Book Review: TITHING by Douglas Leblanc

Douglas Leblanc’s book called TITHING is one of Thomas Nelson’s Seven Ancient Practices Series. When I first saw the series title in 2011, I thought it was a great idea to get to know the practices of the early church and see how they could be translated into our modern times.

There are seven practices included in this series: Tithing, Sacred Meal, Fasting, Fixed Hour of Prayer, Hallowing of the Sabbath, Observance of the Liturgical Year and Doing a Pilgrimage. The first three disciplines (tithing, sacred meal and fasting) are related to the body, its product and its appetite. The remaining four have something to do with the way we spend our time.

I happen to read Scot McKnight’s book on Fasting in this series. While it did not overwhelm me, it was helpful to me in shaping my understanding about true fasting. Our church has an annual schedule of prayer and fasting every January and every year, I turn to John Piper and Scot McKnight to refresh my mind on biblical fasting.

Leblanc’s book, on the other hand, though it belongs to the same series as McKnight’s, seem to be less useful to me. My criticism lies in two basic points: 1.) the book is a compilation of stories rather than a biblical argument for or against tithing; and 2.) he featured stories from so wide a range of the Christian traditions that I could no longer identify what view he was presenting.

To be fair, the series’ General Editor Phyllis Tickle did tell the readers in her foreword that the book’s approach was going to be like that so it was not much of a surprise really. What I found odd was the fact that anyone could write a book on tithing without bothering to discuss it from the Bible. I understand that stories have their place in encouraging believers to godliness but the way I see it, a dozen stories about tithing pales in comparison to a thoughtful, biblical presentation of the blessedness of giving our tithes to God. I am not against real life stories, in fact, I enjoy them. But only when they are used to illustrate a biblical point. As a Bible believing Christian, I prefer to build my doctrine from the Bible, not from testimonies of other Christians, no matter how good they are.

This brings me to my next point: The collection of stories that were included in the book was a bit disorienting because they come from different Christian traditions and backgrounds. I understand the appeal in writing for a broad spectrum of Christians but I also would like to at least understand where the author is coming from and who are the people he is targeting. This was my first time to read Leblanc and I have no idea about his theological background. I guess I was just trying very hard to place him.