By Rev. Andrew Kemberling     2/23/2016

We live in a world that has lost the meaning of holiness, as secular values are pushing God out of our daily lives. In contrast, Stewardship Spirituality reclaims what is holy. What does it mean to be Holy? Holiness means to be set apart for the work of God. People, places, things and events can be set apart for the work of God. The two requirements are that they need to be precious and worthy.

To be precious is to be rare and special, hard to get, and valuable. Since gold is a precious metal it is naturally used to create holy objects. But just being made of gold is not good enough; it must be worthy. Worthiness is based on purity, integrity and goodness. Healing and cleaning bring about worthiness.

This is where we focus upon money. Money is not evil in itself. It is the love of money that is evil. Money can actually be seen as being holy. Money that is set apart for the work of God is part of the formula. Money is precious when it is seen as being the first and the best by the one giving it. The worthiness that is required when the gift of money is purified by the religious intention of giving the gift as an act of worship. Giving a tithe in the context of the offering at Mass is a good example.

The biblical foundation for tithing is solid. The vast biblical teaching on wealth and charitable giving can be found by reconciling the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus relaxed parts of the Law of Moses, while other parts were either fulfilled or affirmed. A good example is the biblical practice of tithing.

Jesus openly did away with the parts of the law that dealt with dietary restrictions in his ministry. That is why we can eat pork, cheeseburgers and bacon. The requirements for animal sacrifices were fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. Tithing on the other hand is a teaching that Jesus openly affirms and tells us to do.

The best place I know where to demonstrate this is in the Gospel of Luke. It says: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes on mint and rue and every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to the love for God. These you should have done with overlooking the others.” Lk11:42

Jesus clearly says that we are not to overlook tithing. Tithing, therefore, is a biblical truth. This is a practice that we are asked to observe even to this day. The biblical understanding of tithing comes from the idea that God gives us everything in which to live. God made us with the need to give. That is why we have a need to give before giving to a need. The tithe is the first tenth of the produce of the land. In modern understanding we give to God 10 percent of our gross annual income. It does not stop there. To make the tithe precious it need to be the first 10 percent, not the leftovers. Our honesty with God will prove our worthiness. Worthiness is continues when the gift of money is offered to God as a gift at the sacrifice of the Mass. Giving out of gratitude to God is purifying. When money is given this way, money is holy.

The spiritual meaning of money requires that the collection at Mass not compete with fundraisers. Fundraising can reinforce consumerism. Holiness requires that all monetary giving be given at Mass so money is seen in a spiritual way. A consumer approach says that they do not get anything out of the Mass. My response is, “What do you put into the Mass?” When we come ready to give, God is ready to give in return. The Bible tells us never come to God empty-handed. When we reflect on the holiness of our gift, we are invited to reflect upon the holiness of God’s gift to us. We move from consumerism to discipleship. When we hear Jesus called the “lamb of God,” we realize that Jesus is the first and the best. In fact, Jesus is the only Son of God.

In a world that does not know holiness, stewardship transforms consumerism into discipleship. We learn how to see money as a holy gift to God. People, places, things and events can be holy. We are all called to holiness. We would hope that our holy gift to God would be a sign of our own holiness.

Tithing is a living biblical truth. When we set our money apart for the work of God we are making God a priority. It is precious and worthy when it is seen as the first and the best given humbly at Mass. We in return receive the gift of God himself.