A parishioner writes asking,”I was just wondering. Does tithing mean 10% to your church solely or to give 10% charitably (missions, other ministries, etc).”
Great question. Let me start to answer that by first looking at the principle of the tithe. Our foundation is that everything belongs to the Lord because He made it and is Lord of all. We are merely His stewards. So when we give our tithes we are returning to Him a portion of what is already His. That is why we quote the passage in the Mass, as we present our gifts, “All things come of Thee O Lord, and of Thine own have I given Thee.” (1 Chronicles 29:14). Additionally when we give our offerings we are stewarding His resources where He wants them to go. Note that I am making a distinction between tithes and offerings and I will return to that shortly.
It is important to realize that the idea of tithing to the Lord came before the law. In Genesis, after Jacob had his famous dream of the angels ascending and descending on the ladder that connected heaven and earth, we read these words of Jacob. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (28:21,21). But this did not begin with Jacob. His grandfather Abraham gave a tithe to the Priest and King Melchizedek after Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and blessed him (Gen 14:18-20). Jesus also commended tithing as He was correcting the Pharisees when He said, “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” (Luke 11:42 New Living Translation).
Beyond the tithe, the Scriptures also speak of offerings. In fact there are quite a few kinds of offerings mentioned; “Free Will Offering” “Thank Offering” “Wave Offering” “Meal Offering” to name just a few. While there is no instruction in the New Testament about where to give our tithes and offerings I can offer some guidelines that I have followed. In the Old Testament the tithe was brought to the temple. In Malachi the Lord said, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing until there is no more need.” So following that principle, we give our tithe to our parish. There are other charities that we support, like Food for the Poor, but they receive our offerings, not our tithe.
I heard an old preacher put a very common sense spin on it. He said that you should tithe where you are fed. You don’t eat at McDonalds and go across the street and pay at Burger King. And so you should not be fed at your local church but then send your tithe somewhere else.
The other way I look at it is that God should get our first and our best. The Bible uses the term “first fruits.” So the first “bill” we pay is our tithe and if we have an abundance, after the other bills are paid, then we give offerings. Some times of course, like the widow and her mite, the Lord leads us to give not from abundance but from need and in that too we are blessed. Jesus said, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” I have seen this to be true in my life.