“Love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). We read these words from St. Paul and it automatically stirs our souls and draws us into reflection: “do I love money?” All of us certainly need money to survive, we all have money, and we all use money, but do we love money? Financial stress is one of the top reasons for divorce and society has always judged a person by their wealth. Even the common narrative about the Church is often: “the Church is a business” and “the Church just wants money.”
How do we need, have, and use money, yet resist the temptation to love money? How does the Church need, have, and use money, yet keep the focus on Jesus and the spread of the Gospel? Both of these questions will be a lifelong struggle and require constant discernment.
With all sin and temptation, God provides us with the necessary tools to grow in holiness and virtue so that our sinful inclinations can be kept on a short leash. In my opinion, this is why tithing is important. Tithing is a scriptural understanding that we are all called to give God ten percent of our firstfruits. “He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.” (2 Chronicles 31:4-5)
I am very much aware of how deeply challenging this can be for the vast majority of people, so I offer you this to think about your own lives: how much do you actually give to God from your time, talents, and treasures? If we give God 15 minutes a day in prayer, that’s still only one percent of our 24 hour day. How often do you donate your time to the needy or to the Church? How often do you miss Sunday Mass? How much money do you actually give to God? Not just buying a raffle ticket or giving a donation at your kid’s baptism. Again, I know these are challenging questions, but I think we should all deeply reflect on what we think we prioritize and yet, what our time and money prove that we actually prioritize. Do we invest our time, talents, and treasures with God and the Church or simply use God and the Church as a service and pay the “fees” necessary?
It’s very hard to hear “tone” in an article, I assure you that I am not talking down or pointing a finger at anyone. My desire is to lovingly present the sensitive topic of money and the Church.
Whenever I lead pilgrimages to Rome the group of Chaldeans will inevitably ask “why can’t we build churches like this in Michigan?” I patiently explain that the majority of Chaldeans either think the Church is super rich or that “someone else” should be giving more to financially support the Church. It leads to a very fruitful conversation about the financial situation of the Chaldean Church.
Our Chaldean Churches and the Bishop’s office are relatively financially stable, however we are forced to function with a minimal staff, deferred maintenance, and there’s a lot of pressure on our priests to do more than should be expected. Unexciting expenses, like utilities and salaries, constantly rise, but collections tend to remain the same. Many of you have been very generous with your finances and your volunteered time. God knows your intentions and God knows we’ve built our Chaldean Church community because of the incredible generosity of many people.
What’s the solution? Make everyone feel guilty to give more? Is this just another “the Church needs money” ask from a priest? It’s sensitive and complicated, but I’m convinced that conversion into a deeper relationship with God is essential for people to be intentional about their level of investment in the Church with their time, talents, and treasure.
Everything we have is from God, you don’t think you can give ten percent to God? Then try five percent or two percent. You have more, give more. You have less, give less. It’s not “someone’s” responsibility to be committed to God and the Church; all of us are called to embrace our responsibilities, as followers of Jesus, to give God our worship and be intentionally generous with our time, talents, and treasure.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
Fr. Pierre Konja was ordained a priest in 2011 and is the associate of Holy Cross Chaldean Catholic Church in Farminghton Hills, MI. Konja.Pierre@gmail.com