Stop Tipping God !

 Stop Tipping God !

Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine – Proverbs 3:9-10

So when a priest talks about money, that sets a lot of people riled up. “He should not be focusing on money”. Really? Is that the best defence we can put up to hide behind the truth about Church contributions? So let me make a case here “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Let me begin by stating that cheerful giving must be a two-way street.  The Church must learn to give, especially to the poor and needy (not always the case), and the congregation must learn to give without judging. My little Church of St. Jude in Malad East has 799 congregants most of whom who are financially challenged, yet they give with a large heart. The monthly contribution to the community fund can vary between sixty thousand rupees to a lakh (a hundred thousand); that from people who care barely eke out a living!

When I first took over the Church, the response was anything but generous. We would beam with joy if the collection in the community fund even touched thirty thousand rupees. So we took a decision to break the trust deficit that is often in the minds of congregants; we decided to give first especially to the poor.

Ironically the Government of India demands that all charitable trusts spend eighty five percent of their annual income within that financial year. This makes sense at a very basic level, for a charitable trust does not exist to hoard money but spend it for what it has been established.

Learning to give first was not easy, but that’s when faith kicks in. As a priest I have to trust that God will provide for our every need, and to horde funds no matter how great the cause, makes poor sense in His eyes. It was in giving that we received, for today ninety percent of our working congregation contributes to the fund. The congregation is encouraged to give one per cent or simply one rupee to the community fund; but give they are encouraged to.

So I did the mathematics. If a small parish of 799 congregants can give an average of seventy five thousand a month, that averages out to approximately 93.86 rupees per person (this includes children, college youth and the retired). Assuming this to be the average, a parish consisting of 17,000 congregants should give a monthly collection of rupees 15,95,755.68 and that too assuming that the financial situation of such a large parish is as challenged as St. Jude’s. I think the penny should have dropped by now.

While the Church in Mumbai recommends that every earning member contributes ONE PERCENT of their income to the Church, imagine if we went by the Biblical figure of ten percent (what is known as tithing) to the Church! There are more than 106 references to tithing in the Bible which range from encouragement to reprimands.

So now let’s take a financially challenged parish’s average of 93.86 rupees per person and up it to a tithe (ten per cent) that it should be. That figure would then read as 938.6  rupees per person and then multiply it by a congregation of 17,000 souls. That figure stacks up to 1,59,56,200 (one crore, fifty nine lakhs, fifty six thousand and two hundred) rupees a month and that is mind boggling. Now see what our Churches still deliver with what is often called a generous contribution by its congregation. We need to stop fooling ourselves when we hear announcements regarding Sunday collections, because even a congregation of 17,000 that gives 3 lakhs a week adds  up to a mere 17 rupees per person per week. Have we ended up tipping God?

So what’s going so wrong? Perhaps some just don’t care while others cast aspersions drawing a line of suspicion between those in the sanctuary and those in the pew. My father taught me to give; he never taught me to judge. God gives us without judging and it’s none of our business to judge how money is spent just because we think ‘money is being wasted’. This however does not take away accountability on the part of those who administer earthly goods in Church; but that should not be a barrier to giving.

Finally, I think that a lot of giving is emotional and not devotional. When one likes a cause, likes a preacher, like a choir, likes a homily or God knows what one likes then one gives ‘emotionally’. Sadly, some preachers prey upon such emotional givers. But giving must not be emotional, it must be devotional. I give because God gives, I give because I care, I give because I am blessed and I need to pass on the blessing.

Perhaps a page does not make room for all the arguments that can be placed. The article is not written to lay blame but to stimulate the heart and the mind.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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10 thoughts on “Stop Tipping God !”

  • Beautiful! Thankyou for putting the statistics in perspective Fr. Interesting read.
    Love the words “I give because I care!”

  • A very thought provoking reflection, making us aware of our own short fall in giving generously.
    I would like to follow this guidelines and hope many do the same.
    Thank you dear Fr Warner

  • I give because God gives, I give because I am blessed and I need to pass on the blessing. Oh I love those two sentences. How true they are. Unfortunately sometimes I am torn between giving to the poor I know rather than putting in the collection box or contributing to the community fund. My conscience pricks me though. I am not giving to Jesus for His flock and for His use. A stark case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Lord help me not to judge or decide where best to give, that is not my job, but to give willingly and freely.

  • Beautifully put across what we have to share. You are good at Mathematics. A small request ask all the Priest to be more with the parishners than to be with the papers and their office. Then see the change. Community will be one when there is unity .
    Thanks Fr Warner.

    • One of my biggest laments as a priest is the fact that we are drowned in administrative work. Sixty percent of my day is in dealing with goverment requirements or answering mails or accounts or property issues . There is no easy solution but yes the laity must be at the heart of the Ministerial priesthood’s outreach

  • While your intention was not to blame the article has quiet a blaming tone. For me a serious of bad experiences with money management in church has left a huge trust deficit.The articles seems to me just a another reflection of what value the clergy have for the laity. What matters or the only vote that counts in the church is money that the laity put in the offertory box.

    You also forgotten – to take in account the intangible services your parishioners render during daily mass, Sunday masses, Passion week, Easter & Christmas midnight masses to name a few. If you have to hire staff or an event management company you would have to pay for these services. You can put a value for these as well. Rs 500 a day is the daily wage of an unskilled labour at the Local street Naka. Assuming 2% of your parishioners gave the parish one week labour annually, the value we can arrive at is Rs11.90 lacs (17000 parishioners x 2% = 340 parishioners x 7 days x Rs.500/-)

  • “Perhaps some just don’t care while others cast aspersions drawing a line of suspicion between those in the sanctuary and those in the pew”.
    Those who had bad experience are well aware of the filth and clerical mindset of the clergy. Church Property Financial Scandal of Archdioceses of Mumbai from 1995 to 2007 during tenure of Card. Pimenta & Current Card. Oswal Gracious have not a given positive precedence on how church finance are managed. Each of these cases had charges of criminal conspiracy, giving false evidence, intentional omission, criminal breach of trust, forgery and cheating under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Further charges include aiding, abetting, shielding and shying from taking action against those members of the clergy responsible for the misuse and misappropriation of funds obtained from the sale of Church land.

    At the heart of the every church finance or Property problem is the concept of sole trusteeship whereby financial powers on the funds of the church or Church property are vested in one person, the Parish Priest. Parish priests are the sole trustees who run these based on instructions from the Archbishop’s House . Not to mention the as per Cannon Law unilateral power of the Bishop and his local franchisee the Parish Priest to sack the parish council or the Parish Finance committee at any time. Bishops hold all legislative, executive, and judicial authority within a diocese. At the Parish level priest is the sole trustee signing on all cheques. He has the last word not the Parish council. In many instances; with members of the parish council being nominated by the parish priest himself, who are just an advisory body: they neither bark nor bite. They are there to wag.

    Most Parishes don’t publish an audited Financial report. Neither do they present a budget to the congregation. Neither is an internal auditor appointed from the laity nor do the laity have a say as to whom to give the audit of the church. Those who do provide some report do not provide meaningful financial reports. Some provide no reports at all. Some provide online reports but only in fragmented form. Many do not include all the information required for the laity to make an informed judgment about the level of stewardship being exercised by their diocese.

    There is no coded law in place as to how the financial governance of Parish should be done. With respect to numbers the church usually does not disclose much except what we hear during Sunday Mass. There is no representation from the laity in financial governance of the church at the Parish level. I am sure you are well aware with all of this.
    If it’s about the community’s fund then community needs to have a say and representation in the financial governance of the Parish.

  • “My father taught me to give; he never taught me to judge. God gives us without judging and it’s none of our business to judge how money is spent just because we think ‘money is being wasted”

    Whenever there is financial scandal in the Parish not only ends as crisis of character on the part of the clergy but also a crisis of faith on the part of the laity. Whenever such financial scandal come to notice it is always too late for the catholic community to do anything. Should the laity give Blindly? Are you suggesting that the laity should give blindly to the church just because the person is a Priest?? Is it a bad thing or sin if the laity to be prudent in evaluating, to have an opinion, to be perceiving, to have better oversight of how the money from parishioners going into the collection plate is being spent. What would happen laypeople the power to establish and approve church budgets, and manage financial affairs. Does it any way take away the bishop’s control over doctrinal matters??

  • “This however does not take away accountability on the part of those who administer earthly goods in Church; but that should not be a barrier to giving.”
    Many laity work in the financial sector – banks, Insurance, companies, Some are even professionals CA, CS. CWA, Accountants and Financial planners etc. These laity whether they have an education in finance or not, are able to manage their money, expenses and investment for their children and their future of their family including giving money to the church. Paradoxically Aren’t you casting apprehension and drawing a broad big Line of suspicion that these Laity are not able to manage earthly goods of the church which they themselves gave to the church, that they can’t co responsibly administer these goods along with the clergy??

    At the diocesan level there are structures in place especially w.r.t. property matters. To pass any project, the consent of the parish council and the finance committee is a must followed by the sanction of the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and if they approve it goes to the Archibishop’s consultatory board of usually seven priests and finally thereafter to the Charity Commissioner. The church has a functioning machinery at the dioceasan level why can’t the parish have one?? Why keep any such things a closely held secret???The city civil court back then had passed an order that sole trusteeship should be dissolved in the Salvation Church, Dadar, and the same should be implemented in all the churches of the city. Has anything has been done on that part ???

    Can St. Jude Parish take the Lead. Parish to prepare a budget and financial project proposal for various money that will be used by the Community’s fund. Budget Vs. actual can be made know
    Involvement, transparency, accountability and execution will not diminish but will enhance “Giving”.

    • Hansel, I have posted your comments and I want to appreciate this response of yours. Thank you very much. I think you make some very valid points and there are also some generalization. Personally, I sit with my parish council and invite any other parishioners to join in ( for all three Sundays). During this time we plan the pastoral year and allocate budgets.Our parish has multiple trustees. This year I will meet all the parishioners twice a year during which I explain our financial situation and the way we use money. I believe in transparency.


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