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Yes, if Joyfully

Douglas LeBlanc

John Densmore, longtime drummer for the Doors, took up tithing after John Lennon praised it in a Playboy interview. Years later, Densmore mentioned in an essay for The Nation that tithing helped him resist greed. He wrote, "During the Oliver Stone film on our band, the record royalties tripled, and as I wrote those 10 percent checks, my hand was shaking."

My left hand did not shake in 2008 when I tithed on an advance check for my book about tithing, but my soul quaked a bit. I was going through one of the most barren periods of my life as a journalist. I was filled with shame about not bringing more money into our household. I was unsure I could deliver the book.

Who was I to continue tithing? What, apart from a distaste for brazen hypocrisy in myself, moved me past this hesitation? Mostly this: I could not see in the voluntary discipline of tithing the same escape clauses that I would expect in a prenuptial agreement.

There are some reasons for jobless people—or anyone, for that matter—not to tithe. Do not tithe out of joyless obligation to law. Do not tithe if your soul requires nothing short of a New Testament demand to tithe (there is none). Do not tithe under the assumption that God will owe you anything. Do not tithe if you expect to default on a debt. Do not tithe if you will resent God for asking sacrifices of you—unless you intend the tithe, in the spirit of "I believe; help my unbelief," as your invitation for God to purge your resentment.

Do you see a pattern in those reasons not to tithe? If we live in ways that lead to double mortgages on our homes or leave us routinely treating mercurial desires as needs, something more than whether we tithe is at stake. Tithing ...

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March 2011

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