It dates back to Mosaic Law; you were supposed to give the best 10% of your grain or livestock to God (IIRC, the Levite tribe, who were landless priests, supported themselves out of these and other offerings). In modern days, one is supposed to give at least a tenth of one's income to support God's Work; this tends to get twisted a little by some televangelists (see: begathon, John Avanzini) who try to coerce you into giving to them, promising immediate rewards - they quote Malachi 3:10 to back it up.

Funny thing about tithing. No one has noticed it, but every person who makes a good income in the US now "tithes"; if you open up the definition of "God's Work" to mean supporting the poor, elderly and unfortunate with food and medical care.

How can this be? Easy. Anyone with a good income pays at least 20% of it to the federal government. Of the federal budget, about half goes to assorted give-away programs (medicare, medicaid, social security, etc, etc). So, 10% of the taxpayer's income is going to the needy. Neat, huh?

If you're in a higher income bracket, you may be paying as much as 38% of your income to the feds, meaning you're sending nearly a fifth of your pay to the needy (needy, according to the government, that is).

Of course, there are lots of other taxes besides the income tax, and lots of them go to the poor as well, so most of us are probably giving a lot more than 10% of our pay to the less fortunate.

Now, someday, we all might get old and we might collect some of that free money ourselves (and we might not), but that doesn't mean we're not giving today, just because we might recieve later on.

Funny thing: a century ago, when these taxes didn't exist, a citizen who consistently gave 10% of their income to good works would be considered a pillar of the community. They would be looked up to and admired as a fine person. Now, however, the working people who give even more than 10% to good causes their whole life aren't even thanked by the recipients of the largess. If they grumble that their taxes are too high and that some of the recipients aren't all that needy, they are crucified as evil, stingy, mean conservatives who want to deliberately starve the poor and kill babies.

Amazing what the passage of just one century can do. For thousands of years, giving 10% of your income to the poor was the ideal, achieved by few. Then, in one little century, giving only 10% became unremarkable, even stingy.

Such wealth we have!

Tithe (?), n. [OE. tithe, tethe, properly an adj., tenth, AS. teoa the tenth; akin to ti'en, tn, t�xc7;n, ten, G. zehnte, adj., tenth, n., a tithe, Icel. tiund the tenth; tithe, Goth. ta�xa1;hunda tenth. See Ten, and cf. Tenth, Teind.]

1.

A tenth; the tenth part of anything; specifically, the tenthpart of the increase arising from the profits of land and stock, allotted to the clergy for their support, as in England, or devoted to religious or charitable uses. Almost all the tithes of England and Wales are commuted by law into rent charges.

The tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil. Neh. xiii. 5.

Tithes are called personal when accuring from labor, art, trade, and navigation; predial, when issuing from the earth, as hay, wood, and fruit; and mixed, when accuring from beaste fed from the ground.

Blackstone.

2.

Hence, a small part or proportion.

Bacon.

Great tithes, tithes of corn, hay, and wood. -- Mixed tithes, tithes of wool, milk, pigs, etc. -- Small tithes, personal and mixed tithes. -- Tithe commissioner, one of a board of officers appointed by the government for arranging propositions for commuting, or compounding for, tithes. [Eng.] Simmonds.

 

© Webster 1913.


Tithe, a.

Tenth.

[Obs.]

Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand. Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.


Tithe, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Tithed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Tithing.] [As. teoian.]

To levy a tenth part on; to tax to the amount of a tenth; to pay tithes on.

Ye tithe mint and rue. Luke xi. 42.

 

© Webster 1913.


Tithe, v. i.

Tp pay tithes.

[R.]

Tusser.

 

© Webster 1913.

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