Tithing is a topic that many Catholics are uncomfortable with. Maybe you also find the subject awkward, and squirm in your seat when your pastor brings up tithing and stewardship at Mass. But tithing isn’t meant to be a guilt trip or a burden. Scripture tells us that God loves a cheerful giver, and if you look at tithing as an act of thanksgiving, it can actually be incredibly freeing.
Tithing is traditionally giving 10% of what you have to God. And while Catholics don’t have a strict obligation to give 10% of their income to the Church, even people who regularly give to church and charities may be surprised at how small a percentage they are actually giving.
“I definitely was one of those people,” Shannon acknowledged. “I remember in college is thinking, you know, if I just keep giving and I don’t calculate it I’m sure I’ll be giving more than that 10% and I won’t feel limited by that 10% number. And then when my husband and I got married, we actually did the math and I was at 1.5%. So I think a lot of us are surprised when you actually calculate the numbers and see where you actually are.”
Shannon and her husband have been tithing 10% since they got married, and she explained how, rather than hindering their life, it has brought a great amount of freedom.
“When my husband and I got married, we decided we’re going to start at the 10% and we’re just going to see whether or not we could do that,” she said. “Because I had never obviously really counted it and considered how much I was giving. And so we just, on a bi-weekly basis, would see how much we had. And that was what I got to work with, and it was amazing because that was my money to spend. It was God’s money, really, to spend however we wanted.”
Once Shannon and her husband set aside tithing money, she noticed how many opportunities there were to help others. These opportunities may have passed them by before, but because they were intentional about using their finances to help others they were able to do more than they imagined.
“We would give it to the missions that we felt powerfully about, and the people that we cared about,” she explained. “It was everything from dropping an envelope in the weekly basket to buying a First Communion gown for a little girl in second grade whose family didn’t have the money to buy one. We were able to give so they were able to buy a new dress, new shoes, a veil and everything she wanted so that her First Communion day was what she had envisioned it would be.”
“We’ve given to families who are struggling after a fire or from cancer. It’s just the freedom that comes from just having that money and knowing that it’s been set aside and this is for us to use the way that God wants us to use it. And it’s just, it’s incredible. It really is freeing and you end up smiling at the end.”
Shannon pointed out that tithing has been easy for her family to do because they started giving 10% from the beginning of their marriage, so they have never seen that money as theirs. It has always been God’s money, and they give it where He calls them to. She also acknowledged that they have been fortunate to never have had to adjust their tithe so they can provide the necessities for their family.
But part of tithing is the mindset behind it. If you still view tithing as a burden or as something you can opt out of, Shannon offered a perspective that helps her give with a joyful spirit. The word Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving,’ and if we go to Mass and realize all that Jesus has done for us in His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Real Presence in the Eucharist, we will be more likely to want to offer up ourselves and what we have as an act of thanksgiving.
“It’s just it’s so freeing because then it’s not our money, everything that we’ve been given has been given to us by God,” Shannon said. “And so 10% is really in some ways a lot. When we realized just how much 10% was it was kind of mind blowing. But on the other hand, tithing is about thanksgiving. It’s about being grateful for what we’ve been given. And you know, the best way to to be grateful and to say thank you is to give back.”
Listen to the full conversation with Shannon Whitmore below: