A BRIEF HISTORY OF TITHING AFTER CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION
by Dr. Fillmer Hevener
Most Christians understand that with the death of Christ
on the cross, the Ceremonial Laws, requiring such
practices as the sacrificing of animals, circumcision,
and tithing, were abrogated. The animal sacrifices
pointed to the coming Messiah, whose spilling of His
blood, would annul the sacrificing of animals and all
other requirements associated with the Ceremonial laws.
After the crucifixion of our Savior, therefore, the New
Testament Church was supported by free-will gifts.
Since there was no longer tithing, how did the Church
For several hundred years after Christ’s death, churches
were not institutions with large buildings or paid
leaders supported by the members. Instead, the churches
were similar to modern-day home groups. They met in
homes with leaders who supported themselves through such
labor as carpentry, fishing, farming, etc. Therefore,
the early church groups had few expenses. The vast
majority of the funds given could be used for missionary
purposes, for spreading the gospel at home and in
The Apostle Paul, a tentmaker, notes that although he
had the right to receive support from the congregation,
he refused to accept this support. Why, because he did
not want to take money from mission needs and because he
did not want anyone suspecting that he was preaching the
gospel out of a desire for money. (1 Cor. 9.) He did
not wish to hinder the spreading of the gospel of
salvation through Christ. The churches did frequently
support widows, the poor, and orphans. (1Tim. 5.) Paul
did at times accept gratuities from friends (food,
shelter, and friendship). Paul, being of the tribe of
Benjamin, could not have legally accepted tithe; only
the Levites could have done this.
THE CHURCH CONTINUED WITH THIS VOLUNTARY APPROACH TO
GIVING AND TO THE SUPPORT OF THE CHURCH FOR OVER 300
In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor, Constantine,
converted to Christianity. He is credited with bringing
status to Christianity and with starting the first large
church building program. (Note: he is also credited with
instituting the first Sunday law in 321; his edict
required the people to rest on the “venerable day of the
sun.”) Constantine wanted the church to have impressive
buildings that would honor his name and his
contributions to the church. Consequently, the church
groups moved out of homes and into finer buildings and
began employing full-time ministers. Therefore, there
was a need to support these buildings and these salaried
bishops. The New Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes the
“The early Christian church had no tithing system. The
tithes of the Old Testament were regarded as abrogated”
by Christ’s death. However, as the church’s material
needs grew because of its vast building program and
paying of bishops, it adopted the pre-cross, Ceremonial
Law-method of support, tithing. Therefore, “the Council
of Macon in 585, ordered the payment of tithes and
threatened excommunication to those who refused to
From the sixth century forward, tithing was adopted by
the Catholic Church and later accepted into many
protestant churches from the 1500’s onward.
The Encyclopedia Brittanica notes: “Despite serious
resistance, tithing became obligatory as Christianity
spread across Europe….It was enjoined by ecclesiastical
law from the sixth century….” In the 14th century, Pope
Gregory VII, outlawed …lay ownership of tithes.” In
other words, Pope Gregory VII, concluded that only paid
clergy could receive and direct the use of tithe, not
lay, unpaid, Christians. (Note: A similar position is
taken by E. G. White when she states that the tithe is
to be used for ministers, only. Testimonies, Vol. 9,
248-249. This position is contrary to Deut. 14, which
teaches that tithe was, among other things, to be used
for strangers (refugees), orphans, and widows.) The
following statement is made by the Archdiocese of St.
Louis: “TITHING IS ABSOLUTELY STILL NECESSARY IN THE
CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY. (See their: Office of Stewardship
and Development statement on the www.)
In 765, the Carolingian King Pepin III (the Short) sent
a letter to all bishops making the payment of tithe by
each individual to his parish church a legal obligation.
Also, everyone was forced to tithe 800 years after
Christ when Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire,
blending church and state and making tithing a state
Unfortunately, when the Protestant reformers of the
1500’s broke with the Catholic Church over such issues
as “salvation by grace, rather than by works,” they did
not reject the spurious Sabbath, Sunday, nor the
Ceremonial Law’s practice of tithing. These reformers
could have had much greater credibility if they had
adopted the post-cross method of support of the church
through free-will giving. See: Matthew 10:8; Luke
6:38; Acts 20:35; II Cor. 9: 6-7; I Tim. 5:8.
In summary, this is what we know:
1. Tithing was a part of the Ceremonial Law, which
was abrogated by Christ’s death.
2. The early Christian church was supported by
free-will giving for at least 300 years.
3. Tithing first came into the Christian church when
Constantine was converted; he needed money for fine
buildings and for bishops’ salaries.
4. The Catholic Church made tithing a law nearly six
centuries after Christ’s crucifixion.
5. Some 800 years after Christ, Charlemagne required
the paying of tithe under the penalty of imprisonment.
6. Priests cursed for their tithe, telling those who
didn’t tithe that they would lose their salvation and go
7. In the 1500’s, Protestant churches preached
“salvation by grace,” but they continued to preach and
practice tithing and the false Sabbath, Sunday.
Friend, reject erroneous traditions! Prepare for
eternity by accepting Christ as your Savior and by
following His teachings in Holy Scripture, the Bible.
May our Lord bless and keep each of you!
Pastor Fillmer Hevener, Ed. D.
Â© 2005 Guthrie Memorial