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The Tithe Pig, group in Derby Porcelain, c. 1770
The Tithe Pig, group in Derby Porcelain, c. 1770

A tithe (/tð/; from Old English: teogoþa "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government.[1] Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash or cheques or more recently via online giving, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural produce. After the separation of church and state, church tax linked to the tax system are instead used in many countries to support their national church. Donations to the church beyond what is owed in the tithe, or by those attending a congregation who are not members or adherents, are known as offerings, and often are designated for specific purposes such as a building program, debt retirement, or mission work.

Many Christian denominations hold Jesus taught that tithing must be done in conjunction with a deep concern for "justice, mercy and faithfulness" (cf. Matthew 23:23).[2][3][4] Tithing was taught at early Christian church councils, including the Council of Tours in 567, as well as the Third Council of Mâcon in 585. Tithing remains an important doctrine in many Christian denominations, such as the Congregationalist Churches, Methodist Churches and Seventh-day Adventist Church.[2] Some Christian Churches, such as those in the Methodist tradition, teach the concept of Storehouse Tithing, which emphasizes that tithes must be prioritized and given to the local church, before offerings can be made to apostolates or charities.[5][6]

Traditional Jewish law and practice has included various forms of tithing since ancient times. Orthodox Jews commonly practice ma'aser kesafim (tithing 10% of their income to charity). In modern Israel, some religious Jews continue to follow the laws of agricultural tithing, e.g., ma'aser rishon, terumat ma'aser, and ma'aser sheni.

Ancient World

"Tithing was widely practiced in ancient cultures from Rome, to Middle East, to China." [7]

Greece and Rome

8th - 4th century BCE

Lycurgus (8th BCE) wrote: "I will not hold life dearer than freedom nor will I abandon my leaders whether they are alive or dead. I will bury all allies killed in the battle. If I conquer the barbarians in war I will not destroy any of the cities which have fought for Greece but I will consecrate a tenth of all those which sided with the barbarian. I will not rebuild a single one of the shrines which the barbarians have burnt and razed but will allow them to remain for future generations as a memorial of the barbarians' impiety.” [8]

Herodotus (484–425 BCE) wrote: " Have men of your guard watch all the gates; let them take the spoil from those who are carrying it out, and say that it must be paid as a tithe to Zeus. " [9] "For Rhodopis desired to leave a memorial of herself in Greece, by having something made which no one else had contrived and dedicated in a temple and presenting this at Delphi to preserve her memory; so she spent the tenth part of her substance on the making of a great number of iron ox-spits, as many as the tithe would pay for, and sent them to Delphi;" [10] "The tenth part of the ransom also they dedicated for an offering, and made of it a four-horse chariot of bronze, which stands on the left hand as you enter the Propylaia in the Acropolis, and on it is the following inscription:[11] "Athens’ bold Sons, what time in glorious Fight They quelled Boeotian and Chalcidian Might, In Chains and Darkness did its Pride enslave; As Ransom’s Tithe these Steeds to Pallas gave."[12] "that the Phocians made themselves masters of four thousand dead, and their shields, whereof they dedicated half at Abae and the rest at Delphi; a tithe of what they won in that fight went to the making of the great statues that stand round the tripod before the shrine at Delphi, and there are others like them dedicated at Abae." [13] "Having brought all the stuff together they set apart a tithe for the god of Delphi, whereof was made and dedicated that tripod that rests upon the bronze three-headed serpent,! nearest to the altar;" [14] "And the people of Siphnos were then at their greatest height of prosperity and possessed wealth more than all the other islanders, since they had in their island mines of gold and silver, so that there is a treasury dedicated at Delphi with the tithe of the money which came in from these mines, and furnished in a manner equal to the wealthiest of these treasuries: and the people used to divide among themselves the money which came in from the mines every year." [15]

Xenophon (430 – probably 355 or 354 BCE) wrote: "And the tithe, which they set apart for Apollo and for Artemis of the Ephesians, was distributed among the generals, each taking his portion to keep safely for the gods;...Here Xenophon built an altar and a temple with the sacred money, and from that time forth he would every year take the tithe of the products of the land in their season and offer sacrifice to the goddess, all the citizens and the men and women of the neighbourhood taking part in the festival....Beside the temple stands a tablet with this inscription:“The place is sacred to Artemis. He who holds it and enjoys its fruits must offer the tithe every year in sacrifice, and from the remainder must keep the temple in repair. If any one leaves these things undone, the goddess will look to it.” [16] "Rendered the country of his friends inviolate, and stripped the enemy's country so thoroughly that in two years he consecrated to the god at Delphi more than two hundred talents as tithe." [17] Let the guilty persons be delivered over to the eleven. Let their property be confiscated to the State, with the exception of one tithe, which falls to the goddess." [18] "You know, men of Athens, the exceeding stringency of the decree of Cannonus, which orders that man, whosoever he be, who is guilty of treason against the people of Athens, to be put in irons, and so to meet the charge against him before the people. If he be convicted, he is to be thrown into the Barathron and perish, and the property of such an one is to be confiscated, with the exception of the tithe which falls to the goddess."[18] "On their side the Lacedaemonians were glad enough to seize a pretext for marching upon the Thebans, against whom they cherished a long-standing bitterness. They had not forgotten the claim which the Thebans had set up to a tithe for Apollo in Deceleia, nor yet their refusal to support Lacedaemon in the attack on Piraeus;" [19] "Agesilaus withdrew to Delphi, where on arrival he offered to the god a tithe of the produce of his spoils—no less than a hundred talents." [20] "One of the speakers ventured on a remark somewhat to this strain: "If you and we, sirs, can only agree, there is hope to-day that the old saying may be fulfilled, and Thebes be 'taken and tithed.'" [21]

Demosthenes (384–322 BCE) wrote: "Was it not he who scrupulously paid to the Spartan governor at that place tithes due upon your wives and children and all the rest of his booty; and yet, when you had honored him with the office of ambassador, robbed the Goddess at Athens of her tithe of the plunder he took from your enemies? Was it not he who, being appointed treasurer at the Acropolis, stole from that place those prizes of victory which our ancestors carried off from the barbarians, the throne with silver feet, and Mardonius's scimitar, which weighed three hundred darics? Is it right, then, that you should deal tenderly with any one of them, and disregard for their sakes the tithes of Athena or the double repayment of public moneys?" [22]

Macrobius (400 CE) wrote: "They wiped out the Sicels who were dwelling there, seized the land, followed the oracle by dedicating a tenth of the booty to Apollo, and set up a shrine to Dis and an altar to Saturn, whose holiday they called the Saturnalia" [23] "Veranius says that after the Pinnari were the last arrive at the midday meal, when the diners were already washing their hands, Hercules forbade them or their descendants to taste from the tithe that was to be offered to him." [24] "Terentius Varro too, in the satire titled On Thunder, bears witness that our ancestors used to promise a tithe to Hercules and not let ten days pass "without making an offering and sending the populace off to bed crowned in laurel, gratis" [25] "Go in pursuit of the Sicels´ Saturnian land and the Aborigines´ Cotule, where an island floats: when you have joined with them, offer a tithe to Phoebus and heads to Hades, and send a man to the father." [26]

The Epidaurian miracle inscriptions (4th century BCE): "The fishmonger Amphimnastos. While bringing fish into Arcadia, this man swore that he would give a tenth of the profit from the fish to Asklepios, but he didn't do it, as he should. When he was in the agora in Tegea, suddenly the fish were struck by lightning, and their bodies were burning up. With a big crowd standing around this spectacle, Amphimnastos confessed the whole deception that he had done connected with Asklepios, and when he had earnestly prayed to the god, the fish appeared to live again, and Amphimnastos dedicated the tenth part to Asklepios." [27]

3rd - 1st century BCE

Callimachus (310–240 BCE) wrote: "Wherefore from that day thou art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollo’s youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Hades nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee: to thee all cities lead up choirs." [28]

Plautus (254–184 BCE) wrote: "If he is a prudent person, he has made a Hercules of his parent: he has given him the tenth part, and has kept back nine for himself." [29] "Tis needful that these should be sold at once for as much as they can; that, if I offer the tenth part to Hercules, on that account it may be greater." [30]

Polybius (200–118 BCE) wrote: "Especially for Lacedaemonians: who, after conquering the barbarians, decreed that the Thebans, for being the only Greeks that resolved to remain neutral during the Persian invasion, should pay a tenth of their goods to the gods." [31]

Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE–DOD unknown) wrote: "Insolence high in dark bonds of iron; and taking the ransom's. Tithe set up here these mares, vowed unto Pallas their god." [32] "Now Heracles received with favour the good-will shown him by the dwellers on the Palatine and foretold to them that, after he had passed into the circle of the gods, it would come to pass that whatever men should make a vow to dedicate to Heracles a tithe of their goods would lead a more happy and prosperous life. And in fact this custom did arise in later times and has persisted to our own day...Furthermore, the Romans have built to this god a notable temple on the bank of the Tiber, with the purpose of performing in it the sacrifices from the proceeds of the tithe." [33]

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (60-7 BCE) wrote: "These people attained to a greater degree of prosperity than any others who dwelt on the Ionian Gulf; for they had the mastery at sea for a long time, and out of their revenues from the sea they used to send tithes to the god at Delphi, which were among the most magnificent sent by any people." [34] "Says he himself saw engraved in ancient characters upon one of the tripods standing in the precinct of Zeus, was as follows: "Fare forth the Sicels' Saturnian land to seek, Aborigines' Cotylê, too, where floats an isle; With these men mingling, to Phoebus send a tithe, And heads to Cronus' son, and send to the sire a man." [35] "The Pelasgians, after conquering a large and fertile region, taking over many towns and building others, made great and rapid progress, becoming populous, rich and in every way prosperous. Nevertheless, they did not long enjoy their prosperity, but at the moment when they seemed to all the world to be in the most flourishing condition they were visited by divine wrath, and some of them were destroyed by calamities inflicted by the hand of Heaven, others by their barbarian neighbours; but the greatest part of them were again dispersed through Greece and the country of the barbarians (concerning whom, if I attempted to give a particular account, it would make a very long story), though some few of them remained in Italy through the care of the Aborigines. The first cause of the desolation of their cities seemed to be a drought which laid waste the land, when neither any fruit remained on the trees till it was ripe, but dropped while still green, nor did such of the seed corn as sent up shoots and flowered stand for the usual period till the ear was ripe, nor did sufficient grass grow for the cattle; and of the waters some were no longer fit to drink, others shrank during the summer, and others were totally dried up. And like misfortunes attended the offspring both of cattle and of women. For they were either abortive or died at birth, some by their death destroying also those that bore them; and if any got safely past the danger of the delivery, they were either maimed or defective or, being injured by some other accident, were not fit to be reared. The rest of the people, also, particularly those in the prime of life, were afflicted with many unusual diseases and uncommon deaths. But when they asked the oracle what god or divinity they had offended to be thus afflicted and by what means they might hope for relief, the god replied that, although they had obtained what they desired, they had neglected to pay what they had promised, and that the things of greatest value were still due from them. For the Pelasgians in a time of general scarcity in the land had vowed to offer to Jupiter, Apollo and the Cabeiri tithes of all their future increase; but when their prayer had been answered, they set apart and offered to the gods the promised portion of all their fruits and cattle only, as if their vow had related to them alone...When they heard the oracle which was brought to them, they were at a loss to guess the meaning of the message. While they were in this perplexity, one of the elders, conjecturing the sense of the saying, told them they had quite missed its meaning it they thought the gods complained of them without reason. Of material things they had indeed rendered to the gods all the first-fruits in the right and proper manner, but of human offspring, a thing of all others the most precious in the sight of the gods, the promised portion still remained due; if, however, the gods received their just share of this also, the oracle would be satisfied. There were, indeed, some who thought that he spoke aright, but others felt that there was treachery behind his words. And when some one proposed to ask the god whether it was acceptable to him to receive tithes of human beings, they sent their messengers a second time, and the god ordered them so to do. Thereupon strife arose among them concerning the manner of choosing the tithes, and those who had the government of the cities first quarrelled among themselves and afterwards the rest of the people held their magistrates in suspicion. And there began to be disorderly emigrations, such as might well be expected from a people driven forth by a frenzy and madness inflicted by the hand of Heaven." [36] "And Hercules, admiring the hospitality of these men, entertained the common people with a feast, after sacrificing some of the cattle and setting apart the tithes of the rest of his booty... The altar on which Hercules offered up the tithes is called by the Romans the Greatest Altar. It stands near the place they call the Cattle Market and no other is held in greater veneration by the inhabitants; for upon this altar oaths are taken and agreements made by those who wish to transact any business unalterably and the tithes of things are frequently offered there pursuant to vows." [37] "After Hercules had settled everything in Italy according to his desire and his naval force had arrived in safety from Spain, he sacrificed to the gods the tithes of his booty and built a small town named after himself in the place where his fleet lay at anchor." [38] Tarquinius, being now master of the city, put to death all he found in arms and permitted the soldiers to carry off the women and children and such others as allowed themselves to be made prisoners, together with a multitude of slaves not easy to be numbered; and he also gave them leave to carry away all the plunder of the city that they found both inside the walls and in the country. As to the silver and gold that was found there, he ordered it all to be brought to one place, and having reserved a tenth part of it to build a temple, he distributed the rest among the soldiers. The quantity of silver and gold taken upon this occasion was so considerable that every one of the soldiers received for his share five minae of silver, and the tenth part reserved for the gods amounted to no less than four hundred talents." [39] "Tarquinius, therefore, proposing to erect this structure with the tenth part of the spoils taken at Suessa, set all the artisans at the work." [40] "And having set apart the tithes of the spoils, he spent forty talents in performing games and sacrifices to the gods, and let contracts for the building of temples to Ceres, Liber and Libera, in fulfilment of a vow he had made." [41]

Titus Livius (59 BC – 17 CE) wrote: "He would say nothing about the contribution, which was really a sacred offering rather than a tithe, and since each individual bound himself to a tenth, the State, as such, was free from the obligation." [42] “Pythian Apollo, and inspired by thy will, I advance to destroy the city of Veii, and to thee I promise a tithe of its spoils. At the same time I beseech thee, Queen Juno, that dwellest now in Veii, to come with us, when we have gotten the victory, to our City —soon to be thine, too —that a temple meet for thy majesty may there receive thee.” [43] "The next thing to be discussed was the gift to Apollo, to whom Camillus said that he had solemnly promised a tenth part of the spoils. The pontiffs ruled that the people must discharge this obligation, but it was not easy to devise a method for compelling them to return the booty, that out of it the due proportion might be set apart for the sacred object. They finally resorted to what seemed the least oppressive plan, namely, that whosoever wished to acquit himself and his household of obligation on the score of the vow, should appraise his own share of the spoils, and pay in a tenth part of its value to the public treasury, to the end that it might be converted into an offering of gold befitting the grandeur of the temple and the power of the god and corresponding to the majesty of the Roman People." [44] "The same praetor was instructed to requisition two tithes of grain; he was to see to its collection on the coast and its transportation to Greece. The same order was given to Lucius Oppius regarding collecting a second tithe in Sardinia; this grain, however, they wished transported not to Greece but to Rome. " [45]

Cicero (106-43 BCE) wrote: "Nor did anyone ever vow to pay a tithe to Hercules if he becamc a wise man !" [46]

1st - 2rd century CE

Plutarch (46-after 119 CE) wrote: "The Senate decreed, not that the plunder should be given up, for that would have been scarcely possible to carry out, but that those who had taken any should be put on their oath, and contribute a tenth part of its value. This measure bore very hardly upon the soldiers, poor hard-working men, who were now compelled to repay so large a proportion of what they had earned and spent. Camillus was clamorously assailed by them, and, having no better excuse to put forward, made the extraordinary statement that he had forgotten his vow when the city was plundered. The people angrily said that he had vowed to offer up a tithe of the enemy's property, but that he really was taking a tithe from the citizens instead. However, all the contributions were made, and it was determined that with them a golden bowl should be made and sent to Apollo at Delphi." [47] "Why was it the custom for many of the wealthy to give a tithe of their property to Hercules? Is it because he also sacrificed a tithe of Geryon's cattle in Rome? Or because he freed the Romans from paying a tithe to the Etruscans? Or have these tales no historical foundation worthy of credence, but the Romans were wont to sacrifice lavishly and abundantly to Hercules as to an insatiable eater and a good trencher-man?" [48] "Caused himself to be carried to Delphi. Here the Pythian games were being celebrated, and Agesilaus not only took part in the procession in honour of the god, but also dedicated to him the tithe of the spoils of his Asiatic campaign, which amounted to one hundred talents." [49] "Sulla made an offering of the tenth part of his substance to Hercules, and feasted the people magnificently: so much greater indeed was the preparation than what was required, that a great quantity of provisions was daily thrown into the river, and wine was drunk forty years old, and even older." [50] "They allege, as the chief proof of his avarice, the mode in which he got his money and the amount of his property. Though he did not at first possess above three hundred talents, and during his first consulship he dedicated the tenth part of his property to Hercules" [51] "But when we came into the treasury of the Acanthians and Brasidas, the director showed us the place where formerly stood the obelisks dedicated to the memory of the courtesan Rhodopis. Then Diogenianus in a kind of passion said: It was no less ignominy for this city to allow Rhodopis a place wherein to deposit the tenth of her gains got by the prostitution of her body, than to put Aesop her fellow-servant to death." [52] "Archeptolemus son of Hippodamus, the Agrylian, and Antiphon son of Sophilus, the Ramnusian, being both present in court, are condemned of treason. And this was to be their punishment: that they should be delivered to the eleven executioners, their goods confiscated, the tenth part of them being first consecrated to Minerva; their houses to be levelled with the ground, and in the places where they stood this subscription to be engraven on brass, '[The houses] of Archeptolemus and Antiphon, traitors." [53]

Pausanias (110–180 CE) wrote: "There is first a bronze Athena, tithe from the Persians who landed at Marathon. It is the work of Pheidias, but the reliefs upon the shield, including the fight between Centaurs and Lapithae, are said to be from the chisel of Mys, for whom they say Parrhasius the son of Evenor, designed this and the rest of his works. The point of the spear of this Athena and the crest of her helmet are visible to those sailing to Athens, as soon as Sunium is passed. Then there is a bronze chariot, tithe from the Boeotians and the Chalcidians in Euboea." [54] "He reported the matter to the Corcyraeans, who, finding their labour lost in trying to catch the tunnies, sent envoys to Delphi. So they sacrificed the bull to Poseidon, and straightway after the sacrifice they caught the fish, and dedicated their offerings at Olympia and at Delphi with a tithe of their catch." [55] "On the base below the wooden horse is an inscription which says that the statues were dedicated from a tithe of the spoils taken in the engagement at Marathon. They represent Athena, Apollo, and Miltiades, one of the generals. Of those called heroes there are Erechtheus, Cecrops, Pandion, Leos, Antiochus, son of Heracles by Meda, daughter of Phylas, as well as Aegeus and Acamas, one of the sons of Theseus. These heroes gave names, in obedience to a Delphic oracle, to tribes at Athens. Codrus however, the son of Melanthus, Theseus, and Neleus, these are not givers of names to tribes. The statues enumerated were made by Pheidias, and really are a tithe of the spoils of the battle." [55] "The Siphnians too made a treasury, the reason being as follows. Their island contained gold mines, and the god ordered them to pay a tithe of the revenues to Delphi. So they built the treasury, and continued to pay the tithe until greed made them omit the tribute, when the sea flooded their mines and hid them from sight." [55] "The Tarentines sent yet another tithe to Delphi from spoils taken from the Peucetii, a non-Greek people." [55] "The Apollonians, after taking the land of Abantis, set up here. These images with heaven's help, tithe from Thronium."[56] "The Cleitorians dedicated this image to the god, a tithe. From many cities that they had reduced by force. The sculptors were Aristo and Telestas, Own brothers and Laconians." [56] "As you go from the Council Chamber to the great temple there stands on the left an image of Zeus, crowned as it were with flowers, and with a thunderbolt set in his right hand. It is the work of Ascarus of Thebes, a pupil of Canachus of Sicyon. The inscription on it says that it is a tithe from the war between Phocis and Thessaly." [56] "The temple has a golden shield; from Tanagra. The Lacedaemonians and their allies dedicated it, A gift taken from the Argives, Athenians and Ionians,The tithe offered for victory in war." [57] "The things worth seeing in Amyclae include a victor in the pentathlon, named Aenetus, on a slab. The story is that he won a victory at Olympia, but died while the crown was being placed on his head. So there is the statue of this man; there are also bronze tripods. The older ones are said to be a tithe of the Messenian war." [58] "The Eleans call it the Corcyrean, because, they say, the Corcyreans landed in their country and carried off part of the booty, but they themselves took many times as much booty from the land of the Corcyreans, and built the portico from the tithe of the spoils." [59] "The ancient temple of Apollo was of brick, but the emperor Hadrian afterwards built it of white marble. The Apollo called Pythian and the one called Decatephorus (Bringer of Tithes) are very like the Egyptian wooden images." [60]

Strabo (64 or 63 BCE – c. 24 CE) wrote: "so such great riches have accrued to the Syracusans that their name has been embodied in the proverb applied to those who have too great wealth, viz. that they have not yet attained to a tithe of the riches of the Syracusans." [61]

Pliny the Elder (23/24-79 CE) wrote: "At Sahota a tithe estimated by measure and not by weight is taken by the priests for the god they call Sabis, and the incense is not allowed to be put on the market until this has been done; this tithe is drawn on to defray what is a public expenditure, for actually on a fixed number of days the god graciously entertains guests at a banquet." [62] "No tithes are given to a god from myrrh, as it also grows in other countries; however, the growers have to pay a quarter of the yield to the king of the Gebbanitae." [63] "But there is another lotus tree in the precincts of Vulcan founded by Romulus from a tithe of his spoils of victory, which on the authority of Masurius is understood to be of the same age as the city. Its roots spread right across the Municipal Offices as far as the Forum of Caesar." [64] "The practical identity of the old Greek alphabet with the present Latin one will be proved by an ancient Delphic tablet of bronze (at the present day in the Palace, a gift of the emperors) dedicated to Minerva, with the following inscription: Tithe dedicated by Nausicrates to the Daughter of Zeus..." [65]

Harpocration (fl. 2rd century CE) wrote: "Dekateuein: Demosthenes, Against Androtion: "For not by tithing themselves" for 'exacting the tithe' and as it were 'plundering.' For things seized from their enemies they used to tithe to the gods. And since Demosthenes, in Against Medon, says about a young girl as follows, "not to tithe her nor initiate her," Didymos the grammatikos, having written a book about this, says that Lysias, in On the Daughter of Phrynichos, has said that to tithe is to serve as a bear. He says, however, that to dedicate was properly called 'to tithe,' since it was Greek custom to dedicate to the gods the tenths of the revenues. But perhaps the orator has said that serving as a bear is tithing since ten-year-old girls used to serve as bears." [66] "Dekateutas (tithe farmers): For 'tax-collectors who collect the tenth:' Antiphon in the defense against the public suit of Demosthenes. That the tenth was a custom duty Demosthenes has shown in On The Tax Immunities. Dekatelogous (tithe collectors): Those who collect the tenth. The same then as the dekateutai. Demosthenes, Against Aristokrates." [67] "That 'the profane' (ta hosia) are 'public things' Demosthenes shows in Against Timokrates clearly instructs concerning them: "since they have carried off, on the one hand, the sacred things, namely the tithes of the goddess and the one-fiftieths of the other gods," [68]

Lucian of Samosata (125–180 CE) wrote: "Priapus would not put weapons into his hands till he had turned him out a perfect dancer; and he was rewarded by Hera with a tenth part of all Ares's spoils." [69] "In good time against the feast every rich man shall inscribe in a table-book the names of his several friends, and shall provide money to a tithe of his yearly incomings, together with the superfluity of his raiment, and such ware as is too coarse for his own service, and a goodly quantity of silver vessels. These shall be all in readiness. On the eve of the feast the rich shall hold a purification, and drive forth from their houses parsimony and avarice and covetousness and all other such leanings that dwell with the most of them. And their houses being purged they shall make offering to Zeus the Enricher, and to Hermes the Giver, and to Apollo the Generous. And at afternoon the table-book of their friends shall be read to them." [70]

Appianus (95–165 CE) wrote: "Bad  omens  from  Jupiter  were  observed  after  the  capture  of  Veil. The  soothsayers  said  that  some  religious  duty  had  been  neglected, and  Camillus  remembered  that  it  had  been forgotten  to  appropriate  a  tenth  of  the  plunder  to  the  god that  had  given  the  oracle  concerning  the  lake.  Accordingly the  Senate  decreed  that  those  who  had  taken  anything  from Veii  should  make  an  estimate,  each  one  for  himself,  and bring  in  a  tenth  of  it  under  oath.  Their  religious  feeling was  such  that  they  did  not  hesitate  to  add  to  the  votive offering  a  tenth  of  the  produce  of  the  land  that  had  already been  sold,  as  well  as  of  the  spoils. With  the  money  thus obtained  they  sent  to  the  temple  of  Delphi  a  golden  cup which  stood  on  a  pedestal  of  brass in  the  treasury of Rome and Massilia  until  Onomarchus  melted  the  cup  during  the Phocsean  war.The  pedestal  is  still  standing." [71]

Tertullian (155–220 CE) wrote: "And such pieces only you vouchsafe your gods, which you bestow upon your dogs and slaves. Instead of offering Hercules the tenth of your goods, you hardly lay one third of it upon his altar; not that I blame you for this, for believe me, I take it for a great instance of your wisdom, to save some of that which otherwise would be all lost." [72] "The Salii cannot sup without the advance of a loan, and upon the feast of tithes to Hercules the entertainment is so very costly that you are forced to have a bookkeeper on purpose for expenses." [73]

Justin (second century) wrote: "At this time Cartalo, the son of Malchus the exiled general, returning by his father’s camp from Tyre (whither he had been sent by the Carthaginians, to carry the tenth of the plunder of Sicily, which his father had taken, to Hercules), and being desired by his father to wait on him, replied that “he would discharge his religious duties to the public, before those of merely private obligation.” [74] "This affair becoming known, the Crotonians themselves also sent deputies to the oracle at Delphi, asking the way to victory and a prosperous termination of the war. The answer given was, that “the enemies must be conquered by vows, before they could be conquered by arms.” They accordingly vowed the tenth of the spoil to Apollo, but the Locrians, getting information of this vow, and the god’s answer, vowed a ninth part, keeping the matter however secret, that they might not be outdone in vows." [75]

3rd - 10th century

Diogenes Laertius (fl. 3rd century CE) wrote: "Every citizen pays a tithe of his property, not to me but to a fund for defraying the cost of the public sacrifices or any other charges on the State or the expenditure on any war which may come upon us." [76]

Suda Encyclopedia (10th century) wrote: "A Lydian; [a man] who carried out many fine deeds and [sc. especially], when relieving Meles of his tyrannical rule, ordered the Lydians to return a tenth, in accordance with what he had vowed, to the gods. They obeyed and, counting up their possessions, chose a tenth of everything and sacrificed it. As a result of this a great drought seized Lydia." [77] "And [there is] a proverb: "even spasms get you a tax-break" [It arose] because Pisistratus the tyrant required the Athenians to give him a tithe of their farm-produce. Passing by once and seeing an old man working the rocks and rocky fields he asked the old man what produce he got from his place. He answered, "Pains and spasms, and Pisistratus takes a tenth of them." Pisistratus, amazed at his free-speaking, gave him a remission of the tithe. And since then the Athenians use the proverb." [78] "Mnaseas recounts that when the Aigians of Achaea conquered the Aetolians in a sea-battle and captured a fifty-oared ship of theirs, they dedicated a tenth of the spoils at Pytho." [79] "The Gephyraeans on whom the Athenians had imposed a tithe for Delphi." [80] "Ἡ Συρακουσῶν δεκάτη: the Syracusans' tithe: [sc. A proverbial phrase] in reference to the extremely rich." [81] "As Agaklytos under the 80th Olympiad [460 BCE] says as follows: "the old temple of Hera, a dedication by the people of Skillous, who are of the Eleians. And in it there is a golden colossus, a dedication by Kypselos the Corinthian; for they say that Kypselos vowed that if he should become tyrant of the Corinthians he would make all their property sacred up to the tenth year, and that he called in the tithes of their properties and prepared the sculpted colossus." [82] "Siphnians: These men were the richest, not only of the islanders but also of the most affluent mainlainders. So while they were paying the tithe to Delphi in an orderly fashion and obeying the oracle which had stipulated this, the products of their wealth, after the discovery of the silver mines, gave them a contribution. But when they discontinued the payment of the first-fruits, the sea rose up and flooded and obliterated the basis of their wealth, and they were reduced to the poverty of [sc. other!] islanders and terrible destitution."[83]


The esretu – "ešretū" the Ugarit and Babylonian one-tenth tax. Listed below are some specific instances of the Mesopotamian tithe.[84]

[Referring to a ten percent tax levied on garments by the local ruler:]
"the palace has taken eight garments as your tithe (on 85 garments)"
"...eleven garments as tithe (on 112 garments)"..
"...(the sun-god) Shamash demands the tithe..."
"four minas of silver, the tithe of [the gods] Bel, Nabu, and Nergal..."
"...he has paid, in addition to the tithe for Ninurta, the tax of the gardiner"
"...the tithe of the chief accountant, he has delivered it to [the sun-god] Shamash"
"...why do you not pay the tithe to the Lady-of-Uruk?"
"...(a man) owes barley and dates as balance of the tithe of the **years three and four"
"...the tithe of the king on barley of the town..."
"...with regard to the elders of the city whom (the king) has **summoned to (pay) tithe..."
"...the collector of the tithe of the country Sumundar..."
"...(the official Ebabbar in Sippar) who is in charge of the tithe..."

Hebrew Bible

Main articles: Terumat hamaaser, First tithe, Second tithe, Poor tithe, and Animal tithe


In Genesis 14:18–20, Abraham, after rescuing Lot, met with Melchizedek. After Melchizedek's blessing, Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he has obtained from battle:

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand". Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything".

— Genesis 14:18–20

In Genesis 28:16–22, Jacob, after his visionary dream of Jacob's Ladder and receiving a blessing from God, promises God a tenth:

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it". And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven". So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you".

— Genesis 28:16–22

Mosaic law

Main article: Tithes in Judaism

Tithing in the Temple by Pierre Monier
Tithing in the Temple by Pierre Monier

The tithe is specifically mentioned in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The tithe system was organized in a seven-year cycle, corresponding to the Shmita-cycle. This mandatory tithe was distributed locally "within thy gates" (Deuteronomy 14:28) to support the Levites and assist the poor.

Every year, Bikkurim, Terumah, Ma'aser Rishon and Terumat Ma'aser were separated from the grain, wine and oil (Deuteronomy 14:22). (As regards other fruit and produce, the Biblical requirement to tithe is a source of debate.) The first tithe is giving of one tenth of agricultural produce (after the giving of the standard terumah) to the Levite (or Aaronic priests). Historically, during the First Temple period, the first tithe was given to the Levites. Approximately at the beginning of the Second Temple construction, Ezra and his Beth din implemented its giving to the kohanim.[85][86]

Unlike other offerings which were restricted to consumption within the tabernacle, the second tithe could be consumed anywhere . On years one, two, four and five of the Shemittah-cycle, God commanded the Children of Israel to take a second tithe that was to be brought to the place of the Temple (Deuteronomy 14:23). The owner of the produce was to separate and bring 1/10 of his finished produce to the Old City of Jerusalem after separating Terumah and the first tithe, but if the family lived too far from Jerusalem, the tithe could be redeemed upon coins (Deuteronomy 14:24–25). Then, the Bible required the owner of the redeemed coins to spend the tithe "to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish" (Deuteronomy 14:26). Implicit in the commandment was an obligation to spend the coins on items meant for human consumption.

In years three and six of the Shemittah-cycle the Israelites set aside the (second) tithe instead as the poor tithe, and it was given to the strangers, orphans, and widows.

The Levites, also known as the Tribe of Levi, were descendants of Levi. They were assistants to the Aaronic priests (who were the children of Aaron and, therefore, a subset of the Tribe of Levi) and did not own or inherit a territorial patrimony (Numbers 18:21-28). Their function in society was that of temple functionaries, teachers and trusted civil servants who supervised the weights and scales and witnessed agreements. The goods donated from the other Israelite tribes were their source of sustenance. They received from "all Israel" a tithe of food or livestock for support, and in turn would set aside a tenth portion of that tithe (known as the Terumat hamaaser) for the Aaronic priests.

An additional tithe mentioned in the Book of Leviticus (27:32–33) is the cattle tithe, which is to be sacrificed as a korban at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Book of Nehemiah

Tithing is mentioned several times in the Book of Nehemiah, believed to chronicle events in the latter half of the 5th century BC. Nehemiah 10 outlines the customs regarding tithing. The Levites were to receive one tenth (the tithe) "in all our farming communities" and a tithe of the tithe were to be brought by them to the temple for storage.[87] Nehemiah 13:4-19 recounts how Eliashib gave Tobiah office space in the temple in a room that had previously been used to store tithes while Nehemaiah was away.[87] When Nehemiah returned he called it an evil thing, threw out all Tobiah's household items and had his rooms purified so that they could once more be used for tithes.[88]

Minor Prophets

Further information: Minor Prophets

The Book of Malachi has one of the most quoted Biblical passages about tithing, directed to the sons of Jacob:

For I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? "Will 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. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts."


Further information: Deuterocanonical books and Biblical apocrypha

The deuterocanonical Book of Tobit provides an example of all three classes of tithes practiced during the Babylonian captivity:

"I would often go by myself to Jerusalem on religious holidays, as the Law commanded for every Israelite for all time. I would hurry off to Jerusalem and take with me the early produce of my crops, a tenth of my flocks, and the first portion of the wool cut from my sheep. I would present these things at the altar to the priests, the descendants of Aaron. I would give the first tenth of my grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and other fruit to the Levites who served in Jerusalem. For six out of seven years, I also brought the cash equivalent of the second tenth of these crops to Jerusalem where I would spend it every year. I gave this to orphans and widows, and to Gentiles who had joined Israel. In the third year, when I brought and gave it to them, we would eat together according to the instruction recorded in Moses' Law, as Deborah my grandmother had taught me..."


Main article: Tithes in Judaism

Orthodox Jews continue to follow the laws of Terumah and Ma'aser as well as the custom of tithing 10% of one's earnings to charity (ma'aser kesafim).[89][90] Due to doubts concerning the status of persons claiming to be Kohanim or Levi'im arising after severe Roman/Christian persecutions and exile, the Hebrew Bible tithe of 10% for the Levites, and "tithe of the tithe" (Numbers 18:26) of 10% of 10% (1%). The Mishnah and Talmud contain analysis of the first tithe, second tithe and poor tithe.[91]

Animals are not tithed in the present era when the Temple is not standing.[92]


See also: Stewardship (theology)

A collection bag used in the Lutheran Church of Sweden to collect a portion of ones' tithes during the offertory
A collection bag used in the Lutheran Church of Sweden to collect a portion of ones' tithes during the offertory

Many churches practiced tithing, as it was taught by the Council of Tours in 567, and in the Third Council of Mâcon in AD 585, a penalty of excommunication was prescribed for those who did not adhere to this ecclesiastical law.[93] Tithes can be given to the Church at once (as is the custom in many Christian countries with a church tax), or distributed throughout the year; during the part of Western Christian liturgies known as the offertory, people often place a portion of their tithes (sometimes along with additional offerings) in the collection plate.[94]

2 Corinthians 9:7 talks about giving cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 8:12 encourages giving what you can afford, 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 discusses giving weekly (although this is a saved amount for Jerusalem), 1 Timothy 5:17–18 exhorts supporting the financial needs of Christian workers, Acts 11:29 promotes feeding the hungry wherever they may be and James 1:27 states that pure religion is to help widows and orphans.[2]

According to a 2018 study by LifeWay Research that interviewed 1,010 Americans, 86% of people with Evangelical beliefs say that tithe is still a biblical commandment today.[95] In this number, 87% of Baptist believers, 86% of Pentecostal believers, 81% of Non-denominational believers share this position.

Denominational positions

Adventist Churches

The Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches in its Fundamental Beliefs that "We acknowledge God's ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow men, and by returning tithes and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support of His Church."[2]

Anabaptist Churches

The Mennonite Church teaches that "tithing as a minimum baseline is one of the principles on which financial giving in this 'first fruits' system is based":[2]

We depend on God's gracious gifts for food and clothing, for our salvation, and for life itself. We do not need to hold on tightly to money and possessions, but can share what God has given us. The practice of mutual aid is a part of sharing God's gifts so that no one in the family of faith will be without the necessities of life. Whether through community of goods or other forms of financial sharing, mutual aid continues the practice of Israel in giving special care to widows, orphans, aliens, and others in economic need (Deut. 24:17–22). Tithes and first-fruit offerings were also a part of this economic sharing (Deut. 26; compare Matt. 23:23).[2]

Baptist Churches

The National Baptist Convention of America teaches that "Baptists believe that a proper sense of stewardship begins with the 'tithe'; a presentation of which belongs to Him. 'The tithe is the Lord's.' We have not given as a result of presenting the tithe. Our giving begins with the offering {after we have tithed}."[2]

The Treatise of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Chapter XVI, specifically states that both the Old and New Testaments "teach tithing as God's financial plan for the support of His work."[96]

The Southern Baptist Convention, in Article XIII of its Baptist Faith and Message, states that "God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth."[97] The tithe is not specifically mentioned, but traditionally it is taught and practiced in Southern Baptist churches.

Catholic Church

The Council of Trent, which was held after the Reformation, taught that "tithes are due to God or to religion, and that it is sacrilegious to withhold them",[98] but the Catholic Church no longer requires anyone to give ten percent of income.[99] The Church now simply asks Catholics to support the mission of their parish.[100] According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church "The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities"[99][101]

Lutheran Churches

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod teaches that "Encourage[s] cheerful, first-fruit, proportionate (including but not limited to tithing) living and giving in all areas of life by Christian stewards".[2]

Methodist Churches

The Discipline of The Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection, which teaches the doctrine of the Storehouse Tithing, holds:[5][102]

That all our people pay to God at least one-tenth of all their increase as a minimum financial obligation, and freewill offerings in addition as God has prospered them. The tenth is figured upon the tither's gross income in salary or net increase when operating a business.[102]

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states that it is the responsibility of ecclesiastics to "educate the local church that tithing is the minimum goal of giving in The United Methodist Church."[2]

The Church of the Nazarene teaches Storehouse Tithing, in which members are asked to donate one-tenth of their income to their local church—this is to be prioritized before giving an offering to apostolates or charities.[103]

Moravian Church

The Moravian Church encourages its members to "financially support the ministry of the Church toward the goal of tithing."[2] It "deem[s] it a sacred responsibility and genuine opportunity to be faithful stewards of all God has entrusted to us: our time, our talents, [and] our financial resources".[2]

Orthodox Churches

Tithing in medieval Eastern Christianity did not spread so widely as in the West. A Constitution of the Emperors Leo I (reigned 457–474) and Anthemius (reigned 467–472) apparently expected believers to make voluntary payments and forbade compulsion.[104]

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America teaches "proportionate giving and tithing as normal practices of Christian giving."[2]

Pentecostal Churches

The Pentecostal Church of God teaches that "We recognize the scriptural duty of all our people, as well as ministers, to pay tithes as unto the Lord. Tithes should be used for the support of active ministry and for the propagation of the Gospel and the work of the Lord in general."[2]

The International Pentecostal Holiness Church likewise instructs the faithful that:[2]

Our commitment to Jesus Christ includes stewardship. According to the Bible everything belongs to God. We are stewards of His resources. Our stewardship of possessions begins with the tithe. All our members are expected to return a tenth of all their income to the Lord.[2]

Reformed Churches

The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) states, with respect to the obligation to tithe:[105]

"Giving has always been a mark of Christian commitment and discipleship. The ways in which a believer uses God’s gifts of material goods, personal abilities, and time should reflect a faithful response to God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ and Christ’s call to minister to and share with others in the world. Tithing is a primary expression of the Christian discipline of stewardship".[105]

The United Church of Christ, a denomination in the Congregationalist tradition, teaches that:[2]

When we tithe we place God as our first priority. We trust in God's abundance instead of worrying about not having enough. Tithing churches live out a vision of abundance rather than a mentality of scarcity.[2]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Main article: Tithing in Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) bases its tithing on the following additional scriptures:[106]

And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.

Public notice in Wales demanding tithe payments, 1837
Public notice in Wales demanding tithe payments, 1837
Part of an 1842 tithe map including the small village of East Dundry near Bristol, England, with names of its fields and two farms. Note the tithe-officer signature and stamp near the top.
Part of an 1842 tithe map including the small village of East Dundry near Bristol, England, with names of its fields and two farms. Note the tithe-officer signature and stamp near the top.
Tithe map for the property
Tithe map for the property
Elmsett tithe memorial in Suffolk, England, opposite the parish church, protesting against a tithe seizure
Elmsett tithe memorial in Suffolk, England, opposite the parish church, protesting against a tithe seizure

Tithing is currently defined by the church as payment of one-tenth of one's annual income. Many church leaders have made statements in support of tithing.[107] Every Latter-day Saint has an opportunity once a year to meet with their bishop for tithing settlement. The payment of tithes is mandatory for members to receive the priesthood or obtain a temple recommend for admission to temples.

The LDS Church is a lay ministry.[108] The money that is given is used to construct and maintain its buildings as well as to further the work of the church.[109] None of the funds collected from tithing is paid to local church officials or those who serve in the church. Those serving in full-time church leadership do receive stipends for living expenses, but they are paid from non-tithing resources, such as investments.[citation needed] Brigham Young University, a church-sponsored institution, also receives "a significant portion"[citation needed] of its maintenance and operating costs from tithes of the church's members.

Church collection of religious offerings and taxes

England and Wales

The right to receive tithes was granted to the English churches by King Ethelwulf in 855. The Saladin tithe was a royal tax, but assessed using ecclesiastical boundaries, in 1188. The legal validity of the tithe system was affirmed under the Statute of Westminster of 1285. The Dissolution of the Monasteries led to the transfer of many rights to tithe to secular landowners and the Crown – and tithes could be extinguished until 1577 under an Act of the 37th year of Henry VIII's reign.[110] Adam Smith criticized the system in The Wealth of Nations (1776), arguing that a fixed rent would encourage peasants to work far more efficiently.

The first page of chapter 28 of Besse's 'Collection of Sufferings', covering Herefordshire
The first page of chapter 28 of Besse's 'Collection of Sufferings', covering Herefordshire
Paragraph on prosecutions for non-payment of tithes in Herefordshire, 1674 (from page 258 of Besse's 'Sufferings of Quakers')
Paragraph on prosecutions for non-payment of tithes in Herefordshire, 1674 (from page 258 of Besse's 'Sufferings of Quakers')

In the seventeenth century various dissenting groups objected to paying tithes to Church of England. Quakers were prominent among these, objecting to paying 'forced payments for the maintenance of a professional ministry'.[111] In 1659 guidance was issued for a national system for recording the fines, impropriations and imprisonments for non-payment of tithes as seen in the following extract from a document.[112]

Clause 9. Sufferings of Friends to be gathered up and recorded, the sufferes to report to a recorder in each meeting who is to report to the next General Meeting for the county for record by a county recorder.

— From Register Book of a Monthly Meeting in Hampshire, 1659

These records were eventually collated and published in 1753 by Joseph Besse, documenting widespread persecution throughout the British Isles and further abroad. This only abated in the 1680s, due in no small measure to the efforts of William Penn who, through his father's earlier connections at court, was friendly with Charles I and James, Duke of York and interceded with them in behalf of Quakers in England and on the Continent, respectively.[113]

See below for a fuller description and history, until the reforms of the 19th century, written by Sir William Blackstone and edited by other learned lawyers of the period.[114]

The system gradually ended with the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, whose long-lasting Tithe Commission replaced them with a commutation payment, land award and/or rentcharges to those paying the commutation payment and took the opportunity to map out (apportion) residual chancel repair liability where the rectory had been appropriated during the medieval period by a religious house or college. Its records give a snapshot of land ownership in most parishes, the Tithe Files, are a socio-economic history resource. The rolled-up payment of several years' tithe would be divided between the tithe-owners as at the date of their extinction.[115]

This commutation reduced problems to the ultimate payers by effectively folding tithes in with rents however, it could cause transitional money supply problems by raising the transaction demand for money. Later the decline of large landowners led tenants to become freeholders and again have to pay directly; this also led to renewed objections of principle by non-Anglicans.[116] It also kept intact a system of chancel repair liability affecting the minority of parishes where the rectory had been lay-appropriated. The precise land affected in such places hinged on the content of documents such as the content of deeds of merger and apportionment maps.[115]

Tithe redemption

Rent charges in lieu of abolished English tithes paid by landowners were converted by a public outlay of money under the Tithe Act 1936 into annuities paid to the state through the Tithe Redemption Commission. Such payments were transferred in 1960 to the Board of Inland Revenue, and those remaining were terminated by the Finance Act 1977.

The Tithe Act 1951 established the compulsory redemption of English tithes by landowners where the annual amounts payable were less than £1, so abolishing the bureaucracy and costs of collecting small sums of money.


There has never been a separate church tax or mandatory tithe on Greek citizens. The state pays the salaries of the clergy of the established Church of Greece, in return for use of real estate, mainly forestry, owned by the church. The remainder of church income comes from voluntary, tax-deductible donations from the faithful. These are handled by each diocese independently.[citation needed]


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From the English Reformation in the 16th century, most Irish people chose to remain Roman Catholic and had by now to pay tithes valued at about 10 per cent of an area's agricultural produce, to maintain and fund the established state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland, to which only a small minority of the population converted. Irish Presbyterians and other minorities like the Quakers and Jews were in the same situation.

The collection of tithes was resisted in the period 1831–36, known as the Tithe War. Thereafter, tithes were reduced and added to rents with the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the Irish Church Act 1869, tithes were abolished.

United States

While the federal government has never collected a church tax or mandatory tithe on its citizens, states collected a tithe into the early 19th century. The United States and its governmental subdivisions also exempt most churches from payment of income tax (under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and similar state statutes, which also allows donors to claim the donations as an income tax itemized deduction). Also, churches may be permitted exemption from other state and local taxes such as sales and property taxes, either in whole or in part. Clergy, such as ministers and members of religious orders (who have taken a vow of poverty) may be exempt from federal self-employment tax on income from ministerial services. Income from non-ministerial services are taxable and churches are required to withhold Federal and state income tax from this non-exempt income. They are also required to withhold employee's share of Social Security and Medicare taxes under FICA, and pay the employer's share for the non-exempt income.[117]

Spain and Latin America

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Casa de los Diezmos, Canillas de Aceituno, Málaga, Spain
Casa de los Diezmos, Canillas de Aceituno, Málaga, Spain

Main article: Diezmo

Both the tithe (diezmo), a levy of 10 per cent on all agricultural production, and "first fruits" (primicias), an additional harvest levy, were collected in Spain throughout the medieval and early modern periods for the support of local Catholic parishes.

The tithe crossed the Atlantic with the Spanish Empire; however, the Indians who made up the vast majority of the population in colonial Spanish America were exempted from paying tithes on native crops such as corn and potatoes that they raised for their own subsistence. After some debate, Indians in colonial Spanish America were forced to pay tithes on their production of European agricultural products, including wheat, silk, cows, pigs, and sheep.

The tithe was abolished in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, soon after independence from Spain (which started in 1810). The tithe was abolished in Argentina in 1826, and in Spain itself in 1841.

Governmental collection of Christian religious offerings and taxes

Main article: Church tax


In Austria a colloquially called church tax (Kirchensteuer, officially called Kirchenbeitrag, i. e. church contribution) has to be paid by members of the Catholic and Protestant Church[which?]. It is levied by the churches themselves and not by the government. The obligation to pay church tax can just be evaded by an official declaration to cease church membership. The tax is calculated on the basis of personal income. It amounts to about 1.1 per cent (Catholic church) and 1.5 per cent (Protestant church).[citation needed]


All members of the Church of Denmark pay a church tax, which varies between municipalities.[118] The tax is generally around 1% of the taxable income.[119]


Members of state churches pay a church tax of between 1% and 2% of income, depending on the municipality. In addition, 2.55 per cent of corporate taxes are distributed to the state churches. Church taxes are integrated into the common national taxation system.[120]


Germany levies a church tax, on all persons declaring themselves to be Christians, of roughly 8–9% of their income tax, which is effectively (very much depending on the social and financial situation) typically between 0.2% and 1.5% of the total income. The proceeds are shared among Catholic, Lutheran, and other Protestant Churches.[121]

The church tax (Kirchensteuer) traces its roots back as far as the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803. It was reaffirmed in the Concordat of 1933 between Nazi Germany and the Catholic Church. Today its legal basis is article 140 of the Grundgesetz (the German constitution) in connection with article 137 of the Weimar Constitution. These laws originally merely allowed the churches themselves to tax their members, but in Nazi Germany, collection of church taxes was transferred to the German government. As a result, both the German government and the employer are notified of the religious affiliation of every taxpayer. This system is still in effect today. Mandatory disclosure of religious affiliation to government agencies or employers constituted a violation of the original European data protection directives but is now permitted after the German government obtained an exemption.[121]

Church tax (Kirchensteuer) is compulsory in Germany for those confessing members of a particular religious group. It is deducted at the PAYE level. The duty to pay this tax theoretically starts on the day one is christened. Anyone who wants to stop paying it has to declare in writing, at their local court of law (Amtsgericht) or registry office, that they are leaving the Church. They are then crossed off the Church registers and can no longer receive the sacraments, confession and certain services; a Roman Catholic church may deny such a person a burial plot.[121] In addition to the government, the taxpayer also must notify his employer of his religious affiliation (or lack thereof) in order to ensure proper tax withholding.[122]

This opt-out is also used by members of "free churches" (e.g. Baptists) (non-affiliated to the scheme) to stop paying the church tax, from which the free churches do not benefit, in order to support their own church directly.


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Originally the Italian government of Benito Mussolini, under the Lateran treaties of 1929 with the Holy See, paid a monthly salary to Catholic clergymen. This salary was called the congrua. The eight per thousand law was created as a result of an agreement, in 1984, between the Italian Republic and the Holy See.

Under this law Italian taxpayers are able to vote how to partition the 0.8% ('eight per thousand') of the total income tax IRPEF levied by Italy among some specific religious confessions or, alternatively, to a social assistance program run by the Italian State. This declaration is made on the IRPEF form. This vote is not compulsory; the whole amount levied by the IRPEF tax is distributed in proportion to explicit declarations.

The last official statement of Italian Ministry of Finance made in respect of the year 2000 singles out seven beneficiaries: the Italian State, the Catholic Church, the Waldenses, the Jewish Communities, the Lutherans, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Assemblies of God in Italy.

The tax was divided up as follows:

In 2000, the Catholic Church raised almost a billion euros, while the Italian State received about €100 million.


Main article: Teind

In Scotland teinds were the tenths of certain produce of the land appropriated to the maintenance of the Church and clergy. At the Reformation most of the Church property was acquired by the Crown, nobles and landowners. In 1567 the Privy Council of Scotland provided that a third of the revenues of lands should be applied to paying the clergy of the reformed Church of Scotland. In 1925 the system was recast by statute[123] and provision was made for the standardisation of stipends at a fixed value in money. The Court of Session acted as the Teind Court. Teinds were finally abolished by section 56 of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.


There is no official state church in Switzerland; however, all the 26 cantons (states) financially support at least one of the three traditional denominations — Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, or Protestant — with funds collected through taxation. Each canton has its own regulations regarding the relationship between church and state. In some cantons, the church tax (up to 2.3 per cent) is voluntary but in others an individual who chooses not to contribute to church tax may formally have to leave the church. In some cantons private companies are unable to avoid payment of the church tax.[citation needed]

Tithes and tithe law in England before reform

Excerpts from Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England:

Definition and classification and those liable to pay tithes

. . . tithes; which are defined to be the tenth part of the increase, yearly arising and renewing from the profits of lands, the stock upon lands, and the personal industry of the inhabitants:

the first species being usually called predial,[124] as of corn, grass, hops, and wood;
the second mixed, as of wool, milk, pigs, &c, consisting of natural products, but nurtured and preserved in part by the care of man; and of these the tenth must be paid in gross:
the third personal, as of manual occupations, trades, fisheries, and the like; and of these only the tenth part of the clear gains and profits is due.


in general, tithes are to be paid for every thing that yields an annual increase, as corn, hay, fruit, cattle, poultry, and the like; but not for any thing that is of the substance of the earth, or is not of annual increase, as stone, lime, chalk, and the like; nor for creatures that are of a wild nature, or ferae naturae, as deer, hawks, &c, whose increase, so as to profit the owner, is not annual, but casual.[125]: 24 


We cannot precisely ascertain the time when tithes were first introduced into this country. Possibly they were contemporary with the planting of Christianity among the Saxons, by Augustin the monk, about the end of the fifth century. But the first mention of them, which I have met with in any written English law, is in a constitutional decree, made in a synod held A.D. 786, wherein the payment of tithes in general is strongly enjoined. This canon, or decree, which at first bound not the laity, was effectually confirmed by two kingdoms of the heptarchy, in their parliamentary conventions of estates, respectively consisting of the kings of Mercia and Northumberland, the bishops, dukes, senators, and people. Which was a few years later than the time that Charlemagne established the payment of them in France, and made that famous division of them into four parts; one to maintain the edifice of the church, the second to support the poor, the third the bishop, and the fourth the parochial clergy.[125]: 25 


And upon their first introduction (as hath formerly been observed), though every man was obliged to pay tithes in general, yet he might give them to what priests he pleased; which were called arbitrary consecrations of tithes: or he might pay them into the hands of the bishop, who distributed among his diocesan clergy the revenues of the church, which were then in common. But, when dioceses were divided into parishes, the tithes of each parish were allotted to its own particular minister; first by common consent, or the appointment of lords of manors, and afterwards by the written law of the land.[125]: 26  ...It is now universally held, that tithes are due, of common right, to the parson of the parish, unless there be a special exemption. This parson of the parish, we have formerly seen, may be either the actual incumbent, or else the appropriator of the benefice: appropriations being a method of endowing monasteries, which seems to have been devised by the regular clergy, by way of substitution to arbitrary consecrations of tithes.[125]: 28 


We observed that tithes are due to the parson of common right, unless by special exemption: let us therefore see, thirdly, who may be exempted from the payment of tithes ... either in part or totally, first, by a real composition; or secondly, by custom or prescription.

First, a real composition is when an agreement is made between the owner of the lands, and the parson or vicar, with the consent of the ordinary and the patron, that such lands shall for the future be discharged from payment of tithes, by reason of some land or other real recompence given to the parson, in lieu and satisfaction thereof.

Secondly, a discharge by custom or prescription, is where time out of mind such persons or such lands have been, either partially or totally, discharged from the payment of tithes. And this immemorial usage is binding upon all parties, as it is in its nature an evidence of universal consent and acquiescence; and with reason supposes a real composition to have been formerly made. This custom or prescription is either de modo decimandi, or de non-decimando.

A modus decimandi, commonly called by the simple name of a modus only, is where there is by custom a particular manner of tithing allowed, different from the general law of taking tithes in kind, which are the actual tenth part of the annual increase. This is sometimes a pecuniary compensation, as twopence an acre for the tithe of land : sometimes it is a compensation in work and labour, as that the parson shall have only the twelfth cock of hay, and not the tenth, in consideration of the owner's making it for him: sometimes, in lieu of a large quantity of crude or imperfect tithe, the parson shall have a less quantity, when arrived to greater maturity, as a couple of fowls in lieu of tithe eggs; and the like. Any means, in short, whereby the general law of tithing is altered, and a new method of taking them is introduced, is called a modus decimandi, or special manner of tithing.[125]: 28–29 

A prescription de non-decimando is a claim to be entirely discharged of tithes, and to pay no compensation in lieu of them. Thus the king by his prerogative is discharged from all tithes. So a vicar shall pay no tithes to the rector, nor the rector to the vicar, for ecclesia decimas non-folvit ecclesiae. But these personal to both the king and the clergy; for their tenant or lessee shall pay tithes of the same land, though in their own occupation it is not tithable. And, generally speaking, it is an established rule, that in lay hands, modus de non-decimando non-valet. But spiritual persons or corporations, as monasteries, abbots, bishops, and the like, were always capable of having their lands totally discharged of tithes, by various ways: as

  1. By real composition :
  2. By the pope's bull of exemption :
  3. By unity of possession; as when the rectory of a parish, and lands in the same parish, both belonged to a religious house, those lands were discharged of tithes by this unity of possession :
  4. By prescription; having never been liable to tithes, by being always in spiritual hands :
  5. By virtue of their order; as the knights templars, cistercians, and others, whose lands were privileged by the pope with a discharge of tithes. Though, upon the dissolution of abbeys by Henry VIII, most of these exemptions from tithes would have fallen with them, and the lands become tithable again; had they not been supported and upheld by the statute 31 Hen. VIII. c. 13. which enacts, that all persons who should come to the possession of the lands of any abbey then dissolved, should hold them free and discharged of tithes, in as large and ample a manner as the abbeys themselves formerly held them. And from this original have sprung all the lands, which, being in lay hands, do at present claim to be tithe-free: for, if a man can shew his lands to have been such abbey lands, and also immemorially discharged of tithes by any of the means before-mentioned, this is now a good prescription de non-decimando. But he must shew both these requisites; for abbey lands, without a special ground of discharge, are not discharged of course; neither will any prescription de non-decimando avail in total discharge of tithes, unless it relates to such abbeylands.[125]: 31–32 


Some pastors threaten those who do not tithe with curses, attacks from the devil and poverty.[126] From 2019 to 2022, various American pastors apologized for their teachings on tithing obligation and prosperity gospel, recalling that the threats of curses for non-payment of tithing in Malachi were not about not Christians, since quoting the Epistle to the Galatians, Jesus Christ brought the curse on him.[127][128]


Main article: Zakāt

Zakāt (Arabic: زكاة [zækæːh]) or "alms giving", one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a small percentage of one's assets to charity. It serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims, although others may have a rightful share. It is the duty of an Islamic state not just to collect zakat but to distribute it fairly as well.

Zakat is payable on three kinds of assets: wealth, production, and animals. The more well-known zakat on wealth is 2.5 per cent of accumulated wealth, beyond one's personal needs. Production (agricultural, industrial, renting, etc.), is subject to a 10 per cent or 5 per cent zakat (also known as Ushur (عُشر), or "one-tenth"), using the rule that if both labor and capital are involved, 5% rate is applied, if only one of the two are used for production, then the rate is 10 per cent. For any earnings, that require neither labor nor capital, like finding underground treasure, the rate is 20 per cent. The rules for zakat on animal holdings are specified by the type of animal group and tend to be fairly detailed.[129]

Muslims fulfill this religious obligation by giving a fixed percentage of their surplus wealth. Zakat has been paired with such a high sense of righteousness that it is often placed on the same level of importance as performing the five-daily repetitive ritualised prayer (salat).[130] Muslims see this process also as a way of purifying themselves from their greed and selfishness and also safeguarding future business.[130] In addition, Zakat purifies the person who receives it because it saves him from the humiliation of begging and prevents him from envying the rich.[131] Because it holds such a high level of importance the "punishment" for not paying when able is very severe. In the 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam it states, "...the prayers of those who do not pay zakat will not be accepted".[130] This is because without Zakat a tremendous hardship is placed on the poor which otherwise would not be there. Besides the fear of their prayers not getting heard, those who are able should be practicing this third pillar of Islam because the Quran states that this is what believers should do.[132]

Non-Muslims (able-bodied adult males of military age) living in an Islamic state are required to pay Jizya, this exempts them from military service and they do not pay Zakat.

Ismaili Muslims pay tithes to their spiritual leader the Aga Khan, known by the Gujarati language term dasond, which in turn refers to one-eighth of the earned income of the community member.


Main article: Daswandh

Daswandh (Punjabi: ਦਸਵੰਧ), sometimes spelled Dasvandh, is the one tenth part (or 10 per cent) of one's income that should be donated in the name of the God, according to Sikh principles.[133][134]


Outside religion, there are also organizations that encourage secular tithing.

Giving What We Can promotes a public commitment to donate at least 10% of one's income to the most effective charities.[135]

See also

The Village Lawyer or The Tax Collector's Office by Pieter Brueghel the Younger
The Village Lawyer or The Tax Collector's Office by Pieter Brueghel the Younger


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  124. ^ from praedium, a farm
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  129. ^ The book Meezan, by Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, published by Al-Mawrid, 2002, Lahore, Pakistan
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Further reading