What Is Tithing
What is tithing?
Tithing is the practice, established by God in the Old Testament, of returning 10% of your blessings to God. Originally the tithe was given to the temple or the Church in the form of produce or livestock, since this really was the only income that the people had. As our society shifted from a barter‐based system of trade to a monetary exchange system, the tithe began to be paid in currency. Whether one gave monetary income or profit from the fields was really not as important as it was for the believer to understand that the tithe was what was owed to God. The tithe was not given based on the needs of the priests, of the Church or of the poor. It was given simply in recognition and gratitude for the blessings that God had bestowed on the individual. Thus, every believer had a need to tithe to God.
"The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal as they are counted by the herdsman’s rod.” ‐ Leviticus 27:32
Why does the Church often refer to tithing as “giving back?”
Throughout sacred scripture God tells us that everything belongs to God. He made the world and all that is in it. He made us and blessed us with absolutely every gift we have. Our lives, our families, our health, our education, our unique talents and skills, our job and our income are all blessings from God, entrusted into our care for the good of all peoples. Thus, when we tithe we are really only giving back 10% of something that ultimately belongs to God anyway. The amazing thing is that our God is a generous and abundant God who lets us keep and enjoy 90% of all His blessings.
“The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness: the world and those who dwell in it.” ‐ Psalm 24:1
When I decide to work towards a tithe, should I be calculating it based on my gross or net income?
When striving to give a full tithe, you should calculate the amount you give back to God based on your gross income. The reason for this is that stewardship calls us to give back to God first, before we take care of any of our own wants, needs or obligations – including our obligation to our government. After all, God should come before Uncle Sam, shouldn’t He? By placing God first – above all other financial obligations – we show how much we love and trust Him. Some people may never be able to reach a full tithe. Others reach that goal and keep giving, knowing that in reality it all belongs to God.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow.” ‐ Proverbs 3:9‐10
With our current financial obligations, I don’t know how it would be possible for us to convert to giving away a full 10%. Are there any other options?
Even if giving a full tithe is not immediately possible for you, it is important to work towards this goal. You can begin by committing to giving a gift that is planned, proportionate and sacrificial. Most Catholics do not even know how much they give back. When they take the time to calculate that amount they are often surprised and discomforted. We often think we are very generous yet despite the strong urging throughout sacred scripture to give back 10% the average Catholic today gives less than 1%.
The first step in working towards a tithe is to determine what percentage you are currently giving back. Then see if you can increase that percentage by at least ½ percent. If you increase your giving every year by at least ½ percent or more, you will eventually reach a full tithe. A full tithe is 10%. It is usually suggested that you give 5% to your parish and 5% combined to any other charities that touch your heart.
Of course, it might be necessary to eliminate something from your family or personal budget in order to increase your giving every year. Eliminating discretionary monthly expenses – such a phone or cable packages, memberships, entertainment, subscriptions, etc. – is often a good place to start. Sometimes input from the entire family might be helpful in finding a way that you can tighten the budget so that more can be given upfront to God. A legalistic approach to a certain percentage really isn’t as important as developing an overall grateful and generous way of life. Many who begin on this type of stewardship journey eventually find that they feel called to increase their giving even beyond the 10% level.
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” ‐ Luke 12:48