Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tithing (A Book Review)

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.     


  1. Good review...and it sounds an interesting read.
    I could be up for interview:)

    I have been taught to tithe religiously (go figure;), but I truly find the "more you give, the more you receive". I have never found otherwise. And though the bank account may withdraw too far in the "negative sense"...I have never wanted for a thing. Ever. (and so far....)
    Regardless of anything, this is one "practice" I would find hard to turn my back on. In teaching it to my kids, they too are learning the result of tithing.
    Interesting how it works?!?
    I agree with focusing on those "everyday tithers"...especially those in /at the poverty level. I wonder what the thoughts and results would be....

  2. Yes, I agree with Dawn on this subject. Very much so.

  3. Isn't the tenth to be taken from surplus. Not from that which is needed to put food on the table or that needed for next years seed. Just the crop that's being marketed.
    Surely it's only the nature of the current city that causes such problems where you can have in say NYC east of the park, Jewish and Christian communities that if they handed over the tenth from surplus income you could make a fair inroad in any stump of hunger sickness or general ills.
    In the past only Rome itself had such and it had the dole to compensate. But today the slope upwards of flow seems steeper than ever it was.
    But basically through history -the early part of it- the tenth was designed as the communities store against famine. I suspect the concept was imported from Babylon or Egypt. Where it was used less in that way but as the the feed store for the army. Outside of the great river basins in the marginal regions like Judea, Crete, Anatolia and Greece itself they had less room to cultivate therefore....

  4. Thanks for this - I will pass this on to the stewardship committee at church. Very interesting.

  5. My first foreign exposure to 'tithing' was in Nairobi Kenya. There the local people, poverty at a level I had only read about, 'tithed' in their worship ... and it was very public. We here in the West would be mortified at their public tithing. They certainly taught me, and I agree, that teaching 'tithing' while using illustrations from such examples would make a profound impact on those who consider themselves more spiritually enlightened, and dare I say it - of course - more spiritually mature.
    Thanks Sage.

  6. I havent' really thought about the tithing thing in a long time, though it was certainly important to me growing up.

  7. This is so interesting and important to teach from the very beginnings, no child too young to learn...but what speaks volumes to me, is the pleasure one receives when you give without being known that you did...and experiencing the glow of happiness and thanks with no questions asked...pure simple acts of kindness, giving is the reward .... ;)

  8. Once a year, our pastor gives a stewardship sermon, but otherwise, he leaves it. One of the things he mentioned in view of Christ's "Lilies of the field" parable, is that in reality, all our possessions are God's. He's not asking that we part with what isn't his to begin with. Of course, believing or acknowledging that is difficult, much less doing it.

    (BTW, though I don't think God should be viewed or used as a political prop, I do think He's in favor of a flat tax.)



  9. Dawn and Michael, if I decide to do a book on everyday tithers, the two of you will be at the top of my list!

    Vince, you actually give of your first fruits-it's a trust thing (trust God will give you what you need)

    Sleepyhead, I have heard such stories, but haven't witnessed them firsthand like you

    Charles, glad to take you back to your childhood :)

    Karen, what a nice comment, thanks for sharing!

    Randall, there is a "flat tax element" in the tithe! :)

    John, thanks!

  10. Hmmm are not the first fruits more a sacrifice thing. In that Palm Sunday whip the money changers out of the Temple kind of way. And the Tithe being more the terunah, a far more open giving. Just saying is all.