National Catholic Register

Education

Mammon? Or God? How to Choose

BY Ellen Wilson Fielding

November 14-20, 1999 Issue | Posted 11/14/99 at 2:00 PM

 

“Forget Tithing: There's a Better Way to Think About Giving”

by Kevin M. Lowry (New Covenant, November 1999)

Certified public accountant Kevin Lowry mulls our need to be good stewards of all our resources — not just those earmarked for charitable contributions. “Sometimes the questions I hear about tithing are almost as bad as those regarding taxes,” he writes. “[F]or now, I don't want to talk about whether you will get gross or net blessings as a result of your giving habits. If you want to give the average 1% Catholic tithe (remember that even the cheapest Protestants average 2.5%), that's your prerogative. I will not give you grief about it for now. What I want to talk about is the other 90 (or 99) percent. Do you spend the rest of your money in a way that glorifies God? Or is spending a god itself?

“Being a Christian demands growth. Have you done anything with your finances lately to let God know that you love Him? Put in a different way: How have you changed for your faith lately? Have any changes involved money?”

Lowry notes, “the most important principle in dealing with finances is: It's God's money! We should trust the Lord with our souls and our credit cards. He doesn't need our money … but He does want our hearts. There can't be a competition between the God who created the universe and our checking account at the local bank.”

Lowry lists a series of guidelines to achieving this awareness of God's will for us in our daily spending. First, as in every endeavor to live the Christian life, comes prayer to learn God's will and enable us to prefer it to our own. Second, “Resist consumer urges. … If you feel that you must have that new appliance, outfit or car right now — wait! One method my wife, Kathi, and I have used is a ‘want list.’ We put items that we're tempted to buy right away on our list, and subject them to prayerful consideration and the passage of time (say, a month). You'd be amazed how many things we end up not purchasing. Yet, some items pass the test, and we buy them with a clear conscience.”

Third comes making small sacrifices. “This is the best way to build interior strength.” Even small sacrifices remind us that we have nothing that did not come from God. Fourth, Lowry lists maintaining “a spirit of detachment. We are all tempted to judge our status based on material possessions. But … we need to remember that we belong to Jesus Christ, who regards worldly treasures as paltry in comparison to the riches of eternal life. ‘Build up your treasures in heaven’ (Matthew 6:20).”

Next, Lowry advises that we “Make a decision to invest in others — primarily your family. However, outside of the family there are many others in need of support. We have a ‘poor jar’ in our house for family contributions toward the sponsorship of a child overseas. Upon hearing of my recent salary increase, my 4-year-old son, Daniel, exclaimed, ‘Daddy, we should send some of that money to the poor!’”

Finally, we should keep our priorities in order. “God has Christians at all levels of financial means, and He asks not that we be successful with our finances but rather faithful with them. How much money we have is not the issue. … Recall the story in Mark 12 about the poor widow's contribution of a couple of small coins to the Temple treasury. Jesus was so impressed with this woman's actions that He called the disciples together to explain that this particular contribution exceeded all others.”

As for tithing, Lowry does not equivocate. “I do happen to think that tithing is extremely important and results in tremendous blessing,” he writes. “However, just like we need to be good Christians all week long and not just on Sunday, we need to be faithful with our finances in all areas and not just in tithing. Don't treat your tithing like your taxes. Give God 100 percent.”

Ellen Wilson Fielding writes from Davidson, Maryland.