In last week’s Blog, we talked about the first two elements of giving, which are attitude and advantages. Today we’ll talk about the amount, and approach to giving.
Before the Old Testament law, there were two instances of giving a known amount. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham gave 10 percent — a tithe — after the rescue of his nephew, Lot. In Genesis 28:22, Jacob promised to give the Lord a tenth of all his possessions if God brought him safely through his journey. With the Old Testament Law came the tithe (10%) as the amount the Israelites were required to give.
Tithing a specific percentage is systematic and the amount is easy to compute. The of danger of tithing is that it can be treated as simply “another bill” to be paid. A further potential danger of tithing is the assumption that once we have tithed, we have fulfilled all our obligations to give. The tithe should be the beginning of our giving, not the limit.
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that we are to give in proportion to the material blessing we receive. Tobit 4:7-9 commends sacrificial giving. “Give alms from your possessions. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. But do not hesitate to give alms.”
We should never, never close our hearts to the obvious needs we encounter in our path through life. A far more challenging model is to focus not on how much we give away, but on how much we really need to keep.
When asked about the amount we are required to give, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responded as follows:
“How much do I have to give? We’re sure that this thought has crossed your mind. The answer is that you don’t have to give anything. As a good steward, you should be asking the question, ‘How much do I want to give?’ The blessing that we have as good stewards is that we are free to give as much as we want. The whole question of giving shouldn’t revolve around the ‘minimum gift, but on the ‘maximum’ gift. Our gifts should come from our heart and should be an indication of our faith. (Cf. USCCB, “Stewardship – A Disciple’s Response; A Pastoral Letter on Stewardship,” p 67.)
The approach to giving comes straight from 1 Corinthians 16:2 where Paul was taking up a collection for the suffering believers in Jerusalem. We draw several practical applications from his instructions concerning this collection. “Every Sunday each of you must put aside some money, in proportion to what you have earned, and save it up, so that there will be no need to collect money when I come.”
1. Giving should be periodic: “Every Sunday….” The Lord understands that we need to give frequently. Even when you are out of town or attend Mass at another parish you should still support your own parish with your weekly offertory.
2. Giving should be personal: “Each of you….” Whether we are young or old, rich or poor, we have a responsibility to give. We honor God and give thanks when we participate in the Mass through the physical act of putting our gift in the basket.
3. Giving should be a priority: “…You must…” Giving to God must be our priority if we truly love him and want to serve him.
4. Giving should be out of a private deposit “Put aside …” If you have difficulty with the money you have decided to give, consider opening a separate account. OR set aside a special “cookie jar” into which you deposit the money you intend to give. Then, as needs are brought to your attention, the money is ready to meet those needs.
5. Giving should be premeditated: “You should each give, then, as you have decided.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) We need to prayerfully exercise the same care in selecting how much and where we give as we do when deciding how much and where to invest to invest.
6. Giving should be without pride: Don’t ever give to impress people.
In Matthew 6:1-4 we hear, “(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Giving with the right attitude, amount and approach can bring many blessings. We can never out give God – just try!