Matt Salisbury is a writer, designer and entrepreneur living in San Diego, CA.  He's interested in ways the Catholic Church's rich social teaching impacts political questions, society, and culture.

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Give From Your First Fruits!

By Matt Salisbury

A Lenten path to rendering unto the Lord.

As we celebrate our new Pope, it’s worth taking a breather from the media maelstrom to think about another “Catholic Thing,” often overlooked. Tithing. Tis the Season, my friends.

Fr Dwight Longenecker over at the National Catholic Register has a great piece on almsgiving. Father’s argument is that tithing’s end isn’t the good done by the tithe itself, but the good done to the almsgiver:

“You thought the priest was asking for money so he could have control over you. In fact, the good priest asks for your money not so he can have control over you, but so that your money will not have control over you. He does not ask for money to enslave you, but to set you free. When we give sacrificially, we tell our money who’s boss. We take control of the money rather than the money taking control of us.”

Perhaps I’m truly a product of our utilitarian society, but this came as a surprise. We give money to the church so they can do good things with it, right? I mean, sure, we get to learn detachment, and everything, but that’s a fringe benefit.

Wrong.

This is why Christ told the Rich Young Man to give up his goodies. Not because Christ wanted them. Not even because the poor needed them. The Rich Young Man needed to learn the independence that comes from nothing and the dependence that material detachment allows on God.

This was especially valuable to me since it’s so easy to rationalize yourself out of tithing all day long. Giving the security of money away is unsettling. If you’re sitting in a church that wins architectural awards, if more is spent on a month of grass-watering and fountain-filling than you make in a year, if the diocese signed a huge sex abuse settlement and somebody’s gotta pay for those lawyers…well, there can be less aw-shucks human satisfaction than hearing your change clink into the legless indigent beggar’s tin cup.

This wildly misses the mark.

So this Lent, give your 10% (not just during Lent!) Give more. Give from your first fruits, not the leftovers. Don’t give recklessly, but detach and unstick stuff ‘til you reach a level of dependence on God.

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