Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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Tithing used to be emphasized a lot more in the past as necessary to lead a good Christian life but has fallen out of favor.
I recently taught my students about stewardship which included a lesson on tithing. I thought it was an important lesson to teach because my experience is that people don’t think that it is important to give money to the Church. Some people get extremely offended when they are told that the Church needs money. They don’t think it is the Church’s business what they do with their money and how dare the Church tell them that they have to give what they have worked so hard for and deserve. Some have actually walked out of the church when the priest has to give his once-a-year homily on the finances of the church.
In the Gospels, Jesus teaches so many lessons about money. Why? Because it is so hard to detach ourselves from money. It is so easy to justify keeping and using money.
Well, I could pledge to help this high school student go on a mission trip but we need to keep saving up for Suzy’s college fund.
I could give money but I really need to save money for Christmas presents.
And so on.
I have to admit, we haven’t tithed since Olivia was born. When we got married, we started off really good. 10% of every paycheck automatically deposited into an account which we then distributed to the places we wanted to give money to. It was a really good system and we didn’t miss the money because it was never part of our spending money to begin with. Then Olivia was born. Hospital bills started pouring in. Brandon got a new job based on commission. And we cancelled the 10% deposit and have not done it since.
Now let’s just run some numbers. The general guideline we followed was that we set aside 10% of the income we received after taxes and stuff was taken out. 5% went to non-profit organizations we wanted to support, 4% went to our parish, and 1% went to the diocese. So, theoretically, if a person were to make $36,000/year after taxes, that person should be giving $3,600/year:
$1,800 to non-profits,
$1,440 to the home parish,
$360 to the diocese.
I got to wondering: why it is so hard to tithe? Why do people not think it is important? Why do people get so mad when the Church asks for money?
I think it is because we can always use more money. According to our example, if we did not give the $3,600 to charity but kept it and put it in savings, it would only take 3-5 years to have a pretty decent down payment for a house. A house isn’t a bad thing to have. Especially if your family is growing and space is getting tight. That white picket fence and crown molding can be very tempting.
Me, for example, I have a few things on my wish list. Now that we have Olivia we realize how important pictures are and our digital camera, while good, does not take really great pictures. Most are either too bright or too dark. I’ve been eyeing our friends who have those fancy Nikons that produce such clear and perfect pictures. Then I’ve really been wanting a king size bed for a while. With Olivia we decided to co-sleep and space can get pretty tight with two adults and a baby in a queen size bed. I have been trying to figure out how we could maybe afford a bigger bed before the next baby gets here. On top of that, I’ve also been wanting a nice area rug for our living room. I’ve wanted this for years. It would just make the space look better and it is nice to have a warm rug to step on when winter sets in. I’ve been eyeing this beautiful floral rug at Pottery Barn. We could easily buy all three of these things with $3,600.
That’s why it is so darn hard to give money. I don’t think any of the things I want are extravagant and, in general, would benefit our family. It’s not like I want to use the money to buy a Rolex or anything like that. It is easy to justify.
But when I stop and think about it, we don’t need any of these things. That’s why we are called to tithe. Because it is hard. Because it makes us feel the pinch. Because it requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of those things it would be nice to have.
I don’t think it is bad to buy a new camera or a rug or a bigger bed but I can still donate money and buy these items, I’ll just have to save for them a bit longer.
I’m just as guilty as the next person of not tithing. We stopped giving when we took on a mortgage and our financial future became unsure and we found out we were expecting a new little one. There are tons of reasons that I think would justify keeping money. But over and over again in the Gospels we hear that in order to be good in the eyes of God we have to put God before money, we have to detach ourselves from material possessions, we have to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth.
Man, is this hard to do but that is why we should give money. Because it is only in this struggle that we can prove that we are not attached to money. In the struggle we learn to see what is needed and what is not needed. In the struggle we become more of what God wants us to become. And that person that God wants us to become maybe doesn’t have a Pottery Barn rug.