Will a Man Rob God? 

Will a Man Rob God?
Nailed to the Cross
French Revolution

Will a Man Rob God?

Voluntary tithing is popular in evangelical churches, understandably so, because tithing goes back to the patriarchs:

  • “And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!' And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.”
  • (Genesis 14:18-20, NRSV).

Everything belongs to God: "The earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it..." (Psalm 24:1). He is the Owner, we are the tenants. Those who give to the Lord's work are only giving back what He has given them. Hearing that "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7), believers look for a benchmark. What level of giving does God consider 'cheerful' and what 'miserly'? Hearing that Abraham, God's friend, used the benchmark of a tenth, many find this to be a convenient, and for most people a readily attainable, standard.

Rosa Bonheur, Red Cattle on a Hill-Side

This type of tithing is a voluntary covenant between God and the believer. Jacob, a sharp bargainer, even made his compliance with the covenant's terms conditional upon God's prior compliance:

  • “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 surely give one-tenth to you.'”
  • (Genesis 28:20-22, NRSV).

It is a free undertaking of the believer, not a command of God. The sphere covered by this tithing is "all," "everything." This model of tithing will always be popular, so long as believers seek to emulate those whom God commended. For the great majority of those who live in this still-wealthy nation, giving one-tenth to God's work leaves them with more than enough to live on. But the minority for whom this is not so rarely choose to tithe, when the decision is left to them.

Taking it to the next level, some churches, including but not limited to 'out-there' groups like the 'Oneness' Pentecostals and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, make payment and reporting of 10% of one's income to the church mandatory. Former members even report having been disfellowshipped for failing to document payment of tithes. Can this practice be substantiated from the Bible? Enter the law-giver Moses, who, it is hoped, will provide the enforcement muscle to make even the unwilling impoverished minority pay tithes.

Moses' law includes three tithing commands which differ so widely in circumstance and intended recipient as to elicit two historic interpretations: either these are three distinct tithes totalling not ten percent but up to 23-1/3% of agricultural production, or these three are the same one exaction differently described. If the latter, the interpreter must again determine whether the tithe's apportionment amongst its several named legitimate claimants is intended to be left to individual choice by the payee, to societal negotiation, or to some other adjudication. Medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides cuts the knot by positing a single recipient class, 'the poor,' which includes the Levites, on grounds that they received no inheritance: "In the Law we meet frequently with the phrase, 'the Levite, the stranger, and the orphan and the widow:' for the Levite is reckoned among the poor because he had no property." (Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, p. 388).

The first interpretative choice was in force the last time Moses' law was a living law code governing a functioning society. Josephus' understanding of the law was that it enjoined three distinct tithes: "Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans." (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 8, 22). This author of course is not for Christians an authoritative Bible interpreter, but he was well-placed to observe how the system functioned when a society lived under its mandates.

But this is not the only interpretive possibility. Josephus' elaboration into three distinct exactions may show the entrepreneurial spirit at work, because the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, written about a century prior to the New Testament era, seems to count two tithes, not three, backdated to Jacob before the law:

"And Levi discharged the priestly office at Bethel before Jacob his father in preference to his ten brothers, and he was a priest there, and Jacob gave his vow: thus he tithed again the tithe to the Lord and sanctified it, and it became holy unto Him. And for this reason it is ordained on the heavenly tablets as a law for the tithing again the tithe to eat before the Lord from year to year, in the place where it is chosen that His name should dwell, and to this law there is no limit of days for ever. This ordinance is written that it may be fulfilled from year to year in eating the second tithe before the Lord in the place where it has been chosen, and nothing shall remain over from it from this year to the year following." (R. H. Charles. The Book of Jubilees (Kindle Locations 1617-1622). Chapter 32.)

A prior description of Abraham's practice makes tithing an eternal ordinance: "And to this law there is no limit of days; for He hath ordained it for the generations for ever that they should give to the Lord the tenth of everything, of the seed and of the wine and of the oil and of the cattle and of the sheep." (R. H. Charles, Book of Jubilees, Chapter 13).

Philo Judaeus seems to count two, "As it seems to me the number ninety is second only to the number a hundred, inasmuch as the tenth part of it, that is to say ten, is taken away, since I see that in the law two-tenths of the first-fruits were set apart, first a tenth of the whole, secondly a tenth of the remainder, for when a tenth of the fruits of the earth, of corn, or wine, or oil, is taken, another tenth is also taken from the remainder; therefore of these two that which is the first and principal one is honored with the greater share; and in the second place that which follows it. . ." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book 3, Question 56).

The apocryphal Book of Tobit also seemingly counts double tithes: "I used to hurry off to Jerusalem with the firstfruits of crops and herds, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep; and I gave them to the priests of Aaron's line for the altar, and the tithe of wine, corn, olive oil, pomegranates and other fruits to the Levites ministering in Jerusalem. The second tithe for the six years I converted into money, and I went and distributed it in Jerusalem year by year among the orphans and widows, and the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. Every third year when I brought it and gave it to them, we held a feast according to the rule laid down in the law of Moses and the instructions given by Deborah the mother of Hananiel our grandfather..." (Tobit, 1:6-8). As seen below, the Talmud suggests rolling the second tithe into the third every third year, leaving a total count of two tithes. So it is genuinely difficult to arrive at a precise count which is agreed upon by all interpreters.

Not including the tithe of the tithe (Malachi 3:8), by which some recipients pass along a portion of their receipts to others, Josephus' three tithes, with their varying expressed purposes, are as follows:

1. First Tithe (Levites):
  • “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S.  It is holy to the LORD...And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.”
  • (Leviticus 27:30-32).

  • “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
  • (Numbers 18:21-32).
2. Second Tithe (Festivals). Animals consecrated to the Lord are nonetheless also consumed by human diners. The sacrificial system allotted a set portion of the victim to the priesthood, but the farmer retains an interest in the festival tithe:
  • “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.  And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.”
  • (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).
3. Third Tithe (Welfare):
  • “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
  • (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

Perhaps simplifying the matter, the Talmud makes the helpful suggestion of collapsing the second tithe into the poor tithe every third year: "If the second year from the last sabbatic year was just ending and the third year was just beginning, then for the second year he must give the first and second tithes, and for the third year he must give the first and the poor tithes. Whence do we deduce that (in the third year no second tithe was to be given)? R. Jehoshua ben Levi says: In Deut. xxvi. 12, it is written: 'When thou hast made an end of the tithe of produce in the third year, which is the year of the tithing,' i.e., the year in which only one tithe is to be given.' What is to be understood (by one tithe)? The first and poor tithes, and the second tithe shall be omitted. But perhaps it is not so (that the first and poor tithe are one tithe), but that the first tithe shall be also omitted. This cannot be so, for we read [Numb. xviii. 26]: 'The tithe which I have given you from them, for your inheritance,' etc. (From this we see that) the Scripture compares this tithe to an inheritance, and as an inheritance is the perpetual property of the heir, so also is the first tithe an uninterrupted gift for the Levite." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Tract Rosh Hashanah, Volume IV, Section Moed, Kindle location 15513). This would leave the total tithe rate (restricted to agricultural produce) at 20%. This however is not the only conceivable way of putting the pieces of the Biblical puzzle together, because these various references, — 'first' and 'second' tithe, etc.,— can be understood in several different ways, 'tithe of the tithe,' tithe of cattle and of grain, or as here explained. This author also arrives at a consolidated figure of 20%:

"An institution specially designed for the protection and relief of the poor was the second tithe, the so-called poor’s-tithe. The first tithe belonged to the Levites. What remained over was again tithed, and the produce of this second tithe, devoted in the first two years to a feast in the sanctuary at the offering of first-fruits, was devoted in the third year to a feast in the dwelling-house, to which the Levites and the strangers, the widows and the orphans, were invited (Deut 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13.)—G. Uhlhorn, in “Christian Charity in the Ancient Church,” 1883."
(Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David (Kindle Locations 89220-89224). Psalm 146. GLH Publishing.)

In their exaction of the tithe, some interpreters roll differently named exactions into each other, for example identifying tithes with first-fruits, which may also be counted as two different things, apportioned to different uses, as explicated in the Apostolic Constitutions: "Let all first-fruits be brought to the bishop, and to the presbyters. and to the deacons, for their maintenance; but let all the tithe be for the maintenance of the rest of the clergy, and of the virgins and widows, and of those under the trial of poverty." (Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, Section 4, Chapter XXX, p. 985). Both distortions should be avoided in understanding how the system was intended to function, both the reduplication of the same ordinance, making one tax into several, but also collapsing two distinct exactions into one. To arrive at the total rate of obligatory taxation, separate exactions must be teased apart. Including also the requirement to leave some standing grain in the fields, etc., leads to the following total:

"Thus the prescribed religious contributions of every Jewish layman at the time of the second Temple were as follows: Biccurim [first-fruits] and Terumoth, say two per cent; from the ‘first of the fleece,’ at least five shekels’ weight; from the ‘first of the dough,’ say four per cent; ‘corners of the fields’ for the poor, say two per cent; the first, or Levitical tithe, ten per cent; the second, or festival tithe, to be used at the feasts in Jerusalem, and in the third and sixth years to be the ‘poor’s tithe,’ ten per cent; the firstlings of all animals, either in kind or money-value; five shekels for every first-born son, provided he were the first child of his mother, and free of blemish; and the half-shekel of the Temple-tribute. Together, these amounted to certainly more than the fourth of the return which an agricultural population would have." (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 245).

That's one estimate. It may be objected that leaving interpretation of Mosaic taxation to its recipients creates an obvious conflict of interest. These interpreters had every incentive to multiply exactions. Did they multiply the one tithe of scripture into two or three, out of greed for gain? But modern-day tithing advocates also have an agenda. They assert that God has always required precisely ten percent from His people, never more and never less. This impels them to collapse exactions which classical commentators count as distinct, such as first-fruits and the tithe. In Bible fact God has not always demanded precisely ten percent; more was asked of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). While counting separate exactions leaves us with a high rate of taxation, what welfare state, as Moses designed, has not had a high tax rate?

Regardless of whether there were two tithes or three, the Mosaic tithe was not a tax on income, but a set-aside of a fixed portion of agricultural production. The increase of the flocks and the grain harvest were tithed; profit from a commercial transaction was not. This distinction makes a real difference. Who pays and who does not? From city-dwellers in ancient Israel, cobblers, potters, blacksmiths, soldiers,— Moses did not require one tenth. Jesus was not required to tithe His income from carpentry, nor was Paul obliged to tithe his income from tent-making, nor was Peter expected to pay ten percent of his income from fishing. The tithe was a tax on one form of production, agriculture. Also important in an agrarian society: landless rural laborers did not pay tithes. It was not a tax on all rural incomes, but a tax on agricultural production.

While landed proprietors Henry and Em collect and forward one tenth of their crop, their farm hands Hunk, Hickory and Zeke, paid in cash, do not remit one tenth of their income. To suggest that, if Henry and Em had been able to retain 100 per cent of their crop, they would have been able to pay Hunk, Hickory and Zeke more, equates to saying that, if Wal-mart paid less for the goods they import from China, they could pay their hired help more. Certainly they could. Substituting an income tax for Moses' crop and herds tax creates a new crop of winners and losers. Hunk, Hickory and Zeke are worse off, because they now must pay ten percent of their income. Henry and Em are better off, because any reasonable income tax allows payers to deduct their legitimate cost of doing business: mortgage interest, fertilizer, irrigation, seed, Hunk, Hickory and Zeke's wages, transport to market, etc. Some years farmers make money, some years they don't. Yet every year farmers within Moses' reach pay a tenth of their produce. The market mischievously penalizes communal agricultural success; yet whether a glut sparks a price collapse or famine a price spike, a tenth of the produce is still owed. Modern readers find it easy to monetize farm production alongside every other commodity, yet the Mosaic law, with its strictures on gleaning, retains an awareness that food is different, food sustains life.

Now consider the case that causes scandal to the world: an elderly widow subsisting on Social Security of $6,000 a year. Some preachers accuse her of 'robbing God' if she does not fork over $600. Yet who can live on $5,400 a year? They shrug, explaining that they did not make the rules, God did. Yet God did not make this rule. God never imposed any income tax. They have reconfigured Moses' agricultural set-aside as an income tax. Even under the Old Testament system, this elderly widow living on cash remittances did not owe a tenth, because she manages neither crops nor herds. Moreover, under the Old Testament system, she was a recipient of tithed goods (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), not a payer. As will be seen again when we get to the New Testament, transforming someone from a net recipient into a giver is an absolute change of polarity, not an adjustment of quantity.

To this tithing advocates respond, while under Moses' law the elderly widow does not technically owe a tenth of her cash income, the Bible clearly sets forth the principle of giving to God. Of course it does, and many other principles besides, including not oppressing the poor: "He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor." (Psalm 72:4).

There were some voices in the early church who seem to have felt the tithing system should continue,

“Let him use those tenths and first-fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought in on account of the poor, to the orphans, the widows, the afflicted, and strangers in distress, as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him. Distribute to all those in want with righteousness, and yourselves use the things which belong to the Lord, but do not abuse them; eating of them, but not eating them all up by yourselves: communicate with those that are in want, and thereby show yourselves unblameable before God. . .Hear attentively now what was said formerly: oblations and tithes belong to Christ our High Priest, and to those who minister to Him. Tenths of salvation are the first letter of the name of Jesus.” (Apostolic Constitutions, Book 2, Section 4, Chapter XXV, pp. 810-812, ECF_0_07).

However others spoke in favor of voluntary giving. The relation between the church and the law of Moses is complex. We know that the law is holy: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12). Its social and civil enactments are not directly binding upon the church, and yet, just as Southern slave-owners who refused to free their slaves every seventh year as Moses required owed God an explanation, so stingy Christians have some explaining to do. In some cases God may be calling for more, in others, less. Tithing goes back to the patriarchs, it predates the law; while a good and serviceable benchmark, it cannot endure as the only surviving regulation of Moses' polity, so that churches which condemn 'legalism' in all other things, yet retain it in this, because taking away the Mosaic programs which benefit the poor and retaining only this introduces an imbalance:


Eating Lobster Moral Law
Ceremonial Law Universal Law
Sabbath Keeping The Talmud
Law of Love Kiss the Son

LogoNailed to the Cross

Christians know that the law has been nailed to the cross. Yet its moral demands linger. Is the Mosaic tithe part of the ceremonial law, no longer binding, or a continuing requirement? The Levitical priesthood is not a continuing Christian institution: "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law... For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:12-19). Does tithing continue as a legal obligation when one institution it was ordained to support has vanished away? To answer, let us examine the practice of the New Testament church. Did the New Testament church practice tithing?

Paul's churches favored voluntary giving. Paul has every opportunity to tell his flock: remember, each one of you, rich and poor alike, owes precisely ten per cent of his income. Yet he says just the opposite, he leaves the amount up to them:

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7);
"For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." (2 Corinthians 8:12).

The Jerusalem church took the more radical path, not of tithing, but of sharing the wealth:

"Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." (Acts 2:44-45).

Someone trying to scrape by, raising a family on minimum wage, would benefit greatly from either New Testament scheme: either letting giving be a matter of conscience, or sharing the wealth of better-off brethren.  A 'flat tax' of ten percent bites very hard indeed on somebody who's just scraping by. From the standpoint of a wealthy member, the ten per cent the modern church expects is milder than the "all" the Jerusalem church expected. But from the standpoint of the needy brother, the nothing he gets from the modern church,—or rather the flat tax he is required to pay of what little he has,—is on the wrong side of zero to compare with the benefits he received from membership in the Jerusalem church. What is perhaps better, and more faithful, "As our income increases ('as we prosper') we should give away higher percentages of our income." (Holy Subversion, Trevin Wax, p. 80).

Tertullian reports the church of his day continued the practice of voluntary giving: "There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God.  Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price.  On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund. For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church, they become the nurslings of their confession." (Tertullian, Apology, Chapter 39.)

Ambrose, writing in the late fourth century, still understands giving to be voluntary: "Never let us say we are doing more, when we are really doing less. What need is there to speak at all? In a promise a cheat lies hid. It is in our power to give what we like." (Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter 30, Section 146).

An impoverished person who joined the New Testament church experienced a rise in living standard, because entry into the church meant sharing the wealth:

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common." (Acts 4:32).

An impoverished person who joins a congregation which demand mandatory tithing experiences a decline in living standards, to the tune of ten percent of income. A flat tax is regressive, biting the poor harder than the rich. If your income is $6,000, you pay $600, leaving $5,400 to live on. If your income is $60,000, you pay $6,000, leaving $54,000 to live on. Can one live on $54,000 a year? Assuredly! Can one live on $5,400 a year? How is that possible?

Paul's ideal was "equality": "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, 'He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.'" (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). Does one living on $5,400 a year have "no lack"?

Our elderly widow, a net recipient of aid under the Old Testament system, was also a net recipient under the New Testament system of voluntary giving (1 Timothy 5:16). Those who accuse her of 'robbing God' unless she forks over $600 explain that God will more than make up the difference. But God neither taxed her, nor promised to make it good. If they, on their own authority, make a promise God did not make, then let them also guarantee its fulfillment.

Great care must be taken to avoid demanding what is not owed, because God resents injustice to His poor: "Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way..." (Amos 2:6-7).

Any exaction taken from the hides of the poor which is not authorized earns a rebuke from God:

LogoFrench Revolution

At the time of the French Revolution, the church tithe became an issue. In the interval between the New Testament church, which did not collect any mandatory tithe, and the French Revolution of the closing years of the eighteenth century, the tithe had been institutionalized as a mandatory tax. In this region the promotion from voluntary contribution to enforced tax came about courtesy of Charlemagne's regime: "Although taxes for the benefit of the king had been done away with, she [the church] still collected tithes; a contribution resembling the one paid by the Israelites to the tribe of Levi, whose payment had been considered a pious act by the Merovingians, and made a legal one by the Carolingians." (Charles Bemont, Gabriel Monod, Medieval Europe, 395-1270, Kindle location 3296). The celebrated legal scholar Montesquieu also fingers Charlemagne: "No one questions but that the clergy opened the Bible before Charlemagne's time, and preached he gifts and offerings in Leviticus. But I say that before that prince's reign, though the tithes might have been preached, they were never established." (Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Kindle location 9793). This ruler evidently had no concept of any wall of separation between church and state: "As emperor, Charlemagne felt called to rule his people both in civil and in ecclesiastical matters. He appointed bishops just as he named generals, although always seeking men of worth. He also enacted laws ordering that there be preaching in the language of the people, that Sunday be kept as a day of worship and rest, and that tithes be collected as if they were a tax." (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p. 317). At initiation, they had not lost sight of the fact that much of this money belongs to the poor: "After Louis became emperor, the imperial diet of 817. . .declared tithes to be obligatory for all, and ordered that two-thirds of the money received as tithes be given to the poor." (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p. 317). The economics of the tithe would shift, so that it became a tax upon the poor, owed to the clergy.

The rural districts of France were sadly impoverished, and the new regime was hostile to religion in any case:

"One of the most pressing necessities was the abolition of tithes. As these were a tax paid by the rural population to the clergy, the sacrifice would be for the advantage of those who were oppressed by them. Accordingly, after declaring they were redeemable, on the night of the 4th of August, they were suppressed on the 11th, without providing any equivalent." (F.A.M. Mignet, History of the French Revolution from 1789 to 1814, Chapter III.)

In its original institution in the Old Testament, the poor were beneficiaries of the tithe. At the time of the French Revolution, this had long since ceased to be the case. As the medieval church sorted society out, the tithe came to benefit the clergy, especially the nobility of the church, the reigning bishops: "One of the most fruitful sources of quarrel and discontent was the tithe. This most harassing and oppressive form of taxation had long been the cause of incurable trouble, aggravated by the rapacity with which it was enforced, even to the pitiful collections of the gleaner. . .Anciently the tithe had been divided into four parts, of which one went to the bishop, one to the parish priest, one to the fabric of the Church, and one to the poor, but in the prevailing acquisitiveness of the period, bishop and priest each seized and held all they could get, the Church received little, and the poor none at all." (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, Kindle location 548).

It was under this sort of avaricious leadership that the tithe became a professional perk of the clergy, with nothing left over for the poor. Jesus told the wealthy young man, “'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'” (Matthew 19:21). Evangelical interpretation of this command tends to focus around the idea that Jesus does not want any one, including this young man, to sell what he had and give to the poor; rather, He wanted him to become less attached to his possessions, which he could then safely retain. This is far from a literal reading, as has been noticed. "I had met some fundamentalists before, but only 'selective fundamentalists,' not folks who took things like that literally. He sold everything he owned and moved to Calcutta, where for over ten years he had spent his life with the poorest of the poor." (Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, page 68). Strictly speaking the command to sell everything and give to the poor is anti-tithing; God does not demand only ten percent, if He ever did. This contemporary insistence upon tithing is an exercise in missing the point. The tithe has been redefined.

The French Revolution bulldozed over the wall of separation of church and state, and ultimately ended up promoting a preposterous religion of its own invention. The government seized control of the church, on the rationale, "'As religion is the property of all, its ministers, through this fact alone, should be in the pay of the nation;' they are essentially 'officers of morality and instruction,' and 'salaried' like judges and professors.'" (Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, Volume I, p. 162). The zealots of the Revolution could stand for no corporate bodies outside the control of the almighty State, and so it was not long before nothing was left but the State and a disorganized mass of individuals: "The abstract principle, proclaimed by the Constituent Assembly, reveals, by degrees, its exterminating virtues. France now, owing to it, contains nothing but dispersed, powerless, ephemeral individuals, and confronting them, the State, the sole, the only permanent body that devoured all the others, a veritable Colossus, alone erect in the midst of these insignificant dwarfs." (Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, p.163). Soon the mass drownings would begin:

LogoThe atheists and deists whose spirit soared during this violent interval practiced such atrocities as mass drowning of priests who would not sign the loyalty oath. The plundering of the church started early and may have been at first a crime of opportunity. Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money is, rioting mobs looted the church because, "'The most excited said to the bishop, "we are poor and you are rich, and we mean to have all your property."'" (Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, Volume I, p. 16). The church at that time was indeed rich. After centuries of Christianity in France, with generations passing by who deeded their landed property to the church, the church had amassed a wealth of revenue streams, perhaps excessive to accomplishing its mission. The tithe should never have been state-mandated in the first place.

Taxation without representation? The church has always been innocent of it:


LogoHoliness is the aspiration of all who long to see God, but the devil is in the details:


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