Guest / Limited Access /
Should the Jobless Tithe Unemployment Benefits?
Image: Illustration by Amanda Duffy

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 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Whatever Happened to Amazing Grace?
Why John Newton's famous hymn failed to win, place, or show.
RecommendedWhat It's Like to Live On Less Than Two Dollars a Day
What It's Like to Live On Less Than Two Dollars a Day
Sociologist Kathryn Edin talks about what she learned from spending time with families that live on less than the price of a gallon of milk.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickJust a Vessel: Actor Malachi Kirby on ‘Roots,’ Kunta Kinte, and God
Just a Vessel: Actor Malachi Kirby on ‘Roots,’ Kunta Kinte, and God
The star of the History Channel's "Roots" talks about his faith, his strange route toward his iconic role, and what he learned from playing Kunta Kinte.
Christianity Today
Should the Jobless Tithe Unemployment Benefits?
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.