Tithing March 27, 2010

This post has been in the works for weeks now, and it just isn’t pulling together the way I thought it would. So I think I’m just going to post it as is, please bear with me.

Tithing can be a controversial topic depending on the church. Most churches do not insist on a specific tithe. Some evangelical groups would cite the old testament passages in the books of the law to say that God requires a %10 Tithe of income.

The New Testament talks alot about money being unimportant in the lives of Christians. Jesus talks about it being easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The Apostle James talks at length about being careful not to treat the wealthy as better or more desirable people. The Gospels repeatedly talk about guarding against greed.

Luke 12
15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. 34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Luke 11
39 The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. 40 You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? 41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you. 42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.

Matthew 6
2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

We also have stories that emphasis the importance of giving, like Annanias and Sophirah in Acts, who lie about how much they are giving, hoping that they will look better for having given all of the profits of the land they had sold, rather than just part of it. And we have passages like this one where God is angry about the lack of giving.

Malachi 3
Surely I, the LORD, do not change, nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob. 7 Since the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Yet you say, “How must we return?” 8 Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and in offerings! 9 You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, That there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the LORD of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure? 11 For your sake I will forbid the locust to destroy your crops; And the vine in the field will not be barren, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts.

I grew up in a house that tithed the first %10. And as a new family, my husband and I seek to do the same. As time has gone on I see it as more of a spiritual discipline than God requiring a specific percentage. If we don’t make giving specific amounts a regular part of our lives, how many of us will ever give anything? So it is easier for me to budget in our giving, so that it doesn’t become part of the slush fund that disappears into other things.

The Catholic Church also teaches that money is not to be the focus of our lives. They do not teach that tithing is necessary, and from what I can see giving is considered personal piety, with the emphasis of our lives being to serve God and others we are each called to determine what that means.

I love these quotes from the Catechism.

2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.

2536 The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods:  When the Law says, “You shall not covet,” these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: “He who loves money never has money enough.”

2101 In many circumstances, the Christian is called to make promises to God. Baptism and Confirmation, Matrimony and Holy Orders always entail promises. Out of personal devotion, the Christian may also promise to God this action, that prayer, this alms-giving, that pilgrimage, and so forth. Fidelity to promises made to God is a sign of the respect owed to the divine majesty and of love for a faithful God.

2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:  He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise. But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

You also find alot of passages on giving alms in the Apocrypha, which the Protestants eliminated from their old Testament. Here are some great quote from those books.

Tobit 4
6 For if you are steadfast in your service, your good works will bring success, not only to you, but also to all those who live uprightly. 7 “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God’s face will not be turned away from you. 8 Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. But do not hesitate to give alms; 9 you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity. 10 Almsgiving frees one from death, and keeps one from going into the dark abode. 11 Alms are a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who give them.

Tobit 12
8  Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold; 9 for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life;

Sirach 35
6 The just man’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten. 7 In generous spirit pay homage to the LORD, be not sparing of freewill gifts. 8 With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. 9 Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. 10 For the LORD is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold. 11 But offer no bribes, these he does not accept! Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion, 12 For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.

Sirach 7
10 Be not impatient in prayers, and neglect not the giving of alms.

I am grateful that from what I can tell the Catholic Church does not teach the various forms of the prosperity gospel floating around. In fact, they are decidedly against consumerism in their stance on children and birth control. However, with all this wealth of information and encouragement in giving, polls show that Catholics are 4 times less likely to tithe than Protestants.

I’ve been asked before how the Catholic Church can afford what they do and what they own? I know what the Church teaches on paper about giving, but I wonder if in the trenches greed and materialism are just as rampant in one church as in another?

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