Jesus christ opposed to the payment of tithes
PREACHER Open up your hand, brother! … Don’t rob God! … Obey the commandment and pay your tithe, alleluia!
RACHEL Our mobile unit is installed today in front of a Pentecostal church in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem. Do you hear that, Jesus?
JESUS Yes, Rachel, but … what is the preacher asking for?
RACHEL He wants the faithful to pay their tithes, just as you taught people to do. Or am I wrong again?
JESUS You sure are, Rachel. I never spoke about tithes.
RACHEL You didn’t command your followers to give the tenth part of their income for the maintenance of the church?
JESUS Quite the contrary. I criticized the Pharisees who were paying tithes even on cumin and mint, but forgot about the commandment of justice and love.
RACHEL And you didn’t pay the tithes yourself?
JESUS How was I to pay them if I didn’t have any money? I’d have done better to collect them!
RACHEL So if it wasn’t you who laid down that norm, where did so many Christian churches get it from? The Bible doesn’t say anything about tithing?
JESUS Yes, it does. It was a law aimed at helping the Levites, since they had no lands of their own, and it especially provided assistance for foreigners and widows. The tithes weren’t for filling the Temple’s coffers; they were meant to be distributed among the poor.
RACHEL Well, I think that some people understand the matter backwards. We have a call coming in… Yes, hello?
GARY Hi! This is Gary Amirault. I’m calling from Missouri in the United States.
RACHEL Great! Talk to us, Mr Amirault.
GARY I’m listening to your program. You, miss journalist, and you, “Jesus Christ”, do you want to know the real origins of the custom of paying the church a tenth part of what you earn?
RACHEL Yes, that’s what we’re trying to clarify.
GARY In the early church there was never any talk of tithing. The Christians of the first communities shared everything they had in common, so that no one would suffer need.
JESUS Ask him, then, when that awful custom of charging tithes began.
RACHEL So, Mr Amirault, when did some evangelical churches begin to require tithes?
GARY In reality, it wasn’t groups like the Mormons or the Adventists that began the custom. It goes back much further, to the sixth century, when the Catholic Church hierarchs needed money, a lot of money, to bankroll their luxurious lifestyle. That’s when they remembered that ancient law of Moses, and they blamed it on Jesus.
JESUS On me?
GARY In the year 567, the Council of Tours declared tithes to be obligatory and ordered excommunication for anyone who didn’t pay them. In some countries, such as France, the Catholic Church charged this “religious tax” until very recent times, right up to the French Revolution. Does this explain the matter to “Jesus Christ”?
JESUS What’s clear to me is that those people were worse scoundrels than the priests of my own time. There were wicked shepherds who fleeced the sheep instead of caring for them.
PASTOR Well, well, brother and sister. I don’t know who you are, but I invite you to attend our worship service.
JESUS No, thank you, because … I don’t have any money to pay the tithe.
PASTOR You have absolutely nothing at all to offer to God?
JESUS Let me see. Ah, yes, I have here a couple of small coins, like the ones that widow had, the one I saw once, praying in the entrance to the Temple.
PASTOR Well, if you want to come in and offer your coins to God…
JESUS No, I think I’d prefer to buy something from those children who are selling candy on the street corner. Let’s get out of here, Rachel!
RACHEL Yeah, let’s get out of here, before they throw us out. For Emisoras Latinas, this is Rachel Perez in Jerusalem.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
An obligatory tax
The tithe is a tax, the tenth part of a harvest, a salary or any form of wealth, which people are obliged to pay as a tribute to some authority. Tithing is a custom that was practiced in many cultures of the ancient world.
In the Bible, the book of Deuteronomy (14,22-29) commands: Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field, … the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock. … Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; [so that] the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill.
Tithing was initially established as payment in kind to provide food for the priests of the Hebrew people. The priests all came from the tribe of Levi, and the law of Moses commanded that they should not possess lands or properties, so that they could dedicate themselves exclusively to the worship of God. The tithes were also used to help the poorest people, usually identified in the Bible as “the orphans and widows” because of the great economic and social vulnerability of these two groups.
Jesus did not counsel people to pay tithes
Jesus did not recommend paying tithes, and the priests accused him of not paying them himself. His severe criticism of the Jerusalem Temple and the priestly caste clearly implied a rejection of the heavy burden of tithes. One of the principal jobs of the “merchants”, whose tables Jesus overturned when he irrupted into the Temple with a whip, was converting into the special coinage used exclusively in the sanctuary all the Greek and Roman coins that the pilgrims brought to the Temple to pay their tithes to the priests.
Every Israelite man over 20 years of age was obliged to pay several tributes annually to the Temple: two drachmas or two denarii (equivalent to two days’ wages), the firstfruits of their harvest or of the fruits of their labor, and the so-called “second tithe”, which was not paid to the Temple but had to be spent in Jerusalem on food, lodging or objects.
On many occasions and for many reasons Jesus criticized the Pharisees, who had a fanatical obsession with the observance of religious laws, including the paying of tithes. On one occasion Jesus threw in their face that they were paying tithes even on “mint and rue and herbs”, but they were neglecting the more substantial matter of justice and love toward their neighbors.
Following Jesus, the first Christian communities eliminated the payment of tithes and supported the community by sharing among everybody whatever possessions they had.
The church became rich through tithing
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire, the biblical law of tithing regained its place in society. The bishops, meeting in the regional councils of Tours (567) and Macon (585) revived the obligation of tithes, which had to be paid to the bishops and parish pastors. In the 8th century the emperor Charlemagne established the obligatory tithing of harvests for the support of bishops and local churches.
Tithing played an important role in the Roman church’s accumulation of wealth. During the middle ages all the property owners were obliged to give a tenth part of their production or their income to the hierarchical authority of the local church, under pain of excommunication or threat of damnation in hell. In the time of Gregory VIII (12th century) the “tithe of Saladdin” was established: it was to be paid by all Christians who did not participate in the crusades against the Muslims.
In colonial America the tithes were paid to the authorities of the local churches for the support of pastors and parishes. This obligation ceased at the time of independence.
Tithes are still being paid
In several European countries which are traditionally Christian but now under civil law (Spain, Germany, Italy), there still exists an “equivalent” to the tithe, namely, the “religious tax” that is given to the state when one pays the personal income tax. These funds are dedicated to financing the Catholic and Protestant churches. For some years now Spanish citizens who are critical of the actions of their clergy have promoted an “apostasy campaign” in order to avoid financing the Catholic Church through their taxes. They free themselves from paying the religious tax by officially renouncing, in a formal document, their membership in the Catholic Church.
Presently, as a result of the increase in biblical fundamentalism and literal reading of the Bible, some evangelical churches, especially the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal, have revived the practice of tithing, making it a condition of true faith. As if in a commercial transaction, the pastors and preachers assure their faithful of blessings and “prosperity” from the hand of God, in exchange for their payment of tithes.
Tithing is a fraud
Gary Amirault is an evangelical pastor and preacher from the U.S. He is also a defender of Christian universalism and a founder of Tentmaker Ministries in Missouri. He takes part in our program since he is the author of several books in which he describes the historical origins of tithing and the lack of any New Testament basis for requiring it. In one of these books, The Tithe is Abolished, he explains that the sects that tithe most are those that evangelicals call “cults”: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and the Church of God; in fourth place would be the Assemblies of God.
Amirault concludes his lengthy text by stating that what they call today “biblical tithe” is nothing but a great swindle, a complete fraud. The book also tells how U.S. churches, through their thousands of schemes for collecting money, have accumulated more than a trillion dollars in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, insurance plans, real estate, etc. Just the interest they pay for the mortgages on their buildings could literally feed all the poor people in the world. The deceptive means used by thousands of pastors to raise money, one of which is the modern tithe, have drained our country of resources that could bless and benefit the world tremendously. But the church is perched on top of all that money.