October 25, 2020 – Tithing in Difficulty

Annual Stewardship Homily
[30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A]

Readings || Lecturas

Recording (Homily Portion)
Recording (Worksheet Portion)

Stewardship Worksheet

Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA

Previous Years:
2017 (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Stewardship: 2017 || 2019

English

Homily

My entrance into the adult world was profoundly marked by the 2008 housing crash and global financial crisis. I was a junior at a college that provided free tuition to everyone who was admitted, and I remember community meetings where the college administrators explained to us that our endowment had lost 40% of its value, virtually overnight, and that the college could no longer offer full tuition scholarships to incoming students. I remember going to daily Mass in Boston and hearing a man pray, for almost a year, that he could find a job after being laid off. I remember how my college classmates, who were some of the most well-educated and well-qualified engineers in the country, how even they were worried about finding employment after graduation.

It was in this context that I heard one of the talks that really got me to take the idea of tithing seriously. It was Fall of 2010, just after the economy and employment had begun to recover, and I was a first-year seminarian serving at St. Anthony’s parish in Renton. Renton was and still is home to many well-paying, blue collar jobs, and the economy of that town had been severely affected in 2009 by Boeing and Kenworth Trucking layoffs. The couple giving this talk had themselves been unemployed for a period of time. And yet, when the economy crashed, the jobs went away, and they were faced with some very hard financial decisions, this family made the extraordinary choice not to reduce their monthly giving to the parish. And during this talk, they described how the Lord worked powerfully through their continued tithing, by helping them keep everything in perspective during a very difficult time and, unexpectedly, by preventing them from ever worrying about how they would make ends meet. As they described it, the Lord made sure they were taken care of, because they continued to put the Lord first, even in finances.

Well, like I said, this talk got me to take tithing more seriously at an important point in my life. I already understood the obligation to help the Church with her needs, but I had never really thought about tithing as a spiritual practice. I had never before considered tithing as something that the Lord would use to take care of me. Shortly after hearing this talk, I did begin to tithe, and from that day forward I have never once worried about money, even when, as a seminarian, I was basically living off donations from the Knights of Columbus. It was this confidence in God, born of tithing, that convinced me this year to donate my income back to the parish for the entire period of the pandemic that we were not offering public Mass, even though we had no idea how long that period would last.


I tell you all of this because we have a tendency to want to make tithing complicated. And, given that this homily will end with a worksheet, there is a part of it that is complicated. But the concept is very simple. If you are giving to God, he is going to take care of you. Not in a transactional way. Not in a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation like we might have in business or politics. More like, if you do your part, God is going to take care of the rest.

That is what is so appealing about today’s Gospel: Jesus takes the entire law and makes it simple. What are we supposed to do? Only two things: love God and love neighbor. Easy, right? Well, of course it’s not. The details of loving God and loving neighbor are supremely difficult. But at least we know what direction we are supposed to be going in.

Of course, if the only things we have to do are love God and love neighbor, where does tithing fit in? It is part of the love of God. When Jesus says to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, he means that we are supposed to love God with everything that we have and are. He means that our love for God must be complete and must be the entirety of ourselves. When we exclude money from that equation, when we say that the way we use our money has nothing to do with the way we love God, we are lying to ourselves. It really is simple. Love God with everything we have, money included, and God himself with take care of the rest.

Worksheet

Now, I want to explain this worksheet. In previous tithing homilies, I have mentioned that the amount of the tithe does not matter as much as the deliberate decision to tithe. It is the decision to give money away that keeps it from controlling us or becoming the center of our lives. And the purpose of this worksheet is to help us to be deliberate about our decision. If we can decide now about how much money we want to give away in 2021, then we can be honest and accountable with ourselves all through the next year. We can keep ourselves faithful to our deliberate decision to love God with everything we have.

The way the worksheet works is simple:

Step 1 is to determine our personal income. Most of us can get a pretty good idea of what this is from our previous years’ tax returns. Step 2 is to prayerfully decide what percentage we are going to aim to give away this year. In previous years, I have been aiming for 10%, but I also understand my financial situation is unique. Step 3 is to multiply these two numbers together (remember that percentages are decimals), and this should tell us how much money we want to give away next year.

After that, it is a simple exercise of dividing that money up between causes that we care about. This sheet includes all of the second collections that we know about for next year, so that when the time comes, the second collection is less about guilting you into giving and more about collecting on a commitment you’ve already made. The sheet also includes causes that do not involve a second collection, like Hope House and Assumption Catholic School.

Personally, I try to give one-third of my yearly giving amount to the parish, one-third to the Archdiocese, and one-third to other worthy causes, because I know some of the archdiocesan money will come back to the parish. Other people prefer to give one-half to the parish and divide the rest of the money up in other ways.

Two weeks from now, once you have prayed over your percentage and filled out your worksheet, we will ask you to fill out a card letting us know how much you plan to give to the parish next year, so that we can budget appropriately.


My friends, you will hear this message twice a year from me every year that I am your pastor: tithing is more than an obligation, it is a gift. It is a gift that keeps us free from the lure of materialism and consumerism. It is a gift that keeps us free from worry and anxiety. It is a gift that allows us the freedom to love God with everything we have: heart, soul, mind, and even finances.

Español

Homilía

Mi entrada al mundo de los adultos estuvo profundamente marcada por la crisis inmobiliaria de dos mil ocho y la crisis financiera mundial. Yo era un estudiante de tercer año en una universidad que proporcionaba matrícula gratuita a todos los que eran admitidos, y recuerdo reuniones comunitarias donde los administradores de la universidad nos explicaron que nuestra donación había perdido el cuarenta por ciento de su valor, prácticamente de la noche a la mañana, y que la universidad ya no podía ofrecer becas de matrícula completa a los estudiantes entrantes. Recuerdo ir a misa diaria en Boston y escuchar a un hombre rezar, durante casi un año, para poder encontrar un trabajo después de ser despedido. Recuerdo cómo mis compañeros de la universidad, que eran algunos de los ingenieros mejor educados y calificados del país, estaban preocupados incluso por encontrar empleo después de graduarse.

Fue en este contexto que escuché uno de los discursos que realmente me llevó a tomar en serio la idea del diezmo. Era el otoño de dos mil diez, justo después de que la economía y el empleo comenzaran a recuperarse, y yo era un seminarista de primer año que trabajaba en la parroquia de San Antonio en Renton. Renton fue y sigue siendo el hogar de muchos trabajos manuales bien pagados, y la economía de esa ciudad se vio gravemente afectada en dos mil nueve por los despidos de Boeing y Kenworth Trucking. La pareja que dio esta charla había estado desempleada por un período de tiempo. Sin embargo, cuando la economía colapsó, los trabajos desaparecieron y se enfrentaron a algunas decisiones financieras muy difíciles, esta familia tomó la extraordinaria decisión de no reducir sus donaciones mensuales a la parroquia. Y durante esta charla, ellos describieron cómo el Señor obró poderosamente a través de su diezmo continuo, ayudándolos a mantener todo en perspectiva durante un momento muy difícil y, inesperadamente, evitando que se preocupen por cómo llegar a fin de mes. Como lo describieron, el Señor se aseguró de que los cuidaran, porque continuaron poniendo al Señor en primer lugar, incluso en las finanzas.

Bueno, como dije, esta charla me llevó a tomar el diezmo más en serio en un momento importante de mi vida. Ya entendía la obligación de ayudar a la Iglesia con sus necesidades, pero nunca había pensado en el diezmo como una práctica espiritual. Nunca antes había considerado el diezmo como algo que el Señor usaría para cuidarme. Poco después de escuchar este discurso, comencé a diezmar, y desde ese día en adelante nunca me he preocupado por el dinero, incluso cuando, como seminarista, básicamente vivía de las donaciones de Caballeros de Colón. Fue esta confianza en Dios, nacida del diezmo, lo que me convenció este año de donar mis ingresos a la parroquia durante todo el período de la pandemia de que no estábamos ofreciendo misa pública, aunque no teníamos idea de cuánto duraría ese período.


Les cuento todo esto porque tenemos la tendencia a querer complicar el diezmo. Pero el concepto es muy simple. Si le está dando a Dios, él cuidará de usted. No de forma transaccional. No en una situación de “tú me rascas la espalda y yo rascaré la tuya” como podríamos tener en los negocios o la política. Más bien, si haces tu parte, Dios se hará cargo del resto.

Eso es lo que resulta tan atractivo del Evangelio de hoy: Jesús toma toda la ley y la simplifica. ¿Que se supone que hagamos? Solo dos cosas: amar a Dios y amar al prójimo. Fácil, ¿verdad? Bueno, por supuesto que no. Los detalles de amar a Dios y amar al prójimo son sumamente difíciles. Pero al menos sabemos en qué dirección se supone que vamos.

Por supuesto, si lo único que tenemos que hacer es amar a Dios y amar al prójimo, ¿dónde encaja el diezmo? Es parte del amor de Dios. Cuando Jesús dice amar a Dios con todo nuestro corazón, alma y mente, quiere decir que se supone que debemos amar a Dios con todo lo que tenemos y somos. Quiere decir que nuestro amor por Dios debe ser completo y debe ser la totalidad de nosotros mismos. Cuando excluimos el dinero de esa ecuación, cuando decimos que la forma en que usamos nuestro dinero no tiene nada que ver con la forma en que amamos a Dios, nos estamos mintiendo a nosotros mismos. Realmente es simple. Ama a Dios con todo lo que tenemos, dinero incluido, y a Dios mismo se encarga del resto.

Detalles (Español)

Entonces, ¿cuáles son los detalles del diezmo?

Con la comunidad inglesa, estamos llenando una hoja de trabajo, para decidir cuánto dinero donar a cada causa diferente cada año. Y puede tomar una de estas hojas de trabajo del espacio de reunión, aunque me disculpo por no haber sido traducidas al inglés.

Pero con la comunidad hispana, prefiero hablar sobre la tentación de simplemente dar lo que encontramos en nuestras billeteras cada semana. La tentación de ver un billete de uno o cinco dólares y decir: “Suficiente”. Sé que es menos probable que las personas que han regresado después del coronavirus sean las que hagan esto, pero por favor tengan paciencia conmigo de todos modos.

Este “¿qué hay en mi billetera?” método es un problema por dos razones y no está relacionado con la cantidad de donaciones. Algunas familias solo pueden dar cinco dólares a la semana, y está bien.

La primera y más importante razón por la que es un problema es que no es deliberado. El diezmo solo trae frutos espirituales si le damos a Dios los primeros frutos de nuestro trabajo, no los últimos frutos, no lo que sobra. Necesitamos decidir que Dios es lo primero y, por lo tanto, que Dios es la primera factura que pago cada mes. De lo contrario, siempre estaremos tentados a poner todo lo demás antes que Dios, que es una forma de idolatría.

Lo más importante para mí, como su pastor, es que tú decidas una cantidad semanal al comienzo de cada año y te quedes con esa cantidad durante todo el año pase lo que pase. Para la mayoría de las personas, recomendaría, como mínimo, dedicar una hora a la semana. La mayoría de nosotros sabemos cuánto dinero ganamos por una hora de trabajo. ¿Podemos dar esa cantidad, los frutos de una hora de nuestro trabajo, a Dios cada semana? Si no podemos hacer eso, ¿podemos ofrecer una hora de ministerio en la iglesia cada semana?

La segunda razón, el “¿qué hay en mi billetera?” método es un problema es que no utiliza sobres con nuestros nombres en ellos. (Si no los tiene, puede llamar a la oficina parroquial para obtenerlos.) Cuando menciono la importancia de los sobres a las personas, a menudo escucho “Lo que doy es entre Dios y yo”. ¡Esto no es verdad! Por un lado, la parroquia necesita saber quién nos ayuda a permanecer abiertos y quién no. Necesitamos saber quiénes son nuestros socios en la misión. En segundo lugar, los sobres son una forma de rendición de cuentas. Muchas veces, la idea de que “lo que doy es entre Dios y yo” es una excusa para no tener que comprometerme con una cantidad; es una excusa solo para dar lo que encontremos en nuestra billetera. Pero si estamos tan avergonzados de cuánto damos que no queremos que la parroquia sepa la cantidad, ¿por qué no nos avergonzamos también ante Dios? Nuevamente, quiero enfatizar, todos tenemos diferentes dificultades financieras, por lo que no me preocupa realmente cuánto da cada familia. Lo que me importa es que cada familia tome una decisión deliberada sobre cuánto dar y que usen sobres parroquiales para que podamos saber quién está ayudando a la parroquia y quién no. Si haces este esfuerzo, realmente creo que Dios traerá frutos espirituales de ello.

Details (Original English)

So, what are the details of tithing?

With the English community, we are filling out a worksheet, to decide how much money to give to each different cause each year. And you are welcome to grab one of these worksheets from the gathering space, though I apologize that they have not been translated into English.

But with the Hispanic community, I would rather talk about the temptation to simply give what we find in our wallets each week. The temptation to see a one- or five-dollar bill and say, “Good enough.” I know the people who have come back after Coronavirus are less likely to be the ones who do this, but please bear with me anyway.

This “what’s in my wallet?” method is a problem for two reasons, and it is not related to the amount of giving. Some families can only give five dollars each week, and that is okay.

The first and most important reason that it is a problem is that it is not deliberate. Tithing only brings spiritual fruits if we give God the first fruits of our labor, not the last fruits, not whatever is left over. We need to decide that God comes first and, therefore, that God is the first bill I pay each month. Otherwise, we will always be tempted to put everything else before God, which is a form of idolatry.

Most important to me as your pastor is that you decide on a weekly amount at the beginning of each year and stick with that amount throughout the year no matter what. For most people, I would recommend, as a minimum, giving one hour each week away. Most of us know how much money we make for an hour of work. Can we give that amount, the fruits of one hour of our labor, away to God each week? If we cannot do that, can we offer one hour of church ministry each week?

The second reason the “what’s in my wallet?” method is a problem is that it does not use envelopes with our names on them. (If you do not have these, you can call the parish office to get them.) When I mention the importance of envelopes to people, I will often hear “What I give is between me and God.” This is not true! For one thing, the parish needs to know who is helping us stay open and who is not. We need to know who are our partners in mission. Second, the envelopes are a form of accountability. Many times, the idea that “What I give is between me and God” is an excuse to not have to commit to an amount; it is an excuse just to give whatever we find in our wallet. But if we are so ashamed of how much we give that we do not want the parish to know the amount, why are we not also ashamed before God?

Again, I want to emphasize, everyone has different financial difficulties, so I am not really concerned about how much each family gives. What matters to me is that every family make a deliberate decision about how much to give and that they use parish envelopes so that we can know who is helping the parish and who is not. If you make this effort, I really believe that God will bring spiritual fruits from it.

Featured Image

<a title=”FriendlyGhostUser, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons” href=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tithing_forms_and_envelopes.jpg”&gt;Tithing forms and envelopes

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