Tithing (from an old English word meaning “tenth”) is the practice of donating a tenth of one’s income to the Church. Since its earliest days the Church has taught that all its members have a responsibility to support its mission and ministry; tithing is a shorthand way of describing that obligation in financial terms.
However, like many shorthand expressions, it ultimately comes up short. God does not measure out blessings to us, but pours them out until our cups are filled up and running over. We are called to be just as generous when we share our blessings with others. To a wealthy person, ten percent may be so insignificant that he or she is called to give more; conversely, a poor person may be able to share only a little – but recall how Jesus praised the poor widow who put only two copper coins into the temple treasury in Luke 21:1-4.
Should Catholics tithe? Certainly giving ten percent of one’s income to the Church or other worthy causes is a good start. But the most important question is this: What are we doing with the other ninety percent? All of our blessings from God are given to us as blessings to the community. We need to take stock of how we use all our resources not only for our own good but for the common good. This doesn’t mean that we have to give everything away and embrace voluntary poverty, but it does mean that we have to consider that the way we use our “personal” resources has an impact on the community.
All Christians are called to be good stewards of our God-given gifts. These are not merely monetary – we are also blessed with time and energy and the unique talents that God has entrusted to each one of us. It is not only the percentage or the amount of our financial contribution that matters; it is the way that we use all of our gifts – our time, our talent, and also our treasure – to build up the kingdom of God.