St. Andrew's Blog

Stewardship as a Way of Life: Treasure - Tithing

06-16-2019Weekly LetterFr. Robert Seraph Aliunzi, AJ

In our article last week, we spent time- like with a number of our previous letters- developing our understanding that God has given us all that we have as gifts. He gave you your life, your breath, your intelligence, and He gave you everything that enables you to have your job and keep it. He gave you your health. Yes, God has given you the greatest country in the world with the largest economy - America…. God bless America! Indeed, God has blessed America. Now as an American citizen myself, born and raised in a third world country, I truly believe this, that we are indeed blessed most abundantly. I believe too that if we get rid of our greed and false "self-sufficiency" and look with humility and gratitude at all that God has given us as a country and as individuals, we will realize how incredibly blessed we are, and we will be generous. We will still realize how God keeps on blessing us.

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In this article, I would like us to continue reflecting further on how we can be good stewards by sharing our treasures focusing specifically on tithing. Tithing is a biblical requirement. In the Old Testament, everybody knew that they had to give a tithe, that is, 10% of their resources back to God- and there was no question about it. This tithe was given to the Levites who were from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. All the other tribes had land, except the Levites who were the priestly class chosen to serve God in the temple. With no land of their own, the question then was, how were they going to survive? Yes, they were given some cities but no land, so how were they going to raise food to feed themselves and their families? God told Moses that the other tribes should support the Levites by tithing. They were to give portion of their food to them and that was how they were to survive.

In order to be a priest, the Levite had to be in a "perfect" condition, a male and had to be between the ages of twenty-five and fifty. If one had a broken finger or a bad eye, they could not become a priest. The role of the priest was to offer sacrifices and also help govern Israel. They were responsible for collecting the tithe since they also had the responsibility of feeding their families. Whereas the Levites collected these tithes, they were also required to tithe, and this tithe was used to provide for the poor. In the Old Testament, the poor were specifically provided for in the year of jubilee. During this time, debts were canceled, land was left to fallow, prisoners and slaves were set free.

Now, how does tithing as a function of stewardship apply to our modern Churches? In many ways! First of all, our Churches do not only have priests who are to be taken care of but also the entire Church as well. In order to serve you parishioners adequately and provide for your sacramental, spiritual, and pastoral needs, we need to have all the required personnel who themselves have to be paid. We then have the buildings and the Church complete with lighting, air conditioning and water among others, to be paid for just as you do in your families. For instance, the weekly cost of running our parish, minus the payroll, is $23,518.64. Where does this money come from? It should ideally come from each parishioner who enjoys the services of their Church. It should come from tithing of the 10% of your income to support your Church. Instead, our weekly plate income, which should cover the above amount on average, is $18,000.00. To make matters more serious, this number drops further during summer, while bills do not reduce.

Unfortunately, in the Catholic Church not much is emphasized about tithing as a religious responsibility as it is done in the Protestant Churches. In the process, very often, we end up giving to a need rather than seeing the need to give to our Church. That is why, I believe, in our own Church here at St. Andrew, we have the scenario pointed out above. I have also observed that the total collection often goes up when we have a second collection and drops on ordinary Sundays when we don't. Ideally, it should remain at the mark of the second collection rather than drop- if we are to pay our bills comfortably. This non-emphasis on tithing, I suspect, is also partly responsible for the fact that of the 4,349 Registered Households, only 1,536 (35%) contribute monthly. Look at the details of this again, which I shared last week:

Donation/Year Total # of Families % Total Contributors
$1 - $250 820 53%
$251 - $500 263 18%
$501 - $2000 386 26%
$2001 - $5000 59 4%
%5001 - $10,000 4 1%
Over $10,000 3 1%

Fr. Robert