Your question reminds me of a little story I heard once. It goes like this: A one-dollar bill and a twenty-dollar bill were talking. The twenty-dollar bill was telling the one-dollar bill what fantastic times he always has; he goes to the best restaurants, to the theater, the opera, etc. The one-dollar bill said, “How wonderful and interesting your life is. All I ever get to do is go to church!” Many of us would have to agree how true that story is!
In speaking about tithing and what we should give to the Church, we often forget that everything we have already belongs to God. Our money and possessions are not ours but His. All that we have is ours only because He allows us to have it. If we in the world today were to place God first in our lives, there would be no question or problem about tithes because our hearts would be filled with charity and we would give to and support the Church in the best way that we were able to.
Jesus was very critical of the Scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, because they tithed but neglected the more important matters justice, mercy and faith (Mt 23:23). Even though we do find that tithing (giving 10% from the profits of land and stock to the clergy for their support) was customary in Old Testament times, Jesus taught the Apostles to depend instead on charity when He sent them on their mission (Mt 10: 9-10). St. Paul tells us that the Lord Himself “ordered that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel” (I Cor 9:14). Such support, of course, was spontaneous and within a person's means. In other words, Jesus was counting on the fact that any followers of His would always be moved by charity and give to support the Church in whatever way they could. Are we doing that?
The Catholic Church does not require a “tithe” of any percentage of income or any other source. As stated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the precepts of the Church maintain that, “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (CCC #2034). Jesus said that a man cannot have two masters, God and money.
The Church never demands that we give more than we can afford, but the truth is that many of us can afford to give more than we do. It is funny how, to so many, a $100 bill “looks” like so much when you take it to church but so little when you take it to the mall.
© Copyright 2004 Grace D. MacKinnon
For permission to reprint this article, or to have Grace speak at your event, contact Grace MacKinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: email@example.com. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.