What Does God Think about Money?
Money is a very difficult, personal, private thing to talk about. We all internally groan when we see the stewardship envelopes in the pews. It’s tempting to mentally check out when your priest stands at the pulpit to appeal for the weakly offertory. Your priest most likely dreads it too.
Some people walk with blinders on surrounding their personal finances, racking up debt, looking to satisfy an itch that can’t be scratched, and comparing their stuff with the stuff of the people around them.
The subject of money makes us feel uncomfortable, but frankly, we should be willing to talk about money, especially since it's necessary for us to live. Money is mentioned over 800 times in Scripture. God has a very clear message about money, therefore, it’s important to understand it.
What does God think about Money?
Money is one of the few things in the world that is 100% neutral. It is neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with it that determines the morality of it, but money in and of itself neutral.
It’s also important to note that money touches everything. I spent time trying to think of one thing that money doesn’t impact (If you can think of something, let us know in the comments). It touches all of the food we eat; it touches the clothes we wear; it touches everything we own.
It touches our faith.
Money is necessary to build our parishes and keep them operational; it’s necessary to pay ministry staff to develop faith-building materials; to buy the sacramentals like rosaries which help us deepen our relationship with the Lord.
The Lord cares about money and how we use it.
Our Biblical guide to understanding money and God’s hand in it can be found in the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30, Lk 19:12-27). In the story, a master is preparing to travel away from his home for a significant amount of time. He distributes his talents (a large amount of money) to three of his servants. One receives 5, one receives 3, and one receives 1 talent.
When the master returns, the servants with 5 and 3 talents had put the talents to work and the value of the talents doubled. The third servant hid his talent and as a result, it didn’t grow in equity.
In the end, the master blesses the servant who invested the money well saying, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' (Mt 25:23).
But to the servant who was not wise with his talent, the master condemned him as 'wicked and lazy' and threw him out of the house where 'there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' (Mt 25:26, 30)
The story tells us that money is a gift from God, who gives it to us to steward and handle it well. He trusts us to be prudent with it. If we do this, we will enter the kingdom of heaven.
What does God think about Debt?
About 80% of Americans have debt ranging from student loans to credit cards to car payments to mortgages.
The modern thought process typically believes is that debt is either good and necessary or a necessary evil. But that is not the case. Debt is bad and should be avoided.
Proverbs says explicitly, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Pro 22:7). Debt puts us in a state of slavery, the very thing that Jesus came to save us from.
Debt prevents young couples from starting families; it’s forcing college graduates to start their careers strapped paying off loans they took out as a naive 18-year-old; it leaves us unprepared for emergencies and keeps us from having a fruitful and blessed retirement.
It’s crucial to learn how to budget and exercise self-discipline when spending, which is good for our faith. There are countless resources online that teach us how to do both things.
What does God think about Giving?
Giving alms may be something you hear about from your priest at the pulpit a couple of times a year or when the church’s HVAC unit breaks. “Tithe” is a buzzword we often hear referring to the ancient practice of giving 10% of our income.
In the Old Testament, tithing was frequently seen, including Abram’s offer to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) and Jacob’s promise to God (Gen 28:77). Tithing was required under the Law of Moses (Num 18:26). However, Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic law (Mt 5:17), so we are no longer bound by it.
The Church as a whole obligates that every Catholic adult who is able to do so should give a form of material support to the church, but she doesn't specify what percentage of the income should be given. In the Summa Theologia (Question 87), St. Thomas Aquinas states the Church can change the amount the faithful are to give based upon circumstances.
According to a 2013 study done by the USCCB, only 46% of the American Catholic population has made a charitable donation in the last year to religious organizations. The study says:
About a third of working-age Catholics give $100 or less to their parish per year (34 percent). Another third give $101 to $500 (33 percent) per year, and another third give $501 or more (33 percent).
Imagine the impact the church would have if 100% of Catholics were to start giving. The numbers would be astronomical and help with funding our Catholic schools, feeding the hungry, updating run-down church buildings, and more!
If you choose to tithe 10%, here is a recommended way to apportion your money according to the USCCB:
- 5% to the Weekly Offertory
- 3% to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal
- 2% to Faith-Based Charities
If you feel called to give 10% but don’t know where to start, start small with a certain percentage (5%) whatever gross income you receive, then slowly work your way up as you feel comfortable. Every 3-6 months, bump it up another half percentage until you get to 10%. The purpose is to be intentional with it.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving 10% or want to give more than 10%, pick a set amount with each paycheck, then distribute it like so:
- 50% to the Weekly Offertory
- 30% to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal
- 20% to Faith-Based Charities
It’s important to pick that set amount before you spend another dime for anything else.
John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest Americans of modern time, said, "I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week."
It may sting a little to see that money leave each time you donate, but at the heart of it, it’s an act of trust between you and the Lord.
In essence, you are saying, “Lord, I could really use this money for myself, but I’m offering it to you because you have given me everything and this is my opportunity to give a small portion back to you in Thanksgiving. I trust that you will take care of me and take care of your church with this gift.”