[Previously published by the WKICU – Warga Katholik Indonesia California Utara, Silicon Valley newsletter.]
by Jennie Xue, MTh (candidate)
One of our Protestant brothers and sisters’ religious practices is tithing, which refers to giving 10 per cent of one’s income to the Church. It’s an honorable thing to do, but how about Catholics? Are we obliged to tithe? If yes, how much? Also, other than tithing, what are our other financial responsibilities as Catholics?
First things first, let’s clarify. Catholics aren’t obliged to give away 10 per cent of our income.
It was practiced in ancient Israel under the Law of Moses. It can be found in the Old Testament Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Today, under the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC2043), the fifth precept, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church,” practicing Catholics are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church based on their ability.
The Biblical sources of the above precept are 1 Corinthians 16:2 and 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8.
1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of the week [Sunday], each of you should set aside whatever he can afford.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Now, what are the other financial responsibilities God urges us to do? Let’s review these OT and NT verses and grasp what He asks us to do.
Old Testament sources:
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
Applied interpretation: Always honor God; He will not forsake you financially.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Applied interpretation: Always strive to be debt free, so you aren’t being enslaved by the lender.
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This, too is meaningless.”
Applied interpretation: Be grateful for what you have at hand and don’t work simply to earn more and more money. There are many things more important than money.
New Testament sources:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Applied interpretation: Money is neutral and shouldn’t be regarded as the “ultimate source” of everything in your life. Choose between devoting yourself to God or money. We hope you’d choose the former.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Applied interpretation: What you give away joyfully would return to you in multiply. This also applies to charitable donations.
1 Timothy 6:10
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Applied interpretation: Money isn’t evil. It’s the love of money that’s evil and the root of all kinds of evil that appear later on.
To sum up, Catholics aren’t obliged to give away 10 per cent of their money to the Church but are advised to give joyfully. You can also donate other things other than money, such as time, energy, skills, information, and other resources.
And remember, money itself is neutral; greed (love of money) is evil. So if one of your goals is to be financially independent, go for it. No need to be ashamed; as long as you continue giving in any of the aforementioned forms, the Lord will continue to bless you.
Have a fruitful life, everyone. Thank you for reading.