Dear friends in Christ,
While tithing--giving 10% of our financial resources, or "treasures"--is an Old Testament imperative, it certainly is not inappropriate for Christians to set aside a tithe, or percentage of their income, for God's work. If one can contribute 10%, then let him or her do so; if one can contribute more, than let him or her do so; if one can contribute a smaller percentage, then let him or her do so, making no comparisons with others, and as a sign of thanksgiving for the blessings God has bestowed.
What is crucial is the fact that God indeed expects us to give of our treasures for His work. One's observation, that "God demand our love and not our offerings," is not consistent with what is revealed in the New Testament, where it is clearly stated that "where your heart is, there also will be your treasure." Further, the model for giving to the work of God through His Church is found in the story of the widow's mite. A rich man enters the temple and offers his tithe--10%--which fulfills the Old Testament "law," with little regard for the spirit behind the law, he gives not out of love, but out of duty and pride, and he could well afford to offer even more, given his means. Meanwhile, a poor widow enters the temple and offers two coins--hardly a great sum of money, but it was the sum total of all that she possessed. Our Lord praised her, rather than the rich man who fulfilled the "law" by offering 10%, for she gave all that she had, expecting nothing in return, and surely not expecting to be praised by others.
The principle found herein is that we must recognize that all we have is a gift from God, that we are called to be wise "stewards," or "managers", of His gifts, and that ultimately, we must give all that we have to Him. This does not mean that we are to ignore our own needs. To the contrary, we are urged to offer a portion of our treasures to God and to set aside our gift to God through the Church before paying our other expenses. Whether this represents 5% or 10%, or 20% is a secondary matter; the point is to give the "first portion" of what we have for God's work, as did Able, who offered the first portion and the best portion of his harvest to God, unlike his brother Cain, who offered God his "leftovers."
The bottom line is this: God does expect us to give; it is not an "option" for Christians, any more than prayer and fasting and almsgiving and worship are options or personal preferences. Our Lord says, "when you give," "when you fast," "when you pray," not "if you give, fast, and pray. He expects us to offer to Him first, not after we have satisfied our personal needs and bills. He does demand our love, but He expects us to reveal our love in concrete ways--one of which is by returning to him a portion of the gifts with which he has blessed us. And, I might add, that this does not only involve our treasures, but our time and talents as well, for these are also gifts from God. Hence, in addition to offering of our financial resources, we are expected to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and minister to "the least of the brethren," recognizing in other the very image and icon of our Savior Himself. If we are of limited material means, we should still give something, while also giving all the more generously of our time and talents to minister to others the Church--and I don't know an Orthodox parish that is not constantly looking for volunteers to do everything from teaching Sunday School to collecting food and clothing for the needy or ministering to the homeless or battered or forgotten or visiting the parish shut-ins, to name just a few essential ministries entrusted to all of God's people, and not just the clergy. And, as Christ clearly spells out, we are expected to give of our time, our talents, and our treasures joyfully, not worrying about what other many or may not be doing, nor with the intention of being "seen" or "lauded" by others. We are taught that Our Lord is the only one Who needs to see our compassion and charity and generosity, whether they be offering our time, our talents, or our money; it is for His sake, and His sake alone, that we do these things, that in all things "God may be glorified," as Saint Paul writes.
Is it not possible, despite your limited income, to set aside a portion of your resources for the Church before setting aside money for rent and food and the orthodontist? As Christ challenges us, look at the birds of the air--do they worry about how they will eat, and to look at the lilies of the field--even Solomon in his finest garb could not compare to the beauty in which they have been clothed by their Creator. So too, setting aside $20, or $40, or even $100 weekly or monthly--or even just two coins, if that is all we have--before setting aside money for other things may at first be a bit difficult, but it is consistent with what we are taught by Jesus Christ. And those who do this find that they still have plenty left over for themselves. In my many years in the Priesthood, I have never met anyone who has gone bankrupt because they have given to the Church! And I have met plenty who, in thanksgiving for how God spares us, have made the commitment to give Him more than their "spare change." (Orthodox Church in America)
I am bringing the above article to your attention because our parish is currently facing a financial crisis. It is true, that due to the rain on the Friday, the first day of the Festival, our income was $25,000 less this year. However, the parish faces this financial difficulty almost every year around November or December. We must all work together to find the solution to this annual financial problem.
I also highly recommend that we all turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in prayer and worship, to bestow upon all of us wisdom and guidance so that our parish continues her mission of saving souls.
Thank you for your love and generosity always.
With love in Christ,