Stewardship: GRATITUDE and TITHE

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I GIVE BECAUSE…

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Born within each of us, and conferred to us at our baptism, is an inherent need to give, a need that does not expect anything in return. Why? Because we are made in the image of God – to be like Jesus – to live selflessly, with compassion and empathy, to do the Father’s will and build His kingdom. Recognizing that all, including our money and possessions, is gifted from God, allows us to respond in gratitude.

As Catholics we have the tendency to compartmentalize our money and possessions away from our faith life. But throughout Scripture and especially in the Gospels, Jesus instructs us on how we should relate to material goods. More than 50% of His parables were about money and possessions because he knows how easily we can become owned by them. Those on the path to discipleship understand that whatever is owned by them is merely being held in trust from God. Recognizing the need to be a good steward with these gifts and to share them lovingly is all part of our spiritual growth and personal transformation. Just as important, it is how we contribute to fulfilling Jesus’ mission of building the Father’s kingdom here on earth.

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…BECAUSE GOD WANTS ME TO

Tithing

The word tithe actually means one-tenth and the act of tithing, a very ancient practice of worship, means setting aside a tenth of one’s income to return to the Lord. It was established in the Old Testament by Abraham and a man called Malchizedek (cf. Genesis 14: 18-20). Originally the tithe was given in the form of produce or livestock, as that was one’s “wealth”. As the culture shifted from a barter-based system of trade to a monetary exchange system, the tithe began to be paid in currency. Whether one gave livestock or money was not as important as understanding that it was a grateful response to a generous God. It was recognizing with gratitude all the blessings God had bestowed, realizing we have an inherent need to give as an act of worship, not merely as a duty. Loye Young, a Catholic blogger, summarizes with this true story:

“Home for me is a 16-foot travel trailer at a camping ‘resort’ in San Antonio, Texas. One afternoon last week, I was sitting in my lawn chair under the awning, which serves as my living room, when I saw my friend Adam walk by. He was carrying a plastic bag of Hot Pockets and Cokes he’d bought at the drugstore down the street.

Adam (that’s his real name) is in his early twenties, thin as a rail, and lives alone in a one room cabin down the hill from me. The cabin has no running water, so he uses the camp facilities for the restroom and to shower.

He works for minimum wage on an asphalt crew in the 100 degree Texas summer heat. His thick brown hair is sunbleached to a burnt orange color, because he never wears a hat. I see him most every day as he goes to and from his job. He doesn’t have a car, so a company pickup comes to get him and bring him home. He rides in the back of the truck. He always smiles. I’ve never seen him unhappy.

Anyway, as he was walking by, I said hello and so he stopped to chat. We exchanged some small talk about how hot the day was. Gesturing to the computer on my lap, he asked what I was working on. I told him I was writing an article about giving to God and what that means for our salvation. He looked at me like he remembered something, but forgot how he knew. What he said next, in his slow Texas accent, was as lucid, theologically accurate summary of Christian giving as I have ever heard.

’You mean tithin’, right?’ Adam paused and squinted his eyes. ‘God owns everything, so when he gives me something, I give him back 10%. If I do, he promises me a blessin’.’ Then he shook his head, grinned broadly, and said, ‘But I don’t give for the blessin’. I give because he wants me to. It’s all his anyway.’

I was reminded of the words of our Lord: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants ‘ ( Luke 10:21). The article I was writing is 9,000 words long, but Adam had summarized it in 45 words!

I told him that if everyone understood what he just said, I wouldn’t have to write the article. He laughed and said, ‘Not everybody gets it.’”

Tithing as an Act of Worship

It is no accident that the fruits of our labor are offered at the same time as the presentation of the bread and wine. Just as bread and wine represent the “work of human hands”, the money collected represents the results of our work. This monetary gift represents the gift of ourselves to God, from our hard work and sacrifice. Just as God transforms the bread and wine and gives them back to us to share in His life, God accepts our monetary gifts and transforms it through the work of the parish community and allows us, as disciples, to fulfill our mission of making Jesus Christ known and loved.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine our vats will overflow.” Proverbs 3:9-10

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THE JOY OF GIVING

Disciples consciously sacrifice to give and work towards a full tithe (10%), making possible the work of God and all that is happening around us. This intentionality helps prioritize money in its proper place in our lives, allowing us to better manage our budgets and free ourselves to share with others this powerful expression of God’s place in our lives. We begin to realize our needs from our wants. We begin to appreciate the many blessings we already have in our lives, that God has blessed us with all that we need. We begin to understand and stop being “consumed by consumerism” and being “possessed by our possessions”. We begin to slow down and prioritize our time and money, allowing ourselves to deepen our relationship with God, loved ones and our community. Ultimately, the practice of tithing offers more joy, peace, contentment and balance to our lives.

“Where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” (Matthew 6:21)

Reflection

Take some time to reflect on how you view your possessions and resources:

Ownership and Need

  • Are you owned by your possessions, or do you see them as God sees them, gifts that you merely hold in trust for Him?

  • Do you routinely give to a need, or do you understand that you have an inherent need to give?

Giving Your “First Fruits”

  • Do you plan and budget your giving?

  • Do you give to God your “first fruits” rather than whatever is “leftover” at the end of each week or month?

  • Have you assessed your current giving level to the parish Stewardship Fund?

  • Is your giving honest, consistent and generous?

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TITHING ACTION PLAN

Goals

Use these suggestions as inspiration and set realistic goals that will allow you and your family to encounter Jesus and share in the work of building His kingdom. While many parishioners are not in a position to start out tithing (giving 10%), over time, by adding a percentage increase each year, the 10% can be reached.

  • Prayerfully consider a gift to the Stewardship Fund that is honest, consistent and generous.

  • Become a new giver by making a weekly donation of one hour of pay or $5 per week.

  • Increase your current pledge by 5% to 10%.

  • Pledge a percent of your annual income. See the Financial Guide for Tithing table below for examples.

  • Commit to a specific gift each week or each month.

Use the offertory envelopes or manage your giving online.

Working towards a tithe truly does take great faith and placing your trust in God. If you wait untilyou feel that you are financially comfortable you will never take the step.

Financial Guide for Tithing

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“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” - Luke 6:38

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LOOKING AHEAD

Stewardship Renewal Packets

You should receive your Stewardship Renewal packet the week of September 24. Please prayerfully review this material and return your Commitment form during the special offering on Commitment Weekend, Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28. Forms may also be returned by mail or in the offertory basket.