Stewards, motivated by mission and knowing they have a part to play, are called to give their first fruits. This is among the earliest lessons of the Bible: Abel gave of his first fruits and was blessed (Gen 4:3). Proverbs says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow” (3:9-10). “First fruits” in today’s language is 10 percent of gross earnings or, in IRS terminology, adjusted gross income.
One author explains:
Planning to return the first portion of our earnings to God is a way of showing our gratitude and commitment to stewardship. Tithing, giving the first 10% of what we receive, is the traditional (Biblical) guideline of how to give to God. Stewardship calls us to give in proportion to our blessings by sharing a percentage of our gifts. However, it also means being responsible stewards of the other 90%, or what is left, and using it in a way befitting a God-centered person if we are truly committed to embracing stewardship as a way of life.
The prophet Malachi adds a blessing to the gift of one’s treasure, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure” (3:10). God cannot be outdone in generosity, as his own word testifies.
The bishops’ document, called Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response explains, “Stewardship is not minimum giving. It is maximum giving. That means giving as much as we can, as often as we can, from the heart as a faith response.” The 10% that is encouraged in the stewardship way of life is an explicit standard to which the Christian faithful are challenged.
Many parishes encourage giving through an annual pledge. This practice sets personal goals for a total commitment to stewardship that is planned, proportionate, and sacrificial. Beginning to give a tenth of one’s income is difficult. The amount of one’s tithe is arrived at by discernment through prayer and reflection motivated by a sincere desire to give out of one’s need. As St. Paul says, “Each one must do as he has purposed in his heart” (2 Cor 9:7). Then, over time, persons are encouraged to incrementally increase their giving to 10% through their pledge.
“Our God is a lavish giver” (Ps. 112:9). Stewardship is our way of imitating God in his lavish gift.
We who have freely been given every physical thing must share those physical things with God and neighbor. Our Diocese of Wichita describes the benefits of tithing: You realize the difference between what you need and what you want ... eliminate the endless clutter of material wants ... stop being “consumed by consumerism” and “possessed by your possessions” and begin to slow down and prioritize not only how you spend your money but also how you spend your time ... find enjoyment in simple pleasures – especially time to deepen your relationships with God, with loved ones and with your community .... Ultimately, those who tithe feel the practice brings more joy, more peace, more contentment and more balance to their lives.
Jesus Christ, who gave us his very self, asks us to share our own self in return. The tithe is about the need to give. We give because, by it, we imitate God who has given us everything.
Everyone has something to offer. Everyone has something to give. Every human person has a varying measure of time, talent and treasure. Through discernment, one is able to learn from God how much of each of these one is able to give. While it is true each of us differ in our ability to give of these according to our state in life, it is also true that we are called to share something of each as a grateful response to God’s abundant gifts. And, as the Parable of the Talents reminds us, we will be accountable for our stewardship.
Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor