Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


In view of the launch of our upcoming pledge-giving program starting this Advent, I am continuing my series on the Biblical basis for the Fifth Precept of the Church, "You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church." Today, we look at 1 Chronicles 29:9-17, wherein David prays after the people offer their gifts for the Jerusalem Temple. I bid you take note of verses I have chosen to bold, because these get to the heart of what stewardship-level giving means. Here is the text in full in its RSV translation:

9 Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD; David the king also rejoiced greatly. 10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, O LORD, the God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might; and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name. 14 "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You. 15 For we are strangers before You, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. 16 O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a house for Your holy name comes from Your hand and is all Your own. 17 I know, my God, that You try the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen Your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to You.  

Prior to this prayer text, we read about David making preparations for the Temple's construction under the future kingship of his son Solomon. Understandably, there were great needs and costs involved in its construction and furnishing. There was a great "need" in the Israelite "Church," to use the language of the Fifth Precept, and the people responded appropriately by giving generously and sacrificially, so that the need was fully met. If the people had failed to give, the Temple would have been constructed poorly and furnished unworthily.

In his prayer, David expresses the fundamental attitude of stewardship-level giving that is constitutive to genuine faith. Specifically, David recognizes that everything comes from and belongs ultimately to God, including one's own possessions and wealth. Therefore, his (and our) gifts for the needs of the Church demonstrate our belief that all things are gifts from God which belong to Him already, and so, a portion of these gifts is owed Him as an act of faith and worship.

When we give tithes to His Church in order to provide for its needs, such financial sacrifices and gifts are truly given to God as acts of worship and thanksgiving (v. 13). This is why the weekly collection is taken up during the Offertory of the Mass. Take note, as well, that the people do not offer their gifts grudgingly, but "freely and joyously" (vv. 9, 14, 17). As with all the commandments and precepts of our faith, the Fifth Precept of the Church finds its basis in the fact that God is worthy of our joyful love and adoration as our Creator and Redeemer.  

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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