Tithe

Defined:  The definition of a tithe is a tax, a small collection, or a tenth of your income given to a church.  An example of a tithe is an offering given at a service.  NOUN

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Dave Ramsey, the famous (and for good reason!) get debt free guru, believes in tithing.  Remember, a tenth of your total income is considered a tithe.  One dollar of every ten you earn is slated for the church if you are a tither.

I remember attending church as a child with my grandmother and watching the usher extend the red velvet collection pouch attached to a stick along the length of the pews.  I saw people put money in the bag.  I also saw that some people did not put money in the bag.  Grandma added her contribution and the usher bypassed me to pause his pouch in front of the people next to me. I was very young and this spectacle was as mysterious as watching everyone rise and line up at the front of the church, stand in front of the priest, cross themselves, and return to their pews and kneel.  When I asked, Grandma explained that the usher was collecting money to help the church (I learned about communion later).  Next Sunday I had some quarters to place in the collection bag.  After a few weeks, I started to wonder why some people didn’t contribute so I asked Grandma about it and she offered me a couple of reasons:  One was that they didn’t have the money to give, and second was that they might help the church in other ways.

Now that I’m an adult I can appreciate that it’s usually easier to donate time and effort rather than money.  Especially if it’s required that a tenth of my income go into that bag.  That said, tithes are not only for church operations; they also help sustain the clergy and help them to help others.  Tithing is a venerable system and it seems to work.  I’m not quite sure why Dave Ramsey encourages those striving to be debt free to give away money.  But I reason it’s because most people attend church and the church does good works.  God does not need money; He wants you to help your neighbors.

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Etymology of Tithe:

Word History: A tithe is a tenth, etymologically speaking; in fact, tithe is the old ordinal numeral in English. Sound changes in the prehistory of English are responsible for its looking so different from the word ten. Tithe goes back to a prehistoric West Germanic form *tehuntha-, formed from the cardinal numeral *tehun, “ten,” and the same ordinal suffix that survives in Modern English as -th. The n disappeared before the th in the West Germanic dialect area that gave rise to English, and eventually yielded the Old English form tēothe, “tenth,” still not too different from the cardinal numeral tīen. But over time, as the former became tithe and the latter ten, and as tithe developed the specialized meaning “a tenth part paid as a tax,” it grew harder to perceive a relationship between the two. The result was that speakers of English created a new word for the ordinal, tenth, built with the cardinal numeral ten on the pattern of the other regularly-formed ordinal numerals like sixth or seventh.

–The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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