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Tithes

January 20, 2009

The question is as follows: "Is there the duty of tithes in today's Church? What obligation was there in the New Testament era? What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach? Can a priest command tithing for the maintenance of the church? Can a self-appointed preacher command the people to give tithes for his word healing ministry?” 
Answer: 

Biblical Teaching:

Tithes are a tenth of the produce of the earth consecrated and set apart for special purposes. The dedication of a tenth to God was recognized as a duty before the time of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20; Heb 7:6); and Jacob vowed unto the Lord and said, "Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." The first Mosaic law on this subject is recorded in Lev 27:30-32. Subsequent legislation regulated the destination of the tithes (Nb 18:21-24, 26-28; Dt 12:5. 6. 11. 17; 14:22. 23). The paying of the tithes was an important part of the Jewish religious worship. In the days of Hezekiah one of the first results of the reformation of religion was the eagerness with which the people brought in their tithes (2 Chr 31:5. 6). The neglect of this duty was sternly rebuked by the prophets (Amos 4:4; Mal 3:8-10). It was a taxation device in the Old Testament for the Jewish worship. It cannot be affirmed that the Old Testament law of tithes is binding on the Christian Church, nevertheless the principle of this law remains, and is incorporated in the Gospel (1 Cor 9:13. 14); and if, as is the case, the motive that ought to prompt to liberality in the cause of religion and of the service of God be greater now than in Old Testament times, then Christians ought to go beyond the ancient Hebrew in consecrating both themselves and their substance to God. Jesus speaks of generosity in the parable of the poor widow (cf.). St.Paul recommends his churches to contribute for the maintenance of the poor churches. Every Jew was required by the Levitical law to pay three tithes of his property: (1) one tithe for the Levites; (2) one for the use of the Temple and the great feasts; and (3) one for the poor of the land.

The first mention of “tithing” in the Catholic Church was when St. Paul mentioned it in 1 Cor 9:13. The practice of tithing, of course, is ancient and is mentioned in Genesis in a way that indicates it was an old practice then. The Church, however, does not "require" 10%, but rather that the Faithful have a serious obligation, according to their abilitities, to contribute to the financial needs of the Church.

The standard practice today, in the United States anyway, 10% is recommended, though not commanded. The specific amount is left between the giver and God. Whatever amount that is, 50% may go to the parish, and 50% to miscellanous other ministies/charities. Then there are various special offerings throughout the year such as Peter’s Pence (a donation to the Pope’s discretionary fund that he uses for charity relief) and a similar fund at the diocesan level. Every Jew was required by the Levitical law to pay three tithes of his property: (1) one tithe for the Levites; (2) one for the use of the Temple and the great feasts; and (3) one for the poor of the land.

       Giving is a “grace.” Give yourself to God first. Give yourself to knowing God’s will. Give in response to Christ’s gift. Give out of a sincere desire. Do not give because of any commandment (2 Cor 8:8, 10; 9:7). Give beyond your ability. Give to produce equality. Give joyfully (2 Cor 8:2). Give because you are growing spiritually. Give to continue growing spiritually. Give ecause you are hearing the Gospel preached. Abraham’s tithed in Genesis 14 in obedience to "pagan" tradition. He did not “freely” give. His was NOT a holy tithe from God’s holy land by God’s holy people under God’s holy Covenant. His was only from "pagan spoils of war" required in many nations. In Nb 31, God required 1% of spoils. His tithe to his priest-king was a one-time event. Not from his personal property. Kept nothing for himself. Is not quoted to endorse tithing. 

Most commentaries explain Gen 14:21 as "pagan Arab tradition", it is contradictory to explain the 90% of Gen 14:21 as pagan, while insisting the 10% of Gen 14:20 was obedience to God’s will. If Abraham were an example for Christians to give 10%, he should also be an example for Christians to give the other 90% to Satan, or to the king of Sodom! As priests, neither Abraham nor Jacob had a Levitical priesthood to support; they probably left food for the poor at their altars.

Since only farmers and herdsmen tithed, there was no minimum standard requirement for most. Tradesmen such as carpenters (Jesus), Peter (fishermen) and Paul (tentmakers) did not qualify as tithe-payers. The poor and Gentiles did not tithe. Tithing was only commanded to national Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant. Tithing was never commanded to the Church after Calvary (Ex 19:5-6; Lev 27:34; Mal 4:4; Mt 23:23 ).  Those who received the first whole tithe did not minister atonement (Nb 18:21-24; Neh10:37b). Priests only received 1% (a tenth of the tithe) (Nb 18:25-28; Neh 10:38). In exchange for receiving tithes, both Levites and priests forfeited all rights to permanent land inheritance inside Israel (Nb  18:20-26). First-fruits are not the same as tithes. First-fruits were a very small token offering (Dt 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37; Nb 18:13-17). Tithes were the tenth and not the best; only 1% of the tithes included the best (Lev 27:32. 33). There were four OT tithes: (1) Government taxes (1 Sam 8:14-17). (2) Levitical (Nb 18:21-28; Neh 10:37-39). (3) Festival (Dt 12:1-19; 14:22-26). (3) Poor tithe every 3rd year (Dt 14:28-29; 26:12-13).  Tithes were often taxes used to support Levite [politicians (1 Chron, chap 23 to 26; esp 23:2-5; 26:29-32; 27:5). Tithes never supported mission work (Ex 23:32; Heb 7:12-18). OT Levitical tithes were brought first to the Levitical cities and not to the Temple (Num 18; Neh 10:37-39; 2 Chron 31:15-19). Most Levites required tithes in their Levitical cities where 98% stayed (Num 35, Josh 20, 21).  Malachi 3 is the most abused tithing text in the Bible.  Malachi is OT and is never quoted in the New Covenant to validate tithing.  Tithes are still only food. His audience reaffirmed the OT curses (Neh 10:28-29).  The blessings and curses of tithing are identical to and inseparable from those of the entire Mosaic Law (Dt 28:12. 23-24; Gal 3:10/Dt 27:26).  “You” in Malachi refers to the dishonest priests and not the people (1:6-14; 2:1-10; 2:13 to 3:1-5).  The “whole” tithe never went to the Temple! (Neh 10:37b). The Levitical cities must be included in a correct interpretation. The OT Temple and priesthood have been replaced by the priesthood of every believer. NT elders and pastors more closely resemble OT prophets who were not supported by tithes. Tithing was not legalized as a church law until AD 777. If was not introduced as a local regional law until the 6th century. NT giving principles are: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, not by commandment or percentage and motivated by love for God and lost people.

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