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Christ said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Lk 12:34). Does the word 'treasure' here mean 'money'? Did Christ mean to say, 'where your money is, there will your heart be also'? Certainly not. This saying is meant to teach us not to set our hearts on money or worldly possessions. Yet in the expression “Time, Talent, Treasure,” the word 'treasure' is used specifically to mean money and worldly possessions. Using the word 'treasure' to refer to money is an unacceptable hypocrisy because it directly contradicts the clear teaching of Christ in the Gospel.
We could change the usual description of Stewardship to, “Time, Talent, Money.” For this is really what people mean when they say “Time, Talent, Treasure.” A better expression would be, “Time, Talent, Alms-giving.” Even so, this is not anywhere near a complete or acceptable description of Stewardship. Let me tell you what True Christian Stewardship is.
True Christian Stewardship is Prayer, Sacrifice, Mercy.
Prayer is the first and most important duty and joy of every faithful follower of Jesus Christ. With prayer you can obtain guidance from God, participate in God's Providence over the lives of others, obtain the strength to do good and avoid evil, and pour out a myriad of blessings, both tangible and mystical, upon the whole world. Prayer is true treasure and there is where your heart should be. Whoever loves God prays.
Sacrifice is the second and next most important duty and joy of every beloved child of God. Christ offered the ultimate Sacrifice to God--His own prayerful suffering and death on the Cross. We poor imitators of Christ ought to make little sacrifices and practice self-denial in all aspects of our lives. Prayer and Sacrifice combined are a powerful force in the world. Are you not getting what you ask for in your prayers? Add self-denial to prayer and this combination cannot fail to obtain great favor from God. “Prayer and Sacrifice--these are my strengths.” (St. Therese of Lisieux).
Mercy is essential to the life of every sinner who hopes to obtain sufficient mercy from God to eventually enter into Eternal Life. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt 5:7). We can practice mercy for others by forgiving injury and insult, by doing good to those who do harm us, and by praying and sacrificing for those in need, be they friend or foe. We can practice being merciful through the spiritual and the temporal works of mercy. The practice of mercy includes offering our time and talents to those in spiritual or physical need. It also includes giving alms. The giving of alms can be in the form of material goods, such as food or clothing, or in the form of money.
Giving money is only one way to give alms. And giving alms is only one part of being merciful. Giving of your time and talents is another way to be merciful and is also a kind of alms-giving. But the most important way to be merciful is by being kind and forgiving and patient to others, and by praying and sacrificing for others. Time, Talent, and Alms are only small part of the Stewardship of Mercy. And the true definition of Stewardship must include Prayer and Sacrifice.
Now let me say a few words about “Tithing.” Christians are not bound by the external requirements of the Jewish Law, such as circumcision, avoiding certain foods, keeping a Saturday Sabbath or the Jewish holy days, etc. Neither are Christians bound by the ancient Jewish Law requiring that 10% of one's goods (or income, in the modern view,) be given to God. Christians are not required to give a set percentage of their income to the Church or to Charity or to both combined. No such law from Sacred Scripture is binding upon any Christian. No such law, from God or from the moral law, exists. No such Canon Law exists within the Catholic Church, nor could any such law ever be binding upon any Christian. The Church on earth can never add to, nor subtract from, the moral law. The Church does not have the authority to require Christians to be circumcised, to avoid eating pork, to tithe, or to follow any of the other ancient Jewish external practices. The New Testament clearly teaches that these are not binding on Christians (see Acts 15; Galatians 2). Mercy and alms-giving are required by God, but tithing is not.
Christians are required to be merciful and to give alms in various forms to many different persons or groups in need. Mercy is required of all Christians; tithing is required of none. Christ taught us to give alms, but he never taught “10%” or any percentage. Give as the grace of God guides you to give, and do not count the cost nor figure out the percentage. Those who ask Christians to look up their income on a chart and find the correct amount they should be giving are, in this way, failing to imitate Christ and failing to trust in God.Brethren, I ask you, give as the Mercy of God guides you to give, but never count the cost.
-- by Ronald L Conte Jr