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What is the Tithe and why is it important?

Tithing is a virtue!

In fact, if you look at the books of the Old Testament, the worship of God is closely tied up with different kinds of offerings. The book of Leviticus is filled to the brim with different kinds of offerings… sin offerings, thanksgiving, wave offerings (whatever that means). Chapters and chapters are devoted to the topic of the offering.

The word ‘tithe’ comes from the word meaning 1/10th. The first example that you see of the tithe is in the 14th chapter of Genesis when Abraham offers a tithe of his spoils to Melchizedek in thanksgiving for rescuing his nephew Lot from the neighboring kings. His tithe was an act of worship and thanksgiving.

It’s no mistake that the mass centers on the Eucharist, which can be translated as ‘thanksgiving’. In the Levitical writings, the thank offering was always a cake of bread. Funny how God makes everything fit together.

The Mass is not a substitute for a personal tithe

When Jesus chastised the Pharisees about their tithing of mint, He is not repudiating the concept of tithing but rather putting it in the context of greater demands of justice. He says that they should continue to do it but they also need to take care of their primary obligations, such as taking care of elderly parents.

I think there is a fear in the Church that preaching about tithing will ‘turn people off’ and empty the churches. It’s simply ungrounded in reality. Successful protestant churches have a longstanding tradition of hammering home the responsibility to tithe to their church, and people continue to come.

The reality is something very different. When you start giving to the Church, your sense of ownership, of participation increases. You begin to take ownership for those things that you invest your money in. You want to see it flourish, to see it grow and succeed.

There is also the reality that something spiritual goes on in the act of tithing. In the 3rd chapter of Malachi, God chastises His people for neglecting to bring their tithes into His Church. Then He does something interesting. He challenges them to try Him, to test His generosity. He says, “Bring your tithes and offerings and you will see a river of blessing flow out upon you.”

Tithing is an act of faith

God doesn’t need our tithe. He created everything out of nothing and could do it again if He wanted to. WE need our tithe. To give thanks by giving to God, through His Church, in response to His enormous generosity to us. And… in hopes of His continued and overwhelming generosity in response.

In your parish, the weekly or monthly offertory is the vehicle for the ‘tithe.’

Tithe vs. Treasure

I recommend changing the language “Time, Talent, and Treasure,” to “Time, Talents, and Tithe.” Not only is it more poetic, but it changes the way people think about their money and the Church. If you refer to their money as treasure, you’re unconsciously setting off the “My Preciousssssss!” siren in their heads. The reality is that money isn’t treasure. It’s just an instrument of economic exchange. The treasures of the Church are the graces won for us by our Savior. Faith. Hope. Love. These are treasures that no moth can eat, no thief steal.

Your tithe, on the other hand, is what God has given you to give away. It’s a profoundly different way to think of your resources… a real game changer. Why horde what has been given to you to give away? Especially when you have been promised that it will be returned to you a 100 fold. Teach your parish to give using the logic of faith, not the logic of scarcity.

Looking for more articles on offertory giving? Try these:

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Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com. Image courtesy of Simeon Solomon via Wikiart.com, via Public domain, no rights reserved.
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