What is tithing?
Tithing is the practice, established by God in the Old Testament, of returning 10% of your blessings to God. Originally the tithe was given to the temple or the Church in the form of produce or livestock since this really was the only income that the people had. As our society shifted from a barter-based system of trade to a monetary exchange system, the tithe began to be paid in currency. Whether one gave monetary income or profit from the fields was really not as important as it was for the believer to understand that the tithe was what was owed to God. The tithe was not given based on the needs of the priests, of the Church, or of the poor. It was given simply in recognition and gratitude for the blessings that God had bestowed on the individual. Thus, every believer had a need to tithe to God.
“The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal as they are counted by the herdsman’s rod.” – Leviticus 27:32
Is tithing still necessary in the Catholic Church today?
Tithing is absolutely still necessary in the Catholic Church today. When God introduced the concept of the tithe in the Old Testament He told the Israelites this contribution was necessary from them to support the work of the Levites and the poor in the community. Today our Church still needs our support to pay the expenses and financial obligations it incurs as it operates in a commercial society. Salaries, benefits, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and service fees are all expenses that never even existed when Our Lord first decreed that each of us was to give back a percentage of what we have. Additionally, we are still called to care for the poor among us.
“Each year you shall tithe all the produce that grows in the field you have sown…so that the Levite who has no share in the heritage with you and also the alien, the orphan and the widow who belong to your community, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake.” – Deuteronomy 14:22, 29
Tithing is such a great sacrifice? Are there any real benefits?
In addition to the fact that you are following God’s will and providing your Church with the resources it needs to carry out the work of Jesus Christ here on earth, those who embrace tithing report that this approach has numerous benefits. The satisfaction that comes from gratefully sharing your blessings is tremendous.
When you take a hard look at your spending and plan to make God first in your budget you quickly begin to realize the difference between what you need and what you want.
You begin to eliminate the endless clutter of material wants from your life and start to more fully appreciate the many blessings that you already have.
You realize that commercialism works to convince us that we never have enough of the right things, even though God has already blessed you with all that you need.
You stop being “consumed by consumerism” and “possessed by your possessions” and begin to slow down and prioritize not only how you spend your money but also how you spend your time.
Once you stop trying to satisfy yourself with material possessions and spending, you may even find that you enjoy simple pleasures more fully – especially time to deepen your relationships with God, with loved ones, and with your community.
Ultimately, those who tithe often feel that the practice brings more joy, more peace, more contentment, and more balance to their lives.
“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return to measured out to you.” – Luke 6:38
Is there a simple way to know if I am truly tithing, without doing all the math?
Here is an easy formula for determining your tithe to your parish.
Take your pre-tax income.
Round it to the nearest thousand.
Then take off the last three zeros. For example, a person making $40,000 annually would take off the last three zeros and be left with $40.
This is the amount you should be giving every week, if you are giving 5% back to God through your parish.
You would also want to be giving the same amount – the other 5% – to other charities that are important to you, such as schools, hospitals, social service agencies, missions, religious orders, etc.
If you’re not sure the formula works check the math. 5% of $40,000 is $2000. Divide by 50 weeks. (Easier and quicker than 52 weeks.) You would give $40 a week.
You can also check on your tithing level every year as you complete your income tax. It’s easy to calculate. Divide your total charitable contributions for the last year by your gross income for that year. Move the decimal point over two places and that is your percent of giving.
So if your answer is .0346, you are returning 3.5% of your income to God. If you are not happy with the number, plan ways to increase your giving.
“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.’”
– Luke 12:15