By Fr. Brian Park
“The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness: the world and those who dwell in it.”
– Psalm 24:1
Few topics test the patience of the faithful like money does. As a result, some pastors avoid the subject altogether or leave it to their business administrators to address in a once-a-year financial update at the end of Mass.
But one particularly gifted preacher spoke often and fervently about money: Jesus Christ. Our Lord called his followers to leave everything and follow him—and He astonished them by saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).
Jesus was acknowledging something we know to be true in our own lives: Material wealth—our money and our “stuff”—can be a source of attachment, conflict, anxiety, resentment or envy that keeps us from loving God and neighbor. By contrast, giving generously of what we have frees us to love and to follow Jesus with great joy.
Tithing is an ancient practice of giving 10 percent of all we have back to God. In Old Testament times and in the early Church, the tithe was paid with crops, produce or livestock, and later, in currency. While tithes are used to support the Church, the priests and the poor, that is not the reason we are called to give. Tithing is primarily a practice of humble gratitude, knowing that everything we have, including our next breath, is a gift from God.
For these reasons, tithing is more important today than ever. The demands are great: Our culture needs evangelizing, the ministries of the Church are growing, costs are rising and as Jesus said, the poor are always with us (Matthew 26:11). Beyond that, we live in an affluent society that values success, status and comfort. The temptation to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor without regard for the providence of God or the needs of our neighbor is real. But Jesus warns us against exactly this temptation in the parable of the rich fool, who builds bigger barns to store his excess goods, only to die and leave everything behind.
Scripture is clear that everything in creation belongs to God, and that we are stewards—caretakers—of his goods, called to use them for the benefit of his kingdom and his people. As a parish, we can organize fundraisers, charge tuition and make special requests for specific needs, and your support of these efforts matters. But holiness is a habit, and fundraisers are not habit-forming. We are called to tithe for the salvation of souls—first and foremost, our own!
“Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.”
– 1 Timothy 6:17-19