Tithe



A tithe (from Old English teogoþa "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a Jewish or Christian religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Several European countries operate a formal process linked to the tax system allowing some churches to assess tithes.

The practice of regular tithes was not established until after Exodus. Tithes were common throughout the ancient Near East, as well as in Lydia, Arabia, and Carthage.

It is thought that tithes were not adopted by the Catholic Christian church for over seven centuries. Although rejected, they were mentioned in councils at Tours in 567 and at Mâcon in 585. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787. Tithing in Christian churches today is frequently preached from the pulpit, but denominations and sects view tithing differently. As tithing was only a requirement found in the Old Testament, some consider it to be a practice that has no place in modern Christianity. Others, such as Word of Faith advocates, espouse that tithing which is inspired in the individual by God will enable blessings, usually financial, with references to ten or hundred-fold increases. Some organizations, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expect active members to pay an honest or full tithe.

The tithe and tithing first appear in the Bible in the Hebrew Old Testament (OT) in the book of Genesis in connection with the figure of Abraham. The origin of tithing is intimately linked with both Abraham's cultural background and the figure of the Canaanite king and priest Melchizedek.

According to the Genesis account, Abram, returning from a battle by the Dead Sea, was hailed by Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem) who was also the priest of El Elyon ("the Most High God") (Genesis 14:18):

(18) And Melchizedek king of Salem
Brought out bread and wine;
He was priest of El Elyon.
(19) He blessed him, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by El Elyon,
Creator of heaven and earth.
(20) And praised be El Elyon,
Who has delivered your foes to you."
And he gave him a tenth of everything.

[E.A. Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible, Vol.1, (1964)]

When Melchizedek appeared and offered Abram bread and wine and blessed him in the name of God, tithes were exchanged. However, the biblical text is not precise in naming who actually gave tithes. It merely records, "....and he gave him a tenth of everything;" the "he" can stand for either Melchizedek or Abram, or perhaps El Elyon Himself. A reference found in Hebrews 7:2 expresses the tradition that Abram gave Melchizedek the tithes.

However, biblically, tithes are received by priests and high priests according to Hebrews 7:5, the sons of Levi were commanded by God to receive tithes, the sons of Levi were appointed to be priests (Deuteronomy 18:1). This is substantiated also in the Old Testament in Numbers 18:24 that the Levites were supposed to receive tithes. As mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:1, Levites were appointed to be priests. It is not likely that Melchizedek gave tithes to Abram as some suggest because Abram was not in the office of a priest, but Melchizedek was.

Hebrew was a Semitic language, related to Akkadian, the lingua franca of that time. An Akkadian noun that Abraham was most likely familiar with given his Babylonian background was esretu, meaning "one-tenth." By the time of Abraham, this phrase was used to refer to the "one-tenth tax," or "tithe." Listed below are some specific instances of the Mesopotamian tithe, taken from The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Vol. 4 "E":

[Referring to a ten per cent tax levied on garments by the local ruler:] "the palace has taken eight garments as your tithe (on 85 garments)"

"...eleven garments as tithe (on 112 garments)"
"...(the sun-god) Shamash demands the tithe..."

"four minas of silver, the tithe of [the gods] Bel, Nabu, and Nergal..."

"...he has paid, in addition to the tithe for Ninurta, the tax of the gardiner"

"...the tithe of the chief accountant, he has delivered it to [the sun-god] Shamash"

"...why do you not pay the tithe to the Lady-of-Uruk?"

"...(a man) owes barley and dates as balance of the tithe of the **years three and four"

"...the tithe of the king on barley of the town..."

"...with regard to the elders of the city whom (the king) has **summoned to (pay) tithe..."

"...the collector of the tithe of the country Sumundar..."

"...(the official Ebabbar in Sippar) who is in charge of the tithe..."

Because of this standard one-tenth tax in Babylon, Abraham of the Genesis account was most likely familiar with the concept of giving up ten-percent of goods as tax.

The tithe is specifically mentioned in the Book of Numbers and also in the Book of Deuteronomy. Numbers 18:24-28 concerns the tribe of Levi, and especially the family of Aaron. Because members of the tribe of Levi were assistants to Aaron, his family, and the Israelite priests and did not own or inherit a territorial patrimony, goods donated from the other Israeli tribes were their source of sustenance. They received from "all Israel" a tithe of food or livestock for support, but would first set aside a portion of that tithe for the Aaronic priests.

LMLK seals may represent the oldest archaeological evidence of tithing. About 10 percent of the storage jars manufactured during Hezekiah's reign (circa 700 BC) were stamped (Grena, 2004, pp. 376-8). See 2 Chronicles 29-31 for a record of this early worship reformation.

The book of Tobit (1:6-8) provides an example of all three classes of tithes practiced during the Babylonian exile:

But I alone went often to Jerusalem at the feasts, as it was ordained unto all the people of Israel by an everlasting decree, having the firstfruits and tenths of increase, with that which was first shorn; and them gave I at the altar to the priests the children of Aaron. The first tenth part of all increase I gave to the sons of Aaron, who ministered at Jerusalem: another tenth part I sold away, and went, and spent it every year at Jerusalem: And the third I gave unto them to whom it was meet, as Debora my father's mother had commanded me...

Jews, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians who tithe, understand that no man may outdo God in the act of charity. (Malachi 3:8-12):

8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you.
10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.
12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
Revised Standard Edition

According to Catholics, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Cor 9:13)), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers.

In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would ensure the proper and permanent support of the clergy.

Many Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) support their churches and pastors with monetary contributions of one sort or another. Frequently these monetary contributions are called tithes whether or not they actually represent ten-percent of anything. Some claim[citation needed] that as tithing was an ingrained Jewish custom by the time of Jesus, no specific command to tithe per se is found in the New Testament. However, this view overlooks the fact that Israel's tithes were of an agricultural nature, not financial. References to tithing in the New Testament can be found in Matthew, Luke, and the book of Hebrews.

For Catholics, the payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience, rather than any direct command by Jesus Christ.

Some Protestant denominations cite Matthew 23:23 as support for tithing.

Away with you, you pettifogging Pharisee lawyers! You give to God a tenth of herbs, like mint, dill, and cumin, but the important duties of the Law -- judgement, mercy, honesty -- you have neglected. Yet these you ought to have performed, without neglecting the others.
(Albright & Mann, Matthew, Anchor Bible, Vol. 26 (1971))

and its parallel Luke 11:42

Woe to you, Pharisees! You tithe mint and rue and every edible herb but disregard justice and the love of God. These were rather the things one should practice, without neglecting the others.
(Fitzmyer, Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol.l, 28A (1985))

Because of Jesus' specific mention of tithe in this passage, it is often felt that he thereby gave his endorsement to the practice of tithing in general and specifically to tithing herbs like mint, dill and cumin. [citation needed] Some scholars disagree, however, pointing out that Jesus was simply obeying Mosaic law as an obedient Jew.

The only other occurrence of "tithe" in the New Testament is found in Hebrews, chapter 7. Hebrews is an attempt to convince Jewish Christians that the entire sanctuary system, especially its priesthood, had been replaced by the Melchizedek-type high priesthood of Jesus Christ and the individual priesthood of every believer. Chapter 7 uses the ineffectiveness of tithing to illustrate that the laws governing the priesthood (including tithing) were "changed" and "abolished" (7:5, 12, 18).

However, the book "Anabasis" by the Greek writer Xenophon mentions tithing in connection with the burnt offering sacrifices he made to his pagan god. How both cultures related, borrowed ideas from each other, and intermingled is aptly displayed by such overt Hellenistic influences in Judaic tomes, such as the Pentateuch.

Farmers had to offer a tenth of their harvest while craftsmen had to offer a tenth of their production.

In Europe, special barns were built in villages order to store the tithe (in German Zehntscheunen). These were often the largest building in the village after the church. The priest or the a collector (decimator) collected the tithe. Though usually tithers delivered their tithe to a collection point themselves. Villages or homestead were documented as owing tithe. A requirement to tithe was usually acquired by purchase, donation to the church, or when the settlement was founded.

The Ebstorf Abbey in the Lüneberger Heathlands for example was owed tithe from over 60 villages.

In the Middle Ages, the tithe from the Old Testament was expanded. One differentiated from the Great Tithe and the Little Tithe.

* The Great Tithe was analog to the tithe in the Bible where one had to tithe on grain and large farm animals.
* The Little Tithe added fruits of the field: kitchen herbs, fruit, vegetables and small farm animals. Exactly what was tithable varied from location to location.

Other tithes appeared that varied from location to location:

* Wine tithe (also called the wet tithe) upon wine cellars
* Hay tithe upon harvest hay
* Wood tithe upon cut wood
* Meat or blood tithe upon slaughtered animals or animal products such as eggs and milk
* Cleared-land tithe upon land that has been newly cleared for farming

After the Reformation the tithe was taken over from the church by the state. In countries such as Germany and Switzerland, this remained the case until the 19th century, when the tithe was abolished. In some cases the abolishment of the tithe was accompanied by a one-time tax upon the farmers. This lead many farmers into debt.

In recent years, tithing has been taught in Christian circles as a form of "stewardship" that God requires of Christians. The primary argument is that God has never formally "abolished" the tithe, and thus Christians should pay the tithe (usually calculated at 10 percent of all gross income from all sources), usually to the local congregation (though some teach that a part of the tithe can go to other Christian ministries, so long as total giving is at least 10 percent). Some holding to prosperity theology doctrines go even further, teaching that God will bless those who tithe and curse those who do not.

In 2004, the statistic is that roughly 44% of Americans attended regular religious services. Approximately 4 to 6% of Americans Tithed in that year. Furthermore, the "tenth" could more accurately describe the percentage of church going Americans that actually practice tithing.

Opponents argue that the only Biblical references to the tithe occurred (or referenced events that occurred) during the period of Mosaic Law, applicable only to Jews. They further argue that Jesus taught He came to "fulfill" the Law, which they believe occurred at His crucifixion, and therefore Christians are no longer obligated to pay a minimum amount, but should give only as God specifically directs them to do (which may be more or less than 10 percent).

There has also been much controversy with the introduction of "membership covenants" in many evangelical churches in North America, spearheaded by many mega-churches. These covenants, such as those introduced at the Willow Creek and Saddleback mega-churches, require giving 10% to that church as a condition of membership. Prospective members must sign off on a contract and are interviewed regarding their lifestyle, including tithing. Proponents say this is accountability. Opponents say this teaching is extortion.

The right to receive tithes was granted to the English churches by King Ethelwulf in 855. The Saladin tithe was a royal tax, but assessed using ecclesiastical boundaries, in 1188. Tithes were given legal force by the Statute of Westminster of 1285. Adam Smith criticised the system in The Wealth of Nations (1776), arguing that a fixed rent would encourage peasants to farm more efficiently. The Dissolution of the Monasteries led to the transfer of many tithe rights from the Church to secular landowners, and then in the 1530s to the Crown. The system ended with the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, which replaced tithes with a rent charge decided by a Tithe Commission. The records of land ownership, or Tithe Files, made by the Commission are now a valuable resource for historians.

At first this commutation reduced problems to the ultimate payers by folding tithes in with rents (however it could cause transitional money supply problems by raising the transaction demand for money). Later the decline of large landowners led tenants to become freeholders and again have to pay directly; this also led to renewed objections of principle by non-Anglicans.

The rent charges paid to landowners were converted by the Tithe Act 1936 to annuities paid to the state through the Tithe Redemption Commission. The payments were transferred in 1960 to the Board of Inland Revenue, and finally terminated by the Finance Act 1977.

In France, the tithes -- called "la dîme" -- were a land tax. Originally a voluntary tax, in 585 the "dîme" became mandatory. In principle, unlike the taille, the "dîme" was levied on both noble and non-noble lands. The dîme was divided into a number of types, including the "grosses dîmes" (grains, wine, hay), "menues" or "vertes dîmes" (vegetables, poultry), "dîmes de charnage" (veal, lamb, pork). Although the term "dîme" comes from the Latin decima [pars] ("one tenth", same origin for U.S. coin dime), the "dîme" rarely reached this percentage and (on the whole) it was closer to 1/13th of the agricultural production.

The "dîme" was originally meant to support the local parish, but by the 16th century many "dîmes" went directly to distant abbeys, monasteries, and bishops, leaving the local parish impoverished, and this contributed to general resentment. In the Middle Ages, some monasteries also offered the "dîme" in homage to local lords in exchange for their protection (see Feudalism) (these are called "dîmes inféodées"), but this practice was forbidden by the Lateran Council of 1179.

Germany levies a church tax, on all persons declaring themselves to be Christians, of roughly 8-9% of the income tax, which is effectively (very much depending on the social and financial situation) typically between 0.2% and 1.5% of the total income. The proceeds are shared amongst Catholic, Lutheran, and other Protestant Churches.

Some believe that the church taxation system was established or started through the Concordat of 1933 signed between the Holy See and the Third Reich. This is a simple misunderstanding or misrepresentation of §13 of the Appendix (The Supplementary Protocol) of the Concordat (Schlußprotokoll, §13). The article reads: „Es besteht Einverständnis darüber, daß das Recht der Kirche, Steuern zu erheben, gewährleistet bleibt.“, (refer to External Links). In English, this translates to: It is understood that the Church retains the right to levy Church taxes, (refer to External Links). Notice that §13 states that the Church "retains the right" or, in German, "gewährleistet bleibt". The church tax (Kirchensteuer) actually traces its roots back as far as the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803. Today its legal basis is §140 of the Grundgesetz (the German "constitution") in connection with article 137 of the Weimarer Verfassung (Weimar constitution).

Church tax (Kirchensteuer) is compulsory in Germany for those confessing members of a particular religious group. It is deducted at the PAYE level. The duty to pay this tax theoretically starts on the day one is christened. Anyone who wants to stop paying it has to declare in writing, at their local court of law (Amtsgericht) or registry office, that they are leaving the Church. They are then crossed off the Church registers and can no longer receive the sacraments.

Tithes were local religious tax-like payments paid in Ireland by members of other faiths as well as its own adherents to maintain and fund the established state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland, to which only a small minority of the population belonged. The collection of tithes was violently resisted in the period 1831-36, known as the Tithe War. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, tithes were abolished.

All members of the Church of Denmark pay a church tax, which varies between municipalities. The tax is generally around 1% of the taxable income.

Both the tithe (diezmo), a tax of 10% on all agricultural production, and "first fruits" (primicias), an additional harvest tax, were collected in Spain throughout the medieval and early modern periods for the support of local Catholic parishes. The tithe crossed the Atlantic with the Spanish Empire; however, the Indians who made up the vast majority of the population in colonial Spanish America were exempted from paying tithes on native crops such as corn and potatoes that they raised for their own subsistence. After some debate, Indians in colonial Spanish America were forced to pay tithes on their production of European agricultural products, including wheat, silk, cows, pigs, and sheep. The tithe was abolished in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, soon after independence from Spain (which started in 1810); others, including Argentina and Peru still collect tithes today for the support of the Catholic Church. The tithe was abolished in Spain itself in 1841.

Until the year 2000, Sweden had a mandatory church tax to be paid if one did belong to the Church of Sweden which had been funneling about $500 million annually to the church. Due to change in legislation, the tax was withdrawn in year 2000. However, the Swedish government has agreed to continue collecting from individual taxpayers the annual payment that has always gone to the church. But now the tax will be an optional checkoff box on the tax return. The government will allocate the money collected to Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths as well as the Lutherans, with each taxpayer directing where his or her taxes should go.

Church tax is compulsory in Austria and Catholics can be sued by the Church for not paying it. Anyone who wants to stop paying it has to declare in writing, at their local municipal council, that they are leaving the Church. They are then crossed off the Church registers and can no longer receive the sacraments. The tax amounts to about 1% of the income.

There is no official state church in Switzerland; however, all the 26 cantons (states) financially support at least one of the three traditional denominations--Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, or Protestant--with funds collected through taxation. Each canton has its own regulations regarding the relationship between church and state. In some cantons, the church tax (up to 2.3%) is voluntary but in others an individual who chooses not to contribute to church tax may formally have to leave the church. In some cantons private companies are unable to avoid payment of the church tax.

Members of certain churches pay a church tax of between 1% and 2.25%, depending on the municipality.

The United States has never collected a church tax or mandatory tithe on its citizens, under the principle of separation of church and state. The United States and its governmental subdivisions do, however, exempt most churches from payment of income tax (under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and similar state statutes, which also allows donors to claim the donations as an income tax itemized deduction). Also, churches are subject to exemption from other taxes such as sales and property taxes, either in whole or in part.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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