Monday, January 17, 2011

Would You Take Jesus To Taco Bell?

Do you know any misers? I am not talking about someone who prudently spends their money frugally, but someone who selfishly hoards it. A hypothetical example might help illuminate what a miser is.

Imagine you were dating someone who asked you out to dinner. But, the only place they are willing to take you is Taco Bell. It isn't because they think that Taco Bell is good food, but they know they can keep the date cheap. Now imagine that this happens every time you go out on a date. They only want to take you to fast food joints because they don't want to spend their money on taking you anywhere else.

This kind of person is a cheapskate. They selfishly value their money over you. They show just how little they value you by their actions.

How would you feel about the prospects of this relationship continuing? Doesn't sound much like marriage material in my opinion.

But, don't be too quick to judge. Too many Catholics treat Jesus in the same manner. How? Many of us don't tithe, but rather give when it is convenient and easy.

Most Catholics are tippers, not tithers. Many don't sacrificially give to God, but tip Him when they feel like it.

Most Catholics only give when convenient. This isn't a loving gift to God. Imagine if someone else only gave to you when it was convenient and never sacrificed for you. This action doesn't show a real deep love for another, but a selfishness and a love of money.

The questions then start to bubble up:
  • Is God good to us? 
  • Did He not give us everything? 
  • Did He not die for our sins? 
  • Did He not bless us with material belongings? 
If He did all these things, then what do we owe Him? I believe we owe Him everything.

A good way to examine where we are in our journey with Christ is to check our next bank statement. Have I given what I should? How does this reflect my relationship with Christ?

The widow's mite can teach us much:
"He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, 'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.'" - Mark 12: 41-44
A note on this passage:
  • It isn't the amount that we give that God is pleased with, but the attitude of faith that is behind the giving. We either give with faith or hoard in fear and doubt.
We have a choice - we can give from our abundance and tip God or we can sacrificially give and tithe. We can give to God first or open our wallets and purses when it doesn't hurt too much.

In understand how hard this can be. In fact, my wife and I made one of the two biggest leaps of faith as a couple when we chose early-on in our marriage to start tithing. Why did we start? Because some friends challenged us to do so. I thank them for doing so, because it changed my life and marriage. It changed how I look at what I "own" and what is really owned by God.

We do not regret our tithe and the money we return to God  Why?
Because Jesus is more than a cheap date...


Peggy said...

When I make the effort to give a little more than I can afford, God helps me out. It happens everytime! It happened yesterday when I decided to give more money at Mass than I expected to. My husband is underemployed, we have our first child on the way and trying to get out from under debt. We have cut everything to save money but not our duty to support our church and charity. So today I find out that I am getting a significant raise starting in March! It is not the first time this has happened to us. God does provide and we fully believe in doing our part for Him.

Ryan Ellis said...

As a tax guy, I always have been confused about what the "baseline" should be for tithing. Interested to get the responses of others to this.

As I see it, the options are:

1. Comprehensive income. This would include the value of fringe benefits from work, non-taxable income like Social Security, and miscellaneous income like gifts. It would also include all other common sources of income like wages.

2. Gross income, which would not include any of the particular things from (1), but would include common sources of income like wages, interest, dividends, business profits, capital gains, rental income, pass-through income, unemployment benefits, etc.

3. Adjusted gross income. Gross income minus a few selected deductions like student loan interest. Bottom of page 1 of your 1040. AGI is used for many purposes to describe "income" in the tax and financial world.

4. Taxable income. AGI minus all deductions like mortgage interest and personal exemptions.

Red Cardigan said...

In our wealthy country, one thing to consider is that your parish may need your *time* as much, if not more, than your money.

So if you can't realistically give 10% of your income (by any of the possible standards Mr. Ellis lists), how about offering a service to the church, one that they would otherwise have to pay for? That's a different sort of sacrificial giving, but giving our time (especially on a weekly basis!) really can be a fitting offering.

Amanda said...

Bravo! This is a great article, and a topic that not many people are brave enough to tackle. Sadly, what you write is true. At my parish (from a recent survey) the parishioners generally give about 1% of their income. How sad!

While it's nice to think that giving of our time is all that we are called to do, I think that's missing the point and glazing over the subject. It is important to tithe. It was done in the Old Testament (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5) and it was about 10% of all income from the TOP, not after taxes. Paul, too, states in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) that we should set aside a portion of our income in order to support the church.

My husband and I committed to tithe 10% off the top of our income when we were first married. It hasn't been easy, but it's not supposed to be; we're not tipping. I stay at home and my husband works for the Church (so you can imagine from all the "tippers" out there that our total income is not large... hehe!). The best part, God has blessed us abundantly for being faithful to tithing, and we certainly could never have done (or continue to do it) without Him. But the Lord is faithful, and provides over and above... so trust Him, give to the Church to help build it up, and TITHE!

Red Cardigan said...

Amanda, I was working on a reply, but it got a little long. I posted it here, if anyone's interested:

Marcel said...

Erin - I don't think it has to be an either/or situation. We should give both.

Red Cardigan said...

Marcel, I agree that we should give both time and money to the Church. I get a little concerned over discussions that center around the 10% number as if it's some kind of "mandatory minimum" that all Catholics should give.

As I wrote in my post, the original idea of tithing was that a man gave ten percent of the *increase* of his goods: cattle, land, crops and fruits, etc. This is not even remotely the same as believing we are obliged (or even strongly encouraged) to give ten percent of an annual *salary*.

Why? Because a salary isn't the same thing as an "increase" in one's income. The sad truth is that few people have had any increase at all in income (especially when rising food and fuel costs have outpaced small "cost of living" increases when these are even available) in the recent past. When they give money to the Church, they give a portion of the money they actually need to live on, not a ten percent "cut" of their most recent raise and/or bonus.

Now, it's still good to give--but getting hung up over the 10% number causes consternation to some people when it shouldn't.