The History of the Relationship Between Church, State and Tithing
I highly recommend that everyone read the Wikipedia entry on the Tithe. It gave me some very interesting insight into the way in which the historically blurred line between church and state has helped to seal in our minds the assumption that giving ten percent of one’s income (at least) is a New Covenant principle.
It seems that the Roman Catholic Church adopted tithing from the Old Testament as a workable, pragmatic model to ensure a regular income for their growing heirarchy. As you know, Rome during the middle ages exerted enormous influence over the nations of Europe, during which millennium, the concept of tithing became well ingrained. Thus, when the Reformation began, the governments of Europe seized the opportunity to protect themselves from similar influence from the diverse Protestant churches, by themselves exerting influence over the church, rather than allowing the status quo to continue at the hands of these upstart Protestants.
Part of this influence was in the various ways the governments of Europe extracted “tithes” from the people and supported their various state churches (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, etc.), which trend has just in the past couple of hundred years begun to diminish. Here’s an example of how America “dun good!” (for once, if you consider Americanism’s various other less than fortunate influences on American Christianity–no nation is exempt from syncretism) in refusing to take money from the church and give money to the church (the current President excepted–I wonder what other Presidents have likewise contradicted this national emphasis in other ways? That would be an interesting history lesson . . . ). Another way the government prevented complete Reformation was on the issue of the Lord’s Supper (at least in “Calvin’s Geneva”). But I’m done with that topic for now, but the comments apparently keep rolling in, much to my glee!
More on the government’s ability to inhibit Reformation later . . .