This originally appeared in The Message, the Diocese of Evansville’s weekly newspaper
With the New Year comes decisions about how we are going to share the gifts God has given us.
Here’s a question that gets asked a lot: “How much do we tithe?” Then it’s followed up with “Is that gross or net income?”
Whenever I hear this, I get indigestion. We have just turned showing gratitude to God, who gives us everything, into an accounting exercise.
Seriously – tell me that question, “gross or net,” has never crossed your mind.
Let’s look in on a Catholic family working on their budget.
“Ok, here is my salary. Here is my wife’s salary. Ten percent of that is … Wow, that’s a lot. We can’t give that much. Oh, I forgot to deduct taxes. No, that’s still too much. We have to leave out our 401k contributions. We should also leave out our employer matches, because they’re not really part of our salaries. Insurance, mortgage, child care, groceries, and recreation. We can’t forget recreation. I know that’s required in the Bible somewhere.
That brings it to …. Now that’s a number I can live with. (Yelling into the next room) Honey, I’m going to make a $10 donation to St. Michael’s this year.”
Maybe that’s a little dramatic. But then again, maybe not. Is our tithing calculation reflective of figuring out our adjusted gross income from the bottom of page one on our Form 1040?
Maybe the numbers are different, but the process is the same. We are figuring out what is the least we can pay without getting in trouble.
Ten percent is a number that regularly gets thrown into the mix. That amount is just to give you some direction. For a more definitive answer, check the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2043. “…the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
The decision as to how much you give for the “material support of the Church” is between you and God. People use ten percent because it’s convenient, and there is widespread belief that is the amount called for in the Bible. However, there is much argument about that, and you just read what the Church teaches.
When we turn our stewardship into a task, a box to be checked on our list of things to do, we might as well not do it.
There have been times when I have received an invitation to a graduation or a wedding of the child of an acquaintance / friend whom I haven’t seen for a while. I don’t know the person real well, and I know the child even less. Yet I feel obligated to acknowledge the event with a gift.
There is no love there. I do this because it feels like I have to. I search for the least expensive item that satisfies my obligation, then grudgingly wrap it up and send it off.
Why do I even bother?
Is that how we treat our Lord?
How much do we tithe? The real question should be “How much do I keep FROM God?” Quickly followed by “And why would I do that?”
As always, thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.