Is tithe compulsory in the Catholic Church.

Is tithe compulsory in the Catholic Church.

A tithe is one tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax for the support of the Church and clergy. In other words, it is the total takings accumulated by one from whatever profession or occupation in a year divided by ten. It is paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment.

In old testament commandment, it was obligatory to the Israelites as evidenced in Genesis 14: 20 where Abram later named by God as Abraham gave Melchizedek who was the king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God a tenth of all his loot over the victory of Chedorlaomer of Elam and the other kings. Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 14: 22-39, Moses related to the Israelites the precept of God that they should set aside as tithe, a tenth of all that fields produce each year and go to a place where God has chosen to be worshipped……they should not neglect the Levites [The priestly family and the temple attendants} who lived among them in that they had no property of their own. It is made popular in Malachi 3: 5-12, as he reminded the Israelites that they were required to give 10% of their income to God through the priest. Thus the10% principle predated the time of Moses as Abraham observed it. But Joel 2: 28-29 adduces that in the day of the Lord or the latter day as some may choose to call it, the message of the bible will become clearer and people will understand more. In another place, the bible states that old things have passed away and new versions take their place [Revelation 21: 4]. Same should apply to the payment of tithes.


As a matter of fact, the bible in the New Testament commands Christians to pay taxes and not tithes. Reference can be made to Romans 13: 6-7, where we are urged to pay taxes to state authorities because they are working for God when they fulfil their duties. We are told to pay then, what we owe them; to pay them our personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all. This should be done as a matter of conscience and not because of fearing God’s punishment and the unpalatable consequences of dodging tax payment from the government. Furthermore, in Mathew 23: 23 Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in that they attached much importance to the payment of tithes neglecting the really important teachings of the Law such as justice, mercy and honesty. This entails then that payment of tithes is not compulsory for the Christians. Also, Luke 18: 12-14, the Pharisee who justified himself by paying tithes, not engaging in adultery and other vices was castigated by Jesus while the tax collector who showed remorse for his sins was in the right with God when he went home.

In the Old Testament in Psalm 50: 12-15, God said ‘’If I were hungry, I would not ask you for food, for the world and everything in it is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Let the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God and give the Almighty all that you promised. Call to me when trouble comes; I will save you; and you will praise me.’’ It is therefore not only in payment of tithes that God’s blessings shower on people but in uprightness and offerings of thanksgiving. Nonetheless, payment of tithes is another medium through which blessings of God rain down on mankind. But are people really honest in the amount they give as tithes?

In Genesis 28: 22 Jacob told God ‘’I will give you a tenth of everything you gave me’’. Do those paying tithes actually render to God ten percent of all they own? Again Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered [Genesis 14: 20]. Going further, Deuteronomy 14: 22-26 says ‘’ Set aside a tithe of all that your fields produce each year……….’’. So the bottom line is a tenth of all your income at the end of the year. The Israelites were agrarians and shepherds in the Old Testament and therefore had to tithe with agricultural products and livestock. In the modern times, physical cash is employed. That might be the reason Jesus Christ condemned their dishonesty. The church in her wisdom prefers goodwill offerings to payment of tithes. Furthermore, salaried workers may find it difficult to determine the income to base their calculations. Should it be gross income or net income? I have a friend who is always in debt because he pays ten percent of his net salary as tithe. Does God like his people to suffer because of the greed of some pastors? Obviously, no.

Payment of tithes was introduced in the Catholic Church in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 AD and the canons of the Council of Macon in 585 AD. In the course of time, the payment of tithes became obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all countries of Christendom. The Church looked on this payment as ‘’of divine law. Since tithes were instituted not by man but by the Lord Himself’’. As regards the civil power, the Christian Roman emperors granted the right to churches of retaining a portion of the produce of certain lands. But the earliest instance of the enforcement of the payment of ecclesiastical tithes by civil law is to be found in the capitularies of Charlemagne at the end of eight century. In English statute law proper, however, the first mention of tithes is to be found in the Statute of Westminster of 1285 AD.

At first, the tithe was payable to the bishop. But later the right passed by canon law to the parish priests. Abuses soon crept in. The right to receive tithes was granted to princes and nobles, even hereditarily, by ecclesiastics in return for protection or eminent services. These species of impropriation became so intolerable that the Third Council of Lateran decreed that no collection of tithes by laymen was permissible without the consent of the pope. During the reign of Pope Gregory VIII, a so called Saladin tithe was instituted, which was payable by all who did not take part personally in the Crusade to recover the Holy Land.

At the present time, in most countries where some species of tithes still exist, as in England [for the Established Church], in Austria, and in Germany, the payment has been changed into a rent-charge. In countries where Roman Catholic faith is practiced, the clergy receive no tithes. As a result, other means are adopted to support the clergy and maintain ecclesiastical institutions to substitute payment in lieu of tithes. Thus Annual Harvest and Bazaar Events, Thanksgiving Offerings, Launching and Donations, Church Building fund Raising Ceremonies, Freewill Offerings among others are encouraged and catholic faithful are very co-operative with the attendant spiritual fulfilment or upliftment.

In summary, Jesus never commanded us Christians to give 10 percent of our income but he did require us make disciples, care for the poor, love our neighbors as ourselves and pray. Furthermore, he ordered us to take care of our clergy because a laborer deserves his wages. Of course we may not see how the relationships we cultivate now through the sharing of ourselves will benefit the church, but we should trust that any positive interactions we facilitate lead to good. The clumsy attempts at evangelization and small financial contributions may never be seen to ensure the longevity of the parish or promulgation of conversion of hearts. But be sure that like the Samaritan of John’s gospel refocusing of the efforts made in this small way might be enough to lead us to say; ‘’And we know that this is truly the Savior of the world’’[John 4: 42]. In the world of unknowns, that is enough.
In fact, tithing [meaning the whole 10 percent] remains a fairly rare practice across many churches. Many Christians give far less as tithes irrespective of denominations. The precepts of the Church maintain that each person has the duty to support the material needs of the church according to his abilities. The code of Canon Law states, ‘’The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for apostolic works and works of charity end for the decent sustenance of ministers’’[No 222]. However, the Church does not mandate a ‘’tithe’’ as such of any percentage of Income or other resource.

Credit :Ofomah E S writes from
St. David’s Catholic Parish
Azigbo. Nnewi South LGA Anambra Nigeria

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