Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


Today’s column is the second in my reprinted and edited series from last Fall 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 29:9-10, 14b, 17, wherein David prays after the people offer their gifts for the Jerusalem Temple: “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…..14b For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You…..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” (RSV).

Understandably, there were great needs and costs involved in the construction, furnishing, and proper maintenance of the Jerusalem Temple. There was a great "need" in the Israelite "Church," to use the language of the Fifth Precept. The people responded appropriately by giving generously and sacrificially, so that the need was fully met.

In his prayer, David links stewardship-level giving to genuine faith. I stress the word genuine, because David notes that God “tr[ies] the heart” for righteousness (v. 17). This implies that if he and the people had not been generous in their stewardship, they would be unrighteous in the sight of God. Fortunately, David and the people recognized that everything comes from God, and ultimately belongs to Him, including one's own possessions and wealth. Therefore, a portion of these gifts is always owed Him as an act of faith and worship. 

This truth applies to us, as it did to Israel. If we fail to make stewardship-level gifts, the integrity of our worship is greatly damaged, rendering our faith deficient in a critical area. One cannot observe some Precepts of the Church, but not others (doing this makes one a quasi-lapsed Catholic, since it is the observance of all the Precepts together that constitute the “necessary minimum”).

We also do well to note that the Israelites’ stewardship duties were not abrogated when the scandal of David’s sins were made manifest. Similarly for us, neither the Gospel nor Canon Law dispense us from our obligation to stewardship if some members of the hierarchy are enmeshed in scandal, or only accused thereof. Many are deceived into thinking that they can apply pressure on the hierarchy by withholding what is due to our archdiocese or our parish. This is false logic.

Here’s the actual situation: Every Catholic bishop in every diocese has a canonical right to tax each of his parishes (we are no exception). Regular offertory donations are subject to the rightful financial jurisdiction of the archbishop. Withholding donations - in an attempt to keep them from the hierarchyonly really serves to hurt our parish - not the archdiocese - because bishops are entitled to tax their parishes anyway.

Thus, the unfounded practice of withholding money from the archdiocese by making one’s donation to the parish only periodic, or with specific instructions contra the archdiocese, really only serves to leave our parish with less money overall. Such behavior is ungenerous toward God, since it hurts our parish- the place from which we receive most of our spiritual goods. It hinders the integrity of one’s worship, and is a sin to be repented of.

When we give tithes to the Church in order to provide for its needs, such financial sacrifices and gifts are truly given to God as acts of worship and thanksgiving (hence, its association with the Offertory). The people in the passage above do not offer their gifts grudgingly, but "freely and joyously" (vv. 9, 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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