“Ask a Priest: Should I Cut My Tithes to Save Up for a House?”

Q: I recently got married and my husband and I feel a little differently regarding charitable giving. I now give 10% of each paycheck to charity. He has asked that I start saving 10% of every other paycheck so we can save for a house and make up for the difference by donating my time. I feel as though I have some blessings and privileges, and this proposal doesn’t seem fair or right. But I also want to be fair to my husband, who is able to save a lot more than I can. Any direction you can provide would be greatly appreciated. – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to learn that you are so diligent about almsgiving. That shows a generous heart.

The Church doesn’t mandate an exact percentage of one’s income for tithing. A person has leeway to decide here.

This is the kind of decision that you and your husband need to work out. He has a point in saying the donations of time can be a form of charitable giving.

On the other hand, there is the broader issue of priorities in your household. Support for the poor and needy is a longstanding demand throughout Scripture.

To cut back on donations for the sake of buying a house shifts the weight of attention. I’m not here to make a moral judgment about the wisdom of such a shift. There are likely lots of factors involved which can legitimately be considered.

Perhaps this might be a good opportunity to go deeper into your thinking and your husband’s thinking in this area.

It might be good for the both of you to articulate how you see yourselves before God, knowing how much he has blessed you, and what he might be asking of you now. “For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

It might be good to ask what would happen down the line. Would you as a couple cut back on donations when other items appear on the horizon: a new car, a fancier vacation, an updated wardrobe?

This isn’t meant to lay a guilt trip on anyone; it’s just to caution that the lure of consumerism can have an impact on the spirit of generosity. In that light, you might enjoy our Retreat Guide called The Widow’s Might. In general, people who keep almsgiving as a top priority have found that their own needs end up being met in surprising and wonderful ways.

At a deeper level, too, this might be a good moment to speak frankly about what the both of you value most in life and how you see your mission together in the world.

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