faithfuleness, and released our funds accordingly we:

III. Step three – RECEIVE YOUR FRUITFULNESS – In the Malachi text God sets forth the blessings, the fruitfulness that comes to the faithful: – And prove me now herewith, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

In effect the Lord announces a four-fold blessing. To those who are faithful to tithing, God will:

1. RENEW YOUR FAITH - for the text says, prove me now herewith says the Lord. In other words, when you get right with God in your finances you will find your faith will be strengthened. How? We will find in the laboratory of our own life, that God is faithful to his promises. God says, “Prove me in this, try me!” And sure enough, we see the blessings come, and our faith is strengthened.

Of this I am a witness. I have tried to be faithful in that which is least (money) and God has blessed me with that which is much (faith). My finances have become more stable, I do not overspend, I am more satisfied with what I have, I am less concerned about money, whether my own or the parish, I trust God, and thus I am also more generous. I have “proved” God in this and not found him to be wanting in the least. And thus my faith is renewed and strengthened. I know so many other tithers who have similar stories!

2. RETURN YOU A FORTUNE - The Lord says he will open you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

The fearful often say, if I tithe I’ll have less. “No,” says God, “You’ll have more!” God will pour out a blessing. Will it all be money? Probably not. But the blessings do come as I have described above. Scripture says,

(1) Eccles 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
(2) Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
(3) Prov 11:24-25 One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A generous man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

3. REBUKE YOUR FOES - The Lord says, And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground.

In that agrarian culture the “devourers” were insects, animals and disease and drought which could destroy their crops.

For most of us however, the “devourers” are bad spending habits, living beyond our means, greed, materialism, gluttony and so forth. God will rebuke these and other foes that devour our income and/or enslave us to creditors and to debt.

I have been blessed here as already noted by release from lots of dumb and frivolous spending. More grateful for what I have, I don’t always need the latest model, the latest upgrade. And when I do need to buy, I can usually pay cash. Farewell to compounding interest that devoured all my income.

4. RESTORE YOUR FRUITFULNESS - The Lord finally says, neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

Here too, for the ancient farmers of Israel, it meant that the blessings would arrive when they could reasonably be harvested by available laborers and nothing would go to waste or rot in the field.

For us, it seems what the Lord promises is that, because our finances are now under control, and on account of the blessings of either extra income and/or a lack of overspending, we are able to be a blessing to others, the poor, the needy, our family and so forth. Tithing can and will increase our ability to bless the poor and everyone else. And thus will others call us blessed and consider us a blessing.

God never fails. He is faithful and there are many blessings that come from tithing. We discussed that at greater length yesterday.

Today’s task was to set forth the biblical teaching on tithing. Having used Malachi 3 as our primary text, we also sampled others.

Note that tithing is not to be understood as a burden, but as a way to experience blessing. Some react with fear and hostility to tithing, but the Lord says simply, “Try in this, prove me now herewith, and see if I don’t pour you out a blessing!”  I am a witness, God is faithful. I have proved him and not found him wanting.

Here’s a funny video that teaching that he who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the the measure you measure to others will be measured back to you:

31 Responses

  1. Linus says:

    Our parish could sure use that. So far our Pastor has not pushed the issue.

    • Yes, it is a problem that so few pastors discuss parish finances with their people. It is, after all their parish. Then, people can decide if they want to give more or ask for cuts. When I first arrived at my current parish it was in the Red, so I told the people that it was really their decision as to what we would do. If they did not increase the offering we would have to cut back on services and/or office hours etc. I taught about tithing as well. And the people responded well: in my very first year we moved out of the red and well into the black.

      • Clueless says:

        I began tithing as an Episcopalian, at a time that we “really couldn’t afford” it, what with some fairly severe business reversals, and a child with significant health problems.

        After I converted to Catholicism, I kept it up simply because:
        First, the Lord’s generosity to me has always overwhelmed any pretense of any generosity I might have to his church.
        Second, I found it freeing. I have never worried nearly so much about money after I began, than I did before.
        Third, it is all I can do.

        God has blessed me richly, and therefore I say the following with some hesitance. It is whining (and therefore ingratitude), and it is jealousy (and therefore sinful). It is also not the sort of thing I can take to confession for reasons that will become obvious. On the other hand, I think it is important to point out some basic facts.

        Not only do Catholic pastors not talk about tithing, they practically bend over backward to praise everything other than tithing. It is impossible not to notice that there is not one Sunday in my parish that we do not thank the music ministers, the folks who usher, the folks who work (for admittedly relatively low wages) in the Parish school and church, the mothers who come to morning mass and help out in the classrooms and the various folks who stuff bulletins etc. etc. Catholic parishes in general revolve around such people (who certainly do excellent work). All the bible studies etc are in the middle of the day so that these busy and useful people can come attend them while stuffing bulletins, and making wreaths.

        How I envy them.

        We never mention those who work 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week and therefore have only money to bring to the altar. That’s not just “the rich” though I acknowledge that I am “rich.” I know many people who work three jobs to make ends meet, and at one time I was one of them. There are no Bible studies for working folks in the Catholic church. We are “encouraged” to “put God first” by going to Bible study in the middle of the week, when the various paid adminstrators can be there, and we are “encouraged” to find a volunteer ministry such as stuffing bulletins or working in the food pantry in the middle of the week while we are at it. I guess if we did that, we would be one of the “good church people” instead of one of the folks who “just show up on Sunday, and give money.”

        The Protestant churches not only talk about tithing, but they also understand that most of their population do not work in the parish office and school. Therefore they focus on adult formation on Sunday, early in the morning, instead of placing it in the middle of the work week. They understand that most folks are not done at 6pm or even 7pm during the weekdays. It is a lot easier to talk about the biblical basis of tithing if you are willing to engage in adult formation. And folks who “just show up on Sunday” would be glad to have a Christian community as much as those who have the luxury of showing up on the weekdays.

        I have tried, in my parish to set up Bible studies for working folks but unlike the Protestant churches, this is no easy matter in a Catholic church. You need to be a certified catechist, not just some working stiff, however learned. It is considered “inappropriate” to offer to pay for the program yourself because that is “segregating monies for a specific purpose” rather than simply joyfully placing it in the collection plate for the church to use as she sees fit. The answer is always “you should start coming to our meetings (in the middle of the week) and share your ideas about ministry then.”

  2. Betsy says:

    This is a very timely post for me as I’m trying to find some dollars in our fixed income so as I can give more. I have to recommend some budgeting software that has been very helpful, You Need a Budget. You know it must be good software when the very first category in the budget is charitable giving. My problem is getting my spouse on board. He’ll be in favor of giving more, but not in spending less. So I’m going to give more and let God sort it all out.

  3. Vince says:

    I’ve always been stumped on the “gross” vs “net” part. If, say, the government takes 90% of your gross income in taxes, are you obliged to give the remainder to God and keep nothing for yourself?
    Then, what if the government takes 40%? Then are you to give 10% of the gross? That amounts to 1/6 of what you have to live on.
    What if you are paid in cash, and on your way home, a robber takes all your money? Are you then to take a loan to give God the tithe?
    In my mind, money that is taken from you against your will (and here I include taxes and robbery) does not count. Your “gross” should be considered to be the amount not taken from you by those who use force.

    • Well, then don’t tithe the gross. Tithe the net. The thinking in terms of tithing the net is that we don’t want to give God the leftovers, or have the govt outrank him. However, it is arguable that with the confiscatory policies of the govt (which takes the money before you ever see it) the “gross” becomes pretty theoretical for most people. These of course are political questions for you the laity to take up with the govt. I don’t know how we (the people) ever allowed the govt to directly sequester our money like they do. It predates my memory but at some point we allowed the govt to interfere with our relationship with our employer.

  4. Fr, JP says:

    Timely post, funny commercial!

  5. MG says:

    Msgr. Pope has been posting some very challenging material in the last few days, but it seems to me that his message is actually not clear on one crucial point: Is literally giving 10% (or more) an absolute moral requirement or not?

    Often enough, his message been put like this: giving 10% is God’s will, period. If that’s the real message, then not tithing is a SIN, and the fact that it isn’t required by Church law isn’t relevant.

    On the other hand, however, sometimes he speaks of it as if it were an ideal or a “commendable goal,” but something that some families legitimately might not be able to do.

    It makes all the difference whether it’s an absolute requirement or not. Imagine a family is able to tithe by living very frugally (no family vacation, no eating out, no going to the movies, no cable, no cell phones, no eating meat or fresh vegetables). Then this family learns that one of their six children needs an expensive operation, one they can’t afford while still tithing. What should they do? If tithing is an *absolute* requirement, then they should *not* stop tithing, even if that means that their child cannot get the operation. They should just keep tithing, and God will provide: he might give them a raise, or he might provide a medical miracle, or he might provide a beautiful and holy death for their child. Whatever happens, God should not be robbed of his portion, even if that means putting the child’s life at risk.

    But maybe that’s not really what Msgr. Pope means. Maybe he would say that in this circumstance, a good Catholic family should cut back on the tithe for the sake of the child’s health. If so, then tithing is not an *absolute* requirement.

    If the language of absolute requirements is used to describe things that really aren’t absolute requirements, everyone will soon learn that our priests don’t mean what they say. We’ve all heard Catholics claim that the Church’s teaching on contraception is an “ideal” that we should strive for but that most of us can’t really live up to. This confusion between requirements and “commendable goals” is encouraged when leaders say “This is God’s will for everyone” in cases when it really isn’t. Once people catch on to the fact that this language is just a rhetorical device, they will start thinking that all of God’s demands are really just “commendable goals.”

    • No, not for a Catholic. I think I stated many times in the article, it is not the current practice of the Church to insist that this is an absolute requirement. One might argue that the Church SHOULD insist on it (i.e. the 10% rule), but the fact is, she does not other than to insist by way of general precept (# 5) that a Catholic is obliged to support the Church in her mission by helping to provide for her needs. Hence we are dealing here with a summons to faith by God as set forth in His Word, a challenge to be sure. It is, as I have tried to argue, a plan set forth by God in Scripture both to grow our faith and fix our finances but one to be accepted by Catholics in faith, not by precept. One may therefore move toward it as a goal, perhaps by stages. However, I have seen the blessings come most dramatically to those who simply step out in faith. At any rate, it is a Scriptural tradition and teaching to be considered and I would also argue that we in the Church ought not be so reticent to simply report what God has taught for our benefit even if it is not the current judgement of the Church to require it by precept.

      Finally your use of the word “absolute” is, I would argue flawed. This teaching is about a discipline, not a dogma. Hence, in terms of disciplines the Church may vary over the centuries in how she applies them and to what degree. An example of this is priestly celibacy. It is a widespread discipline in the Western (Roman) Rite, though less so in others. It is a commendable practice rooted in Scripture, and extending back to Apostolic times. Yet, as a discipline it varies even in the West. Here in Washington DC we currently have five married priests – all converts from Anglicanism. For pastoral reasons therefore the Church does not speak of disciplines in the all or nothing “absolute” category you employ. And even very commendable and scriptural practices are not always insisted upon by the Church to the degree that they are disciplines, not dogmas.

      This therefore I think sets aside your rather exotic examples since they are rooted in an absolutist (all or nothing) thinking that is not appropriate for disciplines.

    • Bender says:

      Then this family learns that one of their six children needs an expensive operation, one they can’t afford while still tithing. What should they do? If tithing is an *absolute* requirement, then they should *not* stop tithing, even if that means that their child cannot get the operation.

      Perhaps what is needed is to not have such a constricted and legalistic conception of “tithe.” The ultimate point of the entire scheme is to make a gift of self in love to God and others. The entirety of the Law, including the tithe, is summed up in loving God and loving one another We are all in this together, the entire human family, so we should help each other out.

      Seen in this way, paying for an expensive operation for one in need IS a form of “tithing.” The parish is not the one and only “storehouse.” There are other storehouses, other places by which one can give to God and others. One is no less a Good Samaritan when the person lying in the ditch in need of medical care is a famly member. And providing payment directly to those in need, rather than going through a middle man, is also “tithing” according to this broader understanding that tithing is merely loving God and others in action. And there are other forms of supporting the Church than by cold hard cash. If you don’t have a lot of $$$$, you still have an obligation to help provide for the needs of the Church by alternate means, by prayer and service.

      But, then again, under this broader understanding — grounded in the knowledge that the whole of the Law, including the law of tithe, is to love God and one another — one does not meet his obligation by giving merely ten percent; rather, the obligation is to give the whole of himself, to place the whole of his person and the whole of his worldly goods and wealth at the service of the Lord.

  6. Jim J. McCrea says:

    I need more faith to tithe.

    My sister’s ex husband (now deceased) was a “born again” Christian who believed in and practiced tithing.

    He even tithed when he was on welfare (you can’t survive properly on that) – and somehow he was miraculously provided for. Things always showed up when he needed them.

    I remember the late Fr. Bob Bedard (founder of Companions of the Cross) talking about tithing. He said there was someone in the residence who went way beyond tithing. Whatever he received he would give out to good causes. People were always coming to the door with fifty and a hundred dollars for him and not the other people in the house. He was simply a depot station for this world’s goods. The Lord provided the circulation.

    Lord I believe, help my unbelief!

  7. Brother Rex says:

    As a convert to the Church from Protestantism I find the fact that most Catholics don’t tithe to be beyond my comprehension. Right up there with the fact that most Catholics don’t evangelize.

    When Catholics lament the closing of their parishes, I ask two questions: 1) Do you tithe?, and 2) When was the last time you invited a neighbor to Mass?

    The answers are almost invariably “no” to the first question and “years ago” or “never” to the second question.There are of course many other reasons why parishes across America are closings, but two reasons which appear to be universally present are a lack of tithing and a lack of evangelizing.

    • Clueless says:

      Catholic pastors not teach tithing, I think it has to do with the fact that most people who work in Catholic parishes/schools believe they “tithe with time,” and therefore to teach tithing as a Biblical injunction would tend to alienate the priest from his primary support network.

      Catholic pastors also do not believe in evangelizing. One of my kids friends was a baptised Catholic. However, because her folks were divorced, and she lived with a nonbelieving parent, and saw her fallen away Catholic parent only rarely, she never went to church unless she spent the weekend at our home. So after going a few Sundays with us, she asked to be allowed to receive Sacraments. “No problem!” I told her. “Wonderful. I will pay for everything, and make sure you come to religious ed every weekend.”

      Ha. Ha. Ha.

      So eight months later, after consistently “auditing” religious ed classes, consistent attendence at weekly mass, together with half a dozen emails, letters first to the religious ed folks then to the pastor then to the bishop, then – multiple times – to her bishop (she lived accross the state line and therefore “belonged” to another bishop, plus letters to the pastor of the church who baptized her 12 years earlier (who also apparently “owned” her) together with notarized letters of permission from both parents, etc. etc. she was permitted to enter the two year program. She did receive reconcilliation and 1st communion but decided to skip confirmation, after the nitwits in the religious ed office decided that she couldn’t be in the same class with my kid, but had to be in a class with her actual grade. (On the good side, her mother started taking her to the local Baptist church after that, so she is still a Christian.)

      Then there was the time I asked permission to bring my Orthodox but nonattending adult friend to church. Noooo. If she goes to church she can’t receive unless she goes through RCIA. “She’s Orthodox!” I pointed out. “We are in Communion with the Orthodox.” No dice. Needed to go through RCIA.

      Then there was the time I asked permission to have my daughter’s boyfriend enrolled in RCIA, so he could be baptised, etc. He was attending fairly regularly but missed several dates on account of having to work for a living, and got kicked out shortly before Easter for nonattendance.

      So there is a reason that “Catholics don’t evangelize.” The Church doesn’t want us to. It prefers that we leave evangelization to the “professionals.” Good luck with that.

      • Clueless says:

        I will note, that in the case of my Orthodox friend, my pastor said that since there was an Orthodox church in the area, she should attend there, rather than coming to my church with me. Of course she wasn’t attending the Orthodox church, so this was (in my opinion) a nonargument. He also said that if she had been faithfully attending and had been stranded in a city without the Mass it would be one thing, but since she wasn’t attending, she needed to be appropriately catechized so she could receive worthily.

        I will also say that in the case of my daughter’s boyfriend, the religious ed folks did make some attempt to warn and communicate with him, but he did not respond. However this is partly due to the fact that his English is somewhat limited (being Hispanic) and also because he is shy.

        However, it is tough to “evangelize” when every time you “bring a friend to Church” like we are told to do, they are put through the third degree. I’m sorry, but all my good Christian friends already go to church. The ones who are left are by definition, going to be the “bad Christians.”

        In the Episcopal church, all you need to do to be Episcopalian is to show up. I’m not saying that that is should be our model for evangelization, however the incredible bureacracy and legalism of the Catholic church is a total downer when it comes to outreach, and I am amazed that we are not all still worshipping in the Upper Room.

  8. Sue Korlan says:

    I was taught when I was young that 5% should go to the parish and 5% to funds that fed the poor, treated the sick, and such types of activities. Of course, these are often requested by extra parish envelopes, but it’s something to think about.

  9. RichardC says:

    I think I am going to keep giving a little more than 5% to the parish–I attend the one that sends me envelopes–and a little more than 5% to Catholic apostolates, at least until I hear something clearly from the bishops or a more compelling argument for one way or the other. I beg God not to withhold His blessings from me if I am giving incorrectly.

  10. AveMaria says:

    The historical perspective of tithing has TWO parts — the tithing of the members ALONG WITH the disbursements of the funds to those in need (widows, orphans, the hungry, the old, the infirm). This second half is often ignored in the discussion.

    Today, our government has substantially taken over the disbursement role; and indeed many liberal Catholics who espouse Catholic Social teaching are in favor of that. In fact, those Catholics are generally also in favor of increased taxes so the government can do more of those roles and increase disbursements.

    If you consider the radically different time we are in now versus biblical times — when our government both takes over the raising of the funds and the disbursement roles (social security, welfare, medicare, etc) and we agree that the state takes not 10% but as much as 35% for someone’s income, one must naturally conclude that the church justifiably gave up her moral authority to ask for tithing in return for supporting the government’s police power to re-distribute wealth.

  11. Catholicgirl says:

    Msgr. Pope, I have a sister-in-law who brags about tithing EVERYTIME I see her, as if to assert her superiority over me and my husband. It has become very obnoxious and inconsiderate. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt and to pay it off we survive by living in an apartment with a bullet hole in the window and red-brown water to bath in. We also earn our money, by waking-up every morning and going to work. She stays home and plays with the kids while her husband works. She “earns” her money from child support, which she gets every month from a wealthy former lover. She has never once, not even when we got married, so much as given us any help. In fact, it has been quite the other way around, with us giving what little we have to her family and never getting anything in return. I remember you once wrote an article about greed, and how we all have an obligation to share what we have with our families first, then humanity second. Well, I don’t think it’s right to give 10% to the Church every month if it means neglecting your brothers and sisters to the point where you can’t even be bothered to give them so much as a toaster on their wedding day. I find that people who tithe, at least the ones in my life, are very “generous” with God, but cheap when it comes to family. How do your reconcile all of this? I apologize for the rant, but I’m so upset and insulted by the tithers in my family (the wounds are still fresh). I myself would feel like I was stealing from my poor sister, mom and grandma if I gave money to my rich parish over them, and I would certainly never brag about it to anyone if I did. I’m not so sure your advice here is complete.

  12. [...] other than that I’m keen to hear what you think about this blog entry (link) from Msgr. Charles Pope on the Archdiocese of Washington blog (I ALWAYS light up when I see that, [...]

  13. KG says:

    My husband and I do not see eye to eye about tithing. He submits a regular church envelope to the parish and supports parish needs to the tune of 3.5% of our net. In the beginning, I taught Catholic school and accepted a 30% reduced salary compared to other teaching opportunities and considered this a substantial part of our tithe. When we had children (2 planned, 1 wonderful surprise–no contraception in our marriage), all are special needs that come with significant medical bills not covered by insurance. He would have seen the kids go without the medical care because insurance did not provide, even though it would leave them socially and academically nonfunctional. When I have worked, the money has gone for their care, Catholic education–when I can pay the bill without stopping the medical care, and some donations. I have been at home for the last few years, caring for our wonderful surprise. I would like to move higher in tithing and my husband would not at this time. I hope to return to teaching Catholic school in the future. Does working for less for the church and being open to life, even when it comes with stiff medical bills, and staying married even when you don’t agree with your husband have anything to do with tithing, or am I misdirected for not walking out with the kids and spending 10% of my single mom income? Thank you for your thoughts. I am hopeful, with time, that my husband and I may do better in gratitude to God. Giving does give me joy, but so does seeing our kids cared for!

    • Clueless says:

      Both my kids were adopted, and both (the elder particularly) had special needs that used up amazing GOBS of money, energy and time. They were both, however, extraordinarily good for my prayer life, and essentially led me into the church simply because I became so dependent on God, with them.

      At the time I adopted them, I was working a job with regular hours and good benefits which I liked a lot, but which had a relatively low salary. I could not afford all their therapies on that job, and took first one extra job after hours, than a second, working the Saturday 12midnight-8am shift as well. Juggling the child care etc. became amazingly burdensome and I was blessed to find a job with much worse hours but much better pay, which was when I began tithing. (I started at 2% and increased by a percent a year until we reached the full amount). I paid God “first” but always said to myself “if the money doesn’t come in or if I can’t afford the kids tuition. . .if this . . .if that. .. .well it will need to stop.” We have had some stunning ups and downs, but I will say that thus far the money has always come in, and the kids are doing quite well, and I am not nearly as afraid for them as I used to be. (Fifteen years ago I spent my nights lying awake, alternately weeping and praying, and wondering what would become of her).

      My oldest graduates college (God willing) at the end of this semester.The younger is doing (if I say so myself) quite brilliantly in high school. God is good. All the time. He really is good. We still both work very hard, and I do feel badly for the kids who I think feel we cant love them as much as do oher parents who seem to spend so much more time with their children then we do.

      What I am saying is that God understands your position. Just do the best you can. Obviously you cannot abandon your husband, and obviously only you can determine what setting is best for your children. There are no “rules” with special needs kids. As you know, everything needs to be highly individualized. Catholic schools were quite hostile environments for my kids (we went with a combination of public, private-nonCatholic, and intensive tutoring). However, if you can put yourself on a path to tithing (possibly by returning to work so the entire burden of providing for the family is not laid on your husband) you may find that a blessing. (I know we did).

  14. Ferdie says:

    Tithing was established at that time because of the Theocratic form of government. It is the social responsiblity of people to provide for the needy through the leadership of the time, the church and the priests, i.e. the poor, the oppressed and the widow. These in some forms are taken over already by the government on which by faith we also accept that God has allowed to govern the people.

    The true spirit of giving or tithing as what most want to call it is that giving should be free, all are invited to determine from the generosity of his heart what, to who and how much to give. There are some guidelines but in the end, the individual will decide freely upon himself.

    If a single man earns $50K a year and another family with 5 kids earn the same, surely the Lord does not count the tithe in equal terms as a percentage. So when we talk of tithing and apply the old testament interpretation of tithing to our times, we will have problems. What I can suggest is to go with what the Church is teaching, that is, we need to strive to grow in the virtue of generosity.

  15. BretS says:

    I hate to dispute with a priest, but I have to say–as an former Protestant, now a Catholic–that the insistence on a 10% tithe (which I suppose is redundant, since “tithe” is just “tenth”) really belongs to Protestantism and not Catholicism. The Protestants most committed to the 10% figure are those most likely to accuse Catholicism of “legalism”, apparently missing completely their own legalism regarding the tenth.

    The tithe of the OT was not an option–it was part of the Law for Jews in the nation of Israel, and it was ordered towards that venue. Nowhere in the NT do you see the tithe, as in “tenth” pressed or mandated in the NT. Instead you see St. Paul saying, “Now this I say: He who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings shall also reap blessings. Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound in you: that ye always, having all sufficiently in all things, may abound to every good work. As it is written: He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever. 1Cor. 9:6 – 9, DRB)

    This is why you don’t see the “tenth” as a mandate, rule, or discipline in the Magisterial teaching, but rather “The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities.” (CCC 2041, quoting CIC, can. 222).

    So some people may be able to give a tenth. Maybe they should. Others maybe not. Perhaps some should be giving 20% or 30%. I agree that it’s probably true that Catholics need to give more in general. And encouraging them do so by means of some regularity in amount would be helpful. But dipping into the Protestant well on the tithe is not the way to do it.

    Right now about a tenth of my income goes to paying Catholic tuition for my children. Would I like to give another tenth to my parish as a “tithe”? You bet. But I can’t do that and still pay the bills, unexpected medical expenses, car repairs, or maintain a prudent amount of savings, etc. So I do what I can according to my abilities.

  16. Dylan says:

    I understand that tithing is one of many ways to return God’s gifts to the Church. So what about laypeople who are confident in their ability to invest long term (i.e. life insurance, retirement plans)? To what extent should tithing (as I see it, a short term investment) take priority over growing the return on death or retirement?

    I’d think it depends on the wisdom and faith of each individual as well as their state in life (e.g. competency, fixed income vs commission, etc). Granted, for those that do commit to long term investing, the generosity and consistency required for it to pay off doesn’t remove temptations (greed) along the way or in the end (hoarding). Yet I believe a loving soul would be able to manage it with God’s grace and hopefully give a sigifnicant portion or all to the Church.

    Personally, I love the biblical roots of this discipline, which isn’t really discussed enough outside of Lent. Tithing could be a dependable well for the common good. I tend to see (but not necessarily equate) a parish’s financial situation as a sign or function of its people’s faith.

  17. Tanna says:

    Tithing is simply returning to God what already belongs to Him – the 10th of all our increase. To say we are giving God our tithes is like giving Him something He already owns, so paying our tithes is really not giving Him somethign that belongs to us. It is our offerings that we give – that which belongs to us once we have paid our tithes. Please don’t confuse offerings with tithes. There is a difference. We should be paying our tithes and giving our offerings :)

  18. Lisa Tesio says:

    I know you are not supposed to swear- but I swear by tithing. It worked so well for the 2+ years that I tithed the 10% that at the first of the year (2014) I have upped it to 11%. Initially, 11% was challenging, but I just continue to trust God – because that is what it really is: a matter of trust. I have heard that people who do not tithe don’t trust God and that it is also a matter of ingratitude. Today I would not dream of not tithing. Heck, you won’t be able to keep it quiet!! I want to encourage anyone reading these posts to put their trust in the Lord and tithe if they are not doing so.

  19. Lisa Tesio says:

    I started tithing toward the end of 2011 and have been so blessed that I at the start of 2014 I upped my tithe to 11%. Initially,the 11% tithe was challenging, but so far the Lord has come through with flying colors. I would encourage anyone who is not tithing to indeed put God to the test – He even says to do this! (I have also been unemployed for about a year and a half.) Heck, you won’t be able to keep it quiet. I am a Protestant and my denomination, Baptist, teaches tithing. Why cheat yourself out of a blessing? After all, it’s the Lord’s Word and His character to bless, rebuke the devourer and make you “a delightful land.” I don’t think that He would mind even
    being reminded during those times when doubt and fear set in about your faith and obedience in this matter.
    God bless you all.

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