Dear Doctimus Prime,
Today, I wish to clear the doubt in some people’s minds about Tithing and Giving in general. Most people I know frame the question in this way: “Should I pay my tithe to…?” or “Is it a sin if I don’t pay my tithe?” I hope my brief exposition will help you make a more informed decision.
Tithe is an offering to GOD, a VOLUNTARY THANKSGIVING offering to Him for all he has done for you during the course of the year. In Mal 3:10, we receive specific instruction about “how much” is to be remitted to God’s storeroom; it is a tenth of one’s earnings. A person might choose to make this offering monthly. In the Old Testament, “tithing” referred to a specific plan of donating a portion of one’s wealth to the Temple and the priest who ministered there (Lev 27:30-33; Deut 12:13). Tithing was mandatory for Jews in the Old Covenant but it is not mandatory for Christians.
Although tithing is not mandatory in the New Law, Christianity that is, the ideal of being JOYFULLY MAGNANIMOUS in ALMSGIVING is a central part of the gospel (cf. Mt 6:2-4; Lk 12:32-34). Christ’s exhortations to be liberal in giving alms and supporting the work of the Church, is part of his message that we must see that our true wealth lies not in our material possessions but in one’s divine ‘INVESTMENT’: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 12:34). Does this mean that the New Testament contradicts the Old? Not at all! Christ tells us that he hasn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (the Old Testament), he has come to fulfil them (Mt 5:17). As a Christian, it is best to read the Old Testament in the light of the New.
When Christ was asked what the most important commandment was, he mentioned that it is the love of God and neighbour (Mark 12:30-31). Love should guide all your actions. God’s law of love does not enslave you, it is meant to liberate you as you seek to do God’s will. When someone spreads fear in order to make you offer anything to God, they are misleading you. If you TRULY love God, you won’t wait until you are in a compromising situation to show it. If you must offer tithe, it must be with a thankful heart.
So when you cannot afford tithe because you earn little, you are not robbing God. When eventually you have received financial blessings from God, you may want to make that voluntary offering. Do not wait until you have heaven and earth before you decide to offer God a gift of thanksgiving. The one who is faithful in times of scarce resources will be faithful in plenty. Tithe is an offering to God and you may choose to give it to anyone, especially the poor (I believe they need it even more). When it is remitted to the Church (Catholic Church, if you are Catholic), it is done to support her MINISTRY OF SERVICE TO THE POOR and for THE MAINTENANCE OF THE CHURCH AND HER MINISTERS. You can pay your tithe to ANYBODY. In giving it to them, the service is done to God: “If you do it to one of the list of my brethren, you do it to me” (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
St Paul says: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor. 9:7). This summarizes the way in which God wants his people to support the Church: not out of guilt or feelings of being coerced into it, but out of love and a spirit of generosity. There is something else you need to note about tithing: Do not give it to someone you owe an obligation to support. You should be open to give to others as your means can support. You shouldn’t say “I have paid my tithe and am not obliged to help anyone till next month.” We can go on multiplying dos and don’ts but it won’t do you any good. One thing alone is commanded: LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY! It’s time you grow up in our relationship with God and express it in the way you give.