Ultimate Yardstick

by Juan L. Mercado

The  over-5,000 priests,  attending Second Congress for the Clergy,  chipped in P988,675.36  for Haiti  earthquake victims, Inquirer reported.  Deeply  moved,  Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales topped that up to P1million.
There  has never argument about  aid in emergencies. We  are our  brother’s  keepers.  Filipinos  are no slouch  either,  as  their  help for   storm “Ondoy”victims..showed.

The  differences  simmer  elsewhere. Should  sharing continue  even in  calmer times?  How?  And,  more controversially,  how much?

Haiti shoved up front, the “tithe”—the practice of  setting aside 10 percent of one’s income or goods for others in  the Lord.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts,” prophet Malachi wrote (3:/10 ):  “Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure?”

“Try me in this”  is a  dare  to experimental generosity,”  former Science and  Technology Secretary ( now  Asean  official )  Filemon “Jun”  Uriarte and  wife Jean,  write.  Test  if  you  can  outdo God  in generosity.

Abraham did  donate a tenth of war spoils to Melchizedek, king of Salem, we read.. Jews brought 10% of the harvest to a storehouse. It was an Old Testament  welfare plan   for the needy  or a buffer  against  famine.

Muslims give a zakat to charity  The  zakat  is  usually 2.5% of the market value of a believer’s assets each year.   Mormons must give 10% to the church. The tithe has been the Episcopal Church’s “minimum standard” since 1982.  “

That 10 percent, say pro-tithers like Terry Parsons of the Episcopal Church  “remains a  useful  rule-of-thumb today. It’s  the best financial discipline I know,”

Others are not so sure, reports Suzanne Sataline in Wall Street Journal. “Can you  put a price on faith?”..Opponents of   tithing  insist  they be free to donate whatever amount  they choose..” Some pastors have changed their teaching and rejected what has been a favored form of fund raising for decades.”

In the  Philippines, the Catholic Church does not compel tithing. The choice is left  to individuals. Some respond generously.

But in a shift, more Catholic parishes in  the US ask churchgoers to tithe, says Paul Forbes, administrator of McKenna Stewardship Ministry. This nonprofit NGO has encouraged more than 500 parishes to tithe in the last decade.

‘A number of American Protestant churches have “gone plastic”. At “giving kiosks”, congregants whip out their credit cards when they attend services, Others conduct  seminars that teach people in debt how they can continue tithing even while paying off their loans. Appeals go online.

Resistance to tithing deepens with the “mega church effect.” Churchgoers question how their churches spend money.

“Like other philanthropists today, religious givers want to see exactly how their donations are being used,’ Suzanne Sataline adds.  “Growth of megachurches –, some with expensive worship centers equipped with coffee bars and widescreen TVs –, have turned people off of tithing.

Tithing isn’t just a theological issue, but a financial one. Giving to religion is growing more slowly in the US than other types of giving, says Patrick Rooney, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. That’s partly because people are attending church less frequently. These offer a wider array of causes, including secular ones. Similar data for the Philippines is not available’

More  Filipinos are  challenged  to engage in experimental generosity because of massive poverty, The Uriartes and other pro-tithers  pitch their case in terms of personal experience.

“This challenge to try Him by sharing with the needy comes from a God  who given us everything that we possess, “they write in their monthly newsletter Priscilla and Aquila published in Jakarta.  “He invites us to try out this key for opening the treasures of heaven. He dares us to try him in this to see for ourselves if indeed it does or does not work.

“God’s promises are always fulfilled. God remains faithful forever, they add. God’s words spoken through Malachi are echoed by Christ.

“Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come (Mk 10:29-30).

There is no “maybe” about God’s promises. His promises always prove true. The “hurdle” we dreading on sharing, we will discover, is something joyous, something that changes and blesses us, say Aquila and Priscilla.  “Try Me on this.”

So, what really is the ultimate yardstick here?  

The copper coins that  a widow dropped into the collection box was dwarfed by donations of the  well-heeled. The rich gave of their surplus, the Master noted. “But this widow  gave  more than the rest because she gave all that she had.”

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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