In America, we are conditioned to vote with our dollars. The classical economic concept of Adam Smith‘s “invisible hand” is deeply engrained in American society, with the concomitant “consumer sovereignty” mentality. However, redirecting our tithes and offerings away from the local parish or diocese is theft, and even heretical, according to Catholic doctrine. Continue reading Withholding Tithes from the Church is Heretical
Home for me is a 16 foot travel trailer at a camping “resort” in San Antonio, Texas. One afternoon last week, I was sitting in my lawn chair under the awning, which serves as my living room, when I saw my friend Adam walk by. He was carrying a plastic bag of Hot Pockets and Cokes he’d bought at the drugstore down the street.
Adam (that’s his real name) is in his early twenties, thin as a rail, and lives alone in a one room cabin down the hill from me. The cabin has no running water, so he uses the camp facilities for the restroom and to shower.
He works for minimum wage on an asphalt crew in the 100 degree Texas summer heat. His thick brown hair is sunbleached to a burnt orange color, because he never wears a hat. I see him most every day as he goes to and from his job. He doesn’t have a car, so a company pickup comes to get him and bring him home. He rides in the back of the truck. He always smiles. I’ve never seen him unhappy.
Anyway, as he was walking by, I said hello and so he stopped to chat. We exchanged some small talk about hot the day was. Gesturing to the computer on my lap, he asked what I was working on. I told him I was writing an article about giving to God and what that means for our salvation. He looked at me like he remembered something, but forgot how he knew. What he said next, in his slow Texas accent, was as lucid, theologically accurate summary of Christian giving as I have ever heard. Continue reading Stop Begging for Money and Teach Stewardship
Our covenantal relationship with God compels us to offer our “first fruits” to him in sacrifice and praise. The offering of the first fruits is inextricably connected with God’s covenantal relationships. When God covenants with his people, an offering of the “first” acknowledges God’s sovereignty and gives thanks to God from whom all things come.
First Fruits in the New Testament Church
The first century New Testament church understood first fruits offerings as part of God’s plan for the sanctification of his Church. The Didache, commonly known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” is the earliest known liturgical writing of the earliest church and was written about 100 A.D. It prescribes offering first fruits for the support of both the clergy and the poor: Continue reading First Fruits, Sacrifice, and Covenant
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The famous story of the rich ruler in Luke’s gospel tells us why we give: to inherit eternal life.
The ruler approached Jesus to learn how to attain eternal life, insisting that he had followed all the commandments since his youth. Jesus then told him, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Unable to part with his possessions, the man went away sadly.
In the subsequent exchange with the onlookers and the disciples, Jesus did not mention the needs of the poor. Instead, Jesus emphasized the real reason for giving: the primary purpose of giving is to save the giver’s soul.
Pope Francis recently explained why: “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings.” Pope Francis, Homily on Sunday, September 29, 2013. By giving in support of the kingdom of God, we reorient our lives to God as the center of our lives.
Of course, God does not need the money. God, being infinite, lacks nothing. If God needed more money, he could simply create it. Instead, he calls us to give for the sake of our own souls.
Does this mean that we can simply spend our way to heaven? No. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and through baptism. See John 1:12-18 and Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶¶ 1987-1989. Our charitable giving is part of the cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom that is required to repent from our sinful nature and turn towards God’s kingdom. Cf. James 2:14-17. “Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.” Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1993.