Douglas LeBlanc, Tithing (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 165 pages including a study guide and notes.
Talking about money in the context of faith is difficult for most of us, yet Jesus had so much to say about money. We don’t like to talk about giving and most people are reluctant to consider tithing, yet, as one of the many individuals LeBlanc interviewed for this book points out, “If I’m not trusting God with my money, am I really trusting him with my eternal salvation?” (147)
Tithing refers to the Old Testament demand that one give a tenth of their produce to God’s use. As times and economies have changed, today it has come to mean giving a tenth of one’s income to God’s work in the world. LaBlanc’s book is a part of the Ancient Christian Practices series published by Thomas Nelson Press. The other six practices are prayer, Sabbath, fasting, the Sacred Meal (communion), the Liturgical Year and the Sacred Journey (pilgrimages). Instead of writing from his own experiences and study, LaBlanc interviews a host of Christian leaders who have found tithing to be an important part of their Christian witness and journey. LaBlanc interviewees are from all walks of American life. He meets with liberals and conservatives from a number of Protestant Churches as well as a Catholic priest and even a Jewish Rabbi. In these interviews, he explores why people began tithing and what it means for their lives. One interviewee suggested that tithing is the training wheels of Christian giving. (64) Many noted how they were once a “talker and not a giver,” (32) and they all seem to think that it is a shame that as wealthy as we are in America, that we give so little (in terms of a percentage of our income).
Many of those interviewed talked about how they used their money and lived lives beyond giving ten percent or more of their income away. Almost everyone in the book lives simply, way below where their income level. But most are not wealthy. One exception is Kevin Jones, who made a fortune when he sold his Silicon Valley business in 2000. He is now a part of “Good Capital,” an organization that challenges the traditional thinking of philanthropy, which separates the “investment side of the house” from the mission side. Instead of just looking at risk and return, he wants investment managers to also consider impact. (87)
For those interested in learning why people tithe and give sacrificially, this book can help. It’s not a scientific study, but is a good source of anecdotes about giving that may challenge our own hesitations over letting go of that which God has entrusted to us. However, I’d liked to have seen the author spend at least part of the book exploring Biblical text more deeply as well as looking at literature as to why and how Americans give. Furthermore, all the examples in the book are Americans and although they may not be rich, most tend to be high profile individuals and couples. Why not interview the man or woman in the pew who tithe? Or perhaps spend some time looking at Christian giving by those in other countries who have fewer resources than an American who lives at the poverty level. What might we learn from them?
Disclosure: Thomas Nelson Press through their "Booksneeze Program" provided this book in exchange for an "honest review." The above thoughts are my own.