Throughout the year in the Mass readings, the subjects of tithing and being a good steward often come up. We hear the parable about the workers that come to the field at various times of the day, yet all are paid the same wage when the work is done. We listen to story of the Prodigal Son who squandered his entire fortune, but humbled himself to come home to his father who welcomed him with open arms. Many Old Testament readings refer to giving one-tenth of the fruits of the harvest to the Lord while still living abundantly off of what is left.
Sometimes these accounts from the Bible can leave us scratching our heads or dismissing the message as irrelevant in our modern day. We would find it completely unfair if we were paid the same amount as someone who had only worked one hour after we had spent an entire day working in a field. We would probably feel justified in resenting a sibling who returned home penniless if we had chosen a more responsible path for ourselves. And how are we to give ten percent off the top of our income before paying any other bills when the government takes far more than that from us?
We aren’t given much background in these passages, but for the sake of argument, what if the workers that showed up “late” had already been working at another field for 8 hours? What if the sibling who lost everything came home because he was terminally ill and needed to be surrounded by family in his final days?
And, it is unfortunate, but giving ten percent has not been taught faithfully by the Church. As a result, many people give as an after thought, rather than planning their Mass offering into their budgets in a more thoughtful and prayerful way. It can be rather humorous to see people scrounging around for something to put in the basket as if they are somewhat surprised when the collection basket is passed at each Mass.
We are hearing about tithing more from the pulpit and the Biblical references to tithing as being “ten percent”, but since it hasn’t been taught for such a long time, the ten percent tithe is usually a goal to be reached, rather than a starting point for most people.
I believe that God always intended for us to give ten percent and live off the rest, while working toward giving more than ten percent throughout our lives. The secular world has skewed our thinking about these passages and unfortunately we forget about the blessings that rise up when we are good stewards.
We may have backed ourselves out of the ten percent mentality, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t work toward the tithe in our weekly giving. How many times have you paid it forward in what might seem like a small way to you, but it’s huge to the person on the receiving end? Just like these Bible passages, we don’t know everyone’s story. But we can bless people everyday with our time, our talent and our treasures. And that’s being a good steward!
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should have the means to contribute so freely? For everything is from you, and what we give is what we have from you.” ~1 Chronicles 29:14