Paying Your TithesSeptember 15, 2012, 5:26 pm
My Island in the Sun
By Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha
One of my patients used to be a keen member of a Christian Church.
One of the principles that he consistently followed for many years was what is called Tithing – that is, giving one tenth of his earnings to the church. Every month, when he received his salary, he would carefully calculate exactly one tenth of this amount and then religiously put the cash into an envelope and go and hand it over to his parish priest.
He explained this concept of Tithing to me one day as a simple act of returning a proportion of what he earned to charity – a concept similar to the idea of Zakkat in Islam and the ma’aser kesafim of Jews in modern Israel. The word Tithe comes from the Old English word for ‘a tenth part’ and refers to the tradition of setting aside a tenth part of one’s harvest as a donation to charity. It is an act of self discipline and piety – and as my patient himself told me, "Whether you believe in a God or not, whether you like the local parish priest or not, giving a part of what you earn to charity is a good thing to practise".
Although my patient still remains an honourable, God-fearing and morally upright man, something happened a few years ago and he became disillusioned with organized religion. Influenced perhaps by stories he heard about some of the activities that the church was funding with the donations of the faithful, he stopped giving his ten percent to the church. He did not say so himself, but I have heard others, paraphrasing Karl Marx’s dictum that Religion is the Opium of the People, referring to priests of all kinds, no matter whether they are garbed in white, black, purple or saffron robes, as no better than opium-dealers!
However, because my patient had become disciplined by this habit if tithing and was able to make do with 90 per cent of his salary all these years, he decided that he would continue to take out ten percent of his salary at the beginning of each month and give the money to various charities.
I am sure he acquired a lot of satisfaction (or should I say merit) by these simple acts of charity and helping those he knew who were not as well off as himself.
There is another patient of mine who also lives on 90% of the salary he earns because he too contributes 10% of his earnings to an organization. In his case, unfortunately, what he is doing is contributing to the profits of the Ceylon Tobacco Company – because he spends 10% of all he earns on cigarettes! When he came to consult me the other days for his high blood pressure, I did the mathematical calculations for him because he had never bothered to do the math himself. Based on his smoking habit of about a packet of cigarettes per day (which equated to approximately 365 packets per year) I showed him that the money that he is converting to cigarette ash every year works out to a little less than 10% of his annual salary.
Now if some one wants to live on 90% of what he earns and donate a Tithe to charity – even to the church or the temple – that is something I can understand and even commend. But why on earth anyone wants to Tithe to a cigarette manufacturer, burning good money and paying for the privilege of increasing their risk of getting heart attacks, lung cancer and other smoking related diseases is beyond my understanding.
I have seen far too many smokers getting premature heart attacks and developing such severe restrictive lung disease that they cannot climb up stairs or even walk short distances without getting breathless. These things like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are diseases that are preventable – if only the person who wants to smoke does not smoke.
The take home message is that it is much more sensible – and even meritorious - if you want to deprive yourself of 10% of your income to give it to charity (or even to a religious organization) rather than to swell the profits of the cigarette companies!
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Last Updated May 21 2013 | 06:02 pm