Noah and Garrett — brothers who attend middle school youth group — have started a business mowing lawns. Last week, I was talking to their older sister, Kate, about how they were doing. She shared that they were adding new clients, hoping that by the time they were in high school they’d have a full-time business.
“The best part,” she continued, “is that they actually have money to tithe while they’re only in middle school!”
I nodded absentmindedly and then realized what she had just said. While most students would be prioritizing their earnings for an Xbox or iPhone 6, apparently Kate and her brothers saw things differently.
“You tithe, as a student?” I asked, clarifying what she had just said.
“Well, not regularly when I was only in middle school. But now that I have a summer job I can do it every week. My brothers are way ahead of where I was at their age.”
And Kate, who sees tithing as a privilege, is way ahead of how I felt at her age. As a student I spent money as soon as I earned it, and while I would occasionally drop a wad of cash in the collection basket or donate to charity, I didn’t make tithing a habit until adulthood. It was terrifying when I finally went on-line and scheduled my tithe to be deducted regularly from my checking account.
My finger hovered over the mouse as I talked myself into clicking “confirm”. What if I ran out of money and couldn’t pay rent or buy groceries? Or an even scarier thought, what if I didn’t have money in my account to buy the dress I found on clearance or splurge for a Saturday morning pedicure?
When I finally scheduled my giving, I felt my priorities change almost instantly. Now, instead of putting myself and my many wants first, I had made a commitment to follow the command of Christ when he explained to the disciples that “without cost you have received, without cost you are to give” (Mt 10:9).
It wasn’t an easy habit to begin, but contributing to the support of the Church became not just another law to follow, but a source of order and joy in my life. When I began the month giving God what was just, it put the rest of my needs and wants in perspective. I could also look at the many ways my parish provided for the community and realize that I had played a small role in this service.
St. Gregory the Great didn’t mince words in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, explaining, “when we attend to the needs of those in want, we give what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice” (#2446).
Kate’s enthusiasm for tithing reminded me that while it’s not always easy to part with what we have earned, some of the most difficult ways we say “yes” to God is often when we are surprised to find the most satisfaction and joy.