Tithing

Catholic Church

What is the Catholic Church’s stance on tithing? Here is what they say:

“In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. 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. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the canons of the Council of Macon in 585.” – The Catholic Encyclopedia

As you can see, tithing was not Biblical. There was no collection of money for about 500 years. Then around the 6th century, the Catholic Church needed money to support itself. So they made up some rules loosely based on the Bible to trick people into giving them money.

Levities vs. Modern Government

Earlier I mentioned that a tithe was not money. Why is this important? Money can be charged as a flat rate regardless of production or income. A tithe was based on the actual production of agriculture from land an individual owned. Today, there is property tax on the land itself, even though it does not produce anything. Also, the local church expects 10% of your gross income even if you can’t pay your bills. This goes against Jacob’s example as I discussed earlier. In the Bible, the Levities were responsible for dividing the tithes to God’s causes of worship, education, outreach, and health care. Levities also owned land, flocks, and herd, so they did not need to rely on tithes for their income. Since they received tithes from 12 tribes, they probably had an income about 20% higher than the average worker. In the United States, the top 1% of the population makes $500,000 per year which is about 12 times that of an average individual. This creates an economic inequality of 1200% vs. 20% in Bible times. Research has shown that high economic inequality causes more heath and social problems, distrust of businesses and government, more crime, and less housing. God made tithing laws to prevent economic inequality, but in today’s society, it would make things worse.

Leviticus 25:23-24 – The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. (ESV)

The Malachi Prophecy

Malachi 3:8-10 – Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, How have we robbed you? In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe 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 a blessing until there is no more need. (ESV)

This passage in Malachi is the key passage in which tithing came from. Most Christians today interpret this passage to mean that God will curse you if you don’t give money to the local church, but will bless you if you do give. How do they come to this conclusion?

The first issue is a mistranslation with the word “are.” Instead of “you are cursed” is should read “you curse me.” This is correct in more literal translations of the Bible:

Malachi 3:9 – With a curse you curse Me, and Me you are defrauding – the nation, all of it (Concordant Version of the Old Testament)

Next, the passage says to bring the tithe to the storehouse. The storehouse was where they stored bread for the priests only. This was not for the Levites, nor was it for all of God’s people. Remember that all other uses of “tithe” referred to agriculture collected by the Levites. Therefore, when “tithe” is used here, it has a different meaning then other verses we have talked about before. It is more likely that God is referring to a spiritual meaning such as in this verse:

John 6:32-35 – Jesus, therefore, said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread out of the heaven; but my Father doth give you the true bread out of the heaven; for the bread of God is that which is coming down out of the heaven, and giving life to the world. They said, therefore, unto him, Sir, always give us this bread. And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of the life; he who is coming unto me may not hunger, and he who is believing in me may not thirst – at any time (YLT)

In this passage, Jesus compares physical bread to spiritual bread. This means that in Malachi, instead of a physical tithe to bring to the storehouse, God is asking us to bring a spiritual tithe to him. God is not asking for money, but a pure heart. A polluted heart God will not accept:

Malachi 1:6-7 – A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? Says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, How have we despised your name? By offering polluted food upon my alter. But you say, How have we polluted you? By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. (ESV)

Gods says that when you disobey Him, you are bringing a polluted heart to the alter. It is natural to want to do physical things to prove yourself spiritually, but that falls short. Making sacrifices or giving money to the church is not good enough.

1 Samuel 15:22 – And Samuel said, Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams. (ESV)

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