All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. If persons wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. Let no one inquire whether it is good or bad, or make substitution for it; if one makes substitution for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy and cannot be redeemed. (Leviticus 27:30-34)
What is “Tithing”?
The concept of tithing as chronicled in Leviticus means a tenth of all produce and possessions. In those days, herds and flocks, as well as the harvest of the land measured the wealth of an individual and that of a household. These days, wealth is mostly measured in currency and derived primarily from employment. As Catholics, the “tithe” of our wealth, not necessarily ten percent, is usually presented to God during the offertory at Mass. The money we give reflects the “work of our hands” as well as the fruit of our labors. What we offer during the Sunday liturgy is not meant to be the whole of our tithe, but rather the core of the time, talent, and treasure we give back to God. Our offering is redeemed and made holy by God’s grace.
Time is the great equalizer. From the richest to the poorest, and the largest to the smallest of humankind, we are all given an equal amount of time to spend in a day: twenty-four hours. At the completion of a day, the “clock” is reset. For the most part, we spend the very first hours of the new day in a state of slumber. From the outside, we are inactive (aside from tossing and turning). On the inside, however, “there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on”. Cells in our body and brain are moving at lightning speed. Dreams, the residue of subconscious thought, can be exhausting. Evening and Night Prayers offer an opportunity to consecrate the time that represents approximately a third of our life on Earth.
Tithing our time could look something like this: if we subtract eight hours of sleep, and eight hours of work, we are left with eight hours of “free” time. These hours equal 480 minutes, and ten percent comes out to 48 minutes—close enough to constitute a holy hour. If an hour seems too daunting to do all at once, increments of five to ten minutes throughout our waking moments might be the right fit. We can offer our time to God in prayer, and offer our time to others in a variety of situations. Ten minutes at the water cooler for the sake of another can be just as efficacious as a ten-minute visit to someone sick in bed. When you give your time, it is precious. For whatever period of time you choose to offer for Christ’s sake, you are truly “laying down your life” (cf. John 15:13).
The word talent is usually associated with the arts or athletic endeavor. We attend concerts, performances, and athletic events as spectators or performers. These talents often eclipse the everyday gifts we share in our lives. Talents such as musical ability and organizational skills are of value in the liturgical life of the parish and diocese, but these talents are certainly not the only ones to be considered. The ministries of presence and hospitality can be effected anywhere there is a need. Healing words and actions mostly occur one-on-one or in small groups, and intercessory prayer can be accomplished in private prayer.
Our treasure is usually represented by money. For the most part, the money we have comes from gainful employment. To give a portion of the money we receive each week from our endeavors (including retirement income) is the core of our tithe. Using ten percent as a guide, our offering could be five percent to our parish, two percent to our diocese and 3 percent to other charitable offerings. High above percentages and formulas is the amount that you prayerfully discern and give cheerfully (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7).
Holiness and Redemption
Our gifts, small and large, are made holy by God and redeemed according to His riches and glory. There is a lot of talk lately about trade inequality among the nations; how wonderful it is to have God as a trading partner! He is willing to accept our deficient offerings in exchange for the abundance of His love and divine providence. Let us pray in thanksgiving to God for accepting our tithes, making them holy and His gift of redemption.