My husband, Marshall, was very generous when he was working. He treated family and friends often. But when he no longer worked, he cut back considerably. Despite the early signs of dementia, he understood that our financial situation drastically changed. We couldn’t spend on ourselves or our loved ones as we had for decades.
Every philanthropic organization is begging for financial assistance today. Most are credible, benevolent, and in dire need of funds to attend to their focused communities. And we want to help them reach their goals. But how much can and should retired seniors living on a fixed income give? It’s not likely that we can afford to donate to the extent we did when we were employed and drawing a salary.
The biblical guideline for tithing is 10%, which in ancient times consisted of livestock. “The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal as they are counted by the herdsman’s rod” (Leviticus 27:32).
Of course, now tithing is through financial means. We can determine this retirement amount by totaling our pension, social security, dividends, part-time pay, and whatever other sources of income we have. We then deduct 10% of that total for donations before spending on our own needs and wants.
Note that 10% sum doesn’t have to go entirely to our church. The common guideline is to donate about half of the total tithe to other organizations. However, if possible, we do want to ensure that 5% does go to our parish church. It cannot survive without our support. Staff salaries, benefits, insurance, maintenance, ministries, and utilities are expenses that must be paid.
When we understand that everything belongs to God we realize that we are not really giving anything up. We are sharing the gifts God gave us. And the more we’ve been given, the more we are expected to give to others.
In fact, Jesus said we are to give up everything and follow him. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ ” (Matthew 19:21).
Scripture also says that giving the best of what we have increases our own blessings. When we give generously, God cares for us generously.
“Honor the Lord with your substance
and with the first fruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
However, tithing does get more complicated if we have extenuating circumstances such as extensive health expenses. If we cannot cover our own financial responsibilities, family or social services will have to assist us. It doesn’t make sense to give away funds needed to cover our own bills while expecting others to supplement us.
When we cannot give as much in dollars as we would like, we can add to our financial gift by donating our time, talents, and excess possessions. Countless organizations as well as our church seek volunteers. Our experience and special abilities are blessings that can benefit our neighbors. In addition, passing on clothes we don’t wear or items we don’t use will declutter our homes as well as offer goods to those in need.
(Young in the Spirit. Spiritual Strengthening for Seniors and Caregivers is available from Amazon.com, ACTA Publications, and my website. You can find more posts on senior living on my Young in the Spirit Facebook page.)