Encourage Tithing?

Q. Why doesn’t the Catholic Church encourage tithing? Soon after we were married in our early 20s the pastor of our new parish gave a sermon on tithing. That day we decided that we would give 10 percent of our money to charity and save 10 percent. We would live on what was left. Even when my husband lost his job and I was not working, we continued to give 10 percent of the unemployment compensation to charity. Many people we know made far more money than we did, and didn’t have as many expenses, yet we always had what we needed. Our six children all went to Catholic grade schools and high schools, and all have college degrees. There is no reason we should have the savings that we do, except that as our pastor said, “God’s generosity cannot be outdone!” It was over 40 years later, when we were on vacation, that we heard another sermon on tithing. Catholics are known for not being very good givers. Why not encourage tithing?

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

Thank you for sharing this inspiring witness to responsible stewardship. I have known quite a number of families who, like my own, are being blessed through the practice of tithing. I have heard others regretfully say they can’t tithe because at the end of the month there’s almost nothing left. I tell them they have taken the wrong approach. To tithe means to take 10 percent off the top, so to speak, and let God help you live on the rest. Tithers have told me they are in better financial condition than when they gave only 1 or 2 percent of their income. Tithing can involve more than giving 10 percent to one’s church and to charity. 

I know a family whose tithe runs to almost 35 percent of their income, and who believe they are truly blessed thereby. Your pastor back in your early married life spoke Gospel truth. You cannot outdo God in generosity.

Tithing should be understood not only in matters of money. We owe God a tithe of our time and talents in serving him. What proportion of our time do we devote to personal evangelism, to ministering to shut-ins, to work with community projects for the poor?

Why doesn’t the Church encourage tithing? Why don’t our clergy encourage tithing? It’s a failure of leadership not to hold up this challenge of stewardship to our people. “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21). Tithers find that putting a regular portion of their treasure where it should be (in God’s service) greatly helps to put and keep their hearts also in the right place. I urge all our readers, “Try it! See what God can do through you!”