One of the tragedies of European Christianity is that parish priests (pastors) receive their salary from the government, and not from the local church. That creates a dependency on the shifting systems of the world, and not on the Godfearing disciples of Christ. The Old Testament pattern of taking care of the priesthood is clear, but even the New Testament declares overwhelmingly: "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches" (Galatians 6:6).
The background for unwillingness to do this is naturally practical: 1) From the local church angle: If the government pays the priestly salary, it will be easier on the church members who have their own bills to pay; 2) From the priest´s angle: If the government pays my salary, I am not dependent on the people that I should serve and lead in the ourworkings of their spiritual walk; and 3) From the government´s angle: If the government pays the priestly salary, then the government can - at times - control the message.
All these reasonings reflect the sickness of the Church.
I have known financial hardship as a pastor many times. But the testimonies in my life as a pastor of receiving a salary - however small - from the tithes of local church members who love me and my family, that far outweighs all the pains of financial limitations!
2Corinthians 8:1-15 shows the heartfelt relationship that Apostle Paul and the churches had to each other. It wasn´t a legalistic "show" of love, but Paul was concerned with regards to financial giving "that your love also is genuine" (verse 8). Paul was even concerned about financial fairness (verses 13-14): "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness".
So giving is about LOVE.
Can the government be loving? Of course, the government can reflect the caring and loving values of a good society. but it will always be contrained by conflicting values and priorities.
Pastors give up the ministry in the western world at an alarming rate. Even divorce occurs among pastors. Oftentimes this is due to financial hardship, but perhaps mostly because the church has not understood the need to uphold the pastor´s hands in practical ways. If the pastor is left to deal with the financial needs of both the church and his own financial needs, then that can simply be too much. And it is un-biblical! Likewise, it is also un-biblical for a priest-pastor to have to deal with the spiritual restrictions that come from a secular state, just because the government has the upper hand financially.
Fundamentally, a pastor-priest is accountable to God and His Word, and God has created the Church as His instrument - ekklesia - in the world. The ekklesia is the thermostat of society and government, challenging and permeating the secular world with the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the standards are set by the Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-28) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The pastor-priest and the Church are not the thermometer to "report the health of society", but instead we "set the temperature of society"!
This exhortation article is not about tithing. I believe in tithing in the local church, but that is not the focus of this article. But let me say that the cynicism of anti-tithers can be devastating for a pastor and a church. Even anti-tithers should act in love and sacrfice.
If the State Churches of Europe are to gain spiritual soundness, they must take care of their own pastors and priests, and not passively leave it to the govenment. For the sake of love and unity within the church. But also for the sake of integrity and freedom from the shifting tides of the secular government!