Francisco-Fact #162
October 31, 2019

What is a tithe?

The tithe comes from the Bible, though something very like it was common in the Ancient Near East in countries other than Judah and Israel. The word means a tenth of the produce of the land: crops and animals. As payment to the owner of the land, and in ancient Israel Judah, God was the ultimate owner of the land, commands delivered in the texts of Leviticus 27.30-32, concerning valuations of tariffs, and Deuteronomy 14:22-24, concerning the annual tithe, Israelites and Judeans were to honor God and support their religious life by dividing this tithe between Levites (Priests) and the contributor, and every third year between the Contributor, the Levites, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow.

A modified version of this practice was instituted in England during the time of the Anglo-Saxons. There were abuses in historical times, but it was the standard of our religious tradition, not only because of the Bible but due tradition in Christian England as well.

The New Testament introduced two standards that were different than the Deutero-Levitical standards: the selling and giving of everything and sharing it, each according to his/her needs, and the voluntary offering. In Ancient Israel and Judah, tithing was a state enforceable law. The same was true in England as it processed from the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms to the Nineteenth Century.

Our fund raising is clearly a voluntary effort. What then is the standard against which we should measure ourselves? Everything might be a bit much but shooting for the Biblical Standard makes sense. Giving to non-religious charity can be part of your calculation, and, yet, giving to God is important too.

That is a tithe and that is what it is for—support of the church and the people who have no other heritage.