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Question

Dear Father,
reading a book written by a charismatic, I discovered the donation of the tithe. I had never heard of it before, could you give me some explanations and how to behave?
Thank you.


Response from the priest

Dearest,

1. In the times of the Old Testament it was compulsory to pay the tenth part of one’s crops to God and to the king.
The assumption was: God is the master of the earth and of its products.
And since kings and emperors were also considered masters of their lands, all their subjects had to pay the tenth part of their own products in their favour.
This was also in use among the Greeks and the Romans.

2. The Israelites paid this portion of the fruits of the earth in favour of the Temple of Jerusalem: “All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to him” (Lv 27:30).
This portion was given to the Levites for their sustenance.

3. These in turn paid a tithe of what they had received for the sustenance of the High Priest and of the other priests: “The Lord said to Moses: «Give the Levites these instructions: When you receive from the Israelites the tithes I have assigned you from them as your heritage, you are to make a contribution from them to the Lord, a tithe of the tithes; (…). Thus you too shall make a contribution from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites, handing over to Aaron the priest the part to be contributed to the Lord»” (Nm, 18, 26:28)

4. The tithe was taken from wheat, must, oil, fruits from the trees, from the births of animals, oxen, goats, sheep (Lv 27, 32).

5. In the current civil legislation it would be anachronistic to speak of tithes, which is appropriate for an agricultural economy.
However, the state takes its due through taxes, with impositions of various kinds.

6. It would also be anachronistic for the Church to ask for tithes of crops and animals. In the past it did, although this was always linked to the generosity of the faithful.
Today – apart from the agreements made with the states regarding the support of the clergy, the works of religion and ecclesiastical building – the Church leaves it to the generosity of the faithful to contribute to its various needs (seminaries, missions, schools, hospitals, works of charity, etc.).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church simply says: “The fifth precept (“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) states that the faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities” (CCC 2043).

7. The CCC at the same time refers to another passage: “From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich” (CCC 1351).
And it quotes a text written by St. Justin, author of the second century: “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need” (Apology I, 67, 6).

8. So that is what it is all about.
Evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others even today understand literally the text of Holy Scripture and ask their followers pay the tithes of their wages.
But the Catholic Church does not do it except in the terms I have told you.

I wish you well, I ensure you to the Lord and I bless you.
Father Angelo