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Tithing: What, Why, Where

history of tithing how much should i tithe

Tithing is such an important gift to the Church. Yet, it can sometimes be a sensitive topic. After all, it can be uncomfortable, and maybe even confusing, when you feel like you have to give a portion of your hard-earned money on a regular basis. This is why I am so glad that my dad taught me to tithe as soon as I had my first job at the age of fourteen. His tithing lesson instilled in me that all I have is gift.

What is Tithing?

The word tithe comes from an Old English word meaning “a tenth part.” In the very first book of the Bible, we read the words from Jacob:

This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.

 

We also read in Leviticus 27:30,32 that:

All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord; they are sacred to the Lord…The tithes of the herd and the flock, every tenth animal that passes under the herdsman’s rod, shall be sacred to the Lord.

 

Traditionally, we give 10 percent of our income to the Church. Bthere is not a specific percentage of our wealth we are mandated to give. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2449 that the Church talks about tithing as a matter of the Old Covenant. So it is not binding us in the New Covenant. However, we are still called to live by love.

If it is not a matter of putting food on the table, then 10% is a good percentage to tithe.

What is important is that we give what we are able and give from our heart. It reminds us that all we have is given to us from God. At the end of our life, we will be called to give an account of how we spent our treasure.

Why Do We Tithe?

Tithing is a recognition that 100% of what we have is God’s. One day we will be called to answer to how we spent our time, talent, and treasure.

If you have the means to tithe, then seriously pray and consider tithing. If however, you are in the red, and all of your funds are going towards school or paying off loans, start by putting $2.00 in the collection basket at Mass every Sunday.

It’s not entirely about how much we give, but that we make the sacrifice of giving. Remember the widow in Luke 21:1-4?

When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.

 

The Heart Behind Tithing

What does tithing look like for you and me? Is God calling you to give up a cup of coffee each week in order to put your “two small coins” into the collection basket? If it is, remember, Jesus saw her as giving “more than all the rest” because she gave all she have. We tithe because it is what we are taught in Scripture.

There is a mosaic in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome at the Altar of Ananias and Sapphira called “Altar of the Lie.” This image shows the story in Acts 5: 1-11 where a couple is punished for keeping money that they had said would be given to the Apostles. They lied to St. Peter about who they had given their money to. This image, which is a copy of a painting by Cristoforo Roncalli, is placed in front of where the priest walks out as he leaves the sacristy to celebrate Mass. It is placed there as a reminder that the priest is called to give himself totally to God while not holding anything back.

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Where Should Our Tithe Money Go?

Our Parish

First, start with your local church. The Catechism says in paragraph 2179, “A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church…It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life…it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.”

Our parish gives so much to us. Just start with the Source and Summit of the Church, the Eucharist. I can’t think of a better place to tithe to then the very place which provides us with the grace to continue living our baptismal call each day. To live the Good News and share it with others. Finally, if every parishioner tithed to its parish, there is a good chance that parishes would not be suffering financially as severely as they are now.

Other Efforts

However, that is not to say that all of your tithe needs to go to your parish. If you would like to give a portion of your tithe to other things, consider the things you believe in and that are authentically doing God’s work. Look at the organizations that have made a meaningful impact on your spiritual life.

There is a pregnancy resource center near our home. Even though they are not explicitly religious, we strongly believe in their values and we give a portion of our tithe money to them.

We also give a portion to a non-profit which offers outdoor Catholic Youth Expeditions for high schoolers and young adults. This organization allowed both my husband and I to have a deeper encounter with Christ.

If you are an art-lover, consider commissioning a work of art for your Church. Or perhaps purchase a painting at your parish’s silent auction.

Most importantly, just ask the Holy Spirit where He is leading you to give. He will point you in the right direction.

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Susanna Parent is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She serves as Evangelization Manager for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in the Office of Evangelization. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry program with the School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas. When she’s not reading and writing you can find her enjoying life with her new husband, brewing French press coffee in her kitchen, reading wine labels with friends in an effort to discover the perfect Pinot Noir and blogging about her travel adventures. You can find out more about her here.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Paola @ Swallow the World
    April 4, 2019 at 9:26 am

    The priest spoke about this the other day at the Mass! We always want the parish to be a super cool place, with lots of activities, beautiful decorations… but it’s up to us to make that possible. Not to mention other more basic needs. I struggle to be generous with my money, thanks for this post.

  • Reply
    Loye W. Young, OP, JD
    April 9, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    The Church has repeatedly condemned as heresy the idea that the tithe is optional or may be redirected away from the parish. No Church document, including the Catechism, has ever said otherwise. In particular, the Catechism does NOT say that the tithe is not binding under the New Covenant or otherwise.

    Most pointedly, the Councils of Constance (1415) and Trent (1613) both condemned, upon pain of anathema and excommunication, to preach, teach, or hold that the tithe is merely alms or that it may be paid to anyone other than the parish. For more information and specific citations to infallible pronouncements, see https://www.catholicstand.com/withholding-tithes-church-heretical/

    St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, specifically considered and rejected the objection that the tithe is not binding under the New Covenant. See https://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/SS/SS087.html#SSQ87A1THEP1. The Angelic Doctor taught that while the obligation to give a fixed percentage of the first fruits is divine law, the particular percentage might be juridical and could be changed by the Church.

    Since the time of Aquinas, however, the Church has repeatedly reinforced the obligation of the tithe, but has in local circumstances changed the percentage. A current example is Germany, where the government collects the “church tax” at a much lower rate and pays it over to the German episcopal conference. Another example is in countries where socialist governments confiscate Church property and money paid to her.

    In the United States, however, there is no general exemption or modification of the obligation to give the full tithe, though local bishops are understandably very pastoral in their catechesis of the subject.

    An excellent resource for understanding the tithe is from the Diocese of Wichita: https://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/office-of-stewardship/documents/6172-tithing-booklet-2016/file

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