I must confess that I haven't tithed every year since. I'm a quasi tither. This year I donated about 7 percent of my income. Tithing for me is a goal that I want to meet but sometimes don't. (I will, however, be tithing the writer's fee for this article. How can I not?)

I've developed some strategies to help make tithing easier. The key is to make it concrete. Try thinking in terms of time. Every ten minutes of work, you are essentially doing one minute of volunteering for the needy. Six times an hour you're doing a mitzvah! Since I'm a writer, I also tell myself this: One out of every ten words belongs to someone deserving. In that previous sentence, it was the word deserving.

I also try to remember what I teach my sons. Sharing is caring, I always tell them. If my son had two lollipops in his pocket, and a friend asked for one, I'd tell him to fish one out of his pocket and hand it over. It's the proper thing to do. I should practice what I preach.

Finally, I try to think of tithing as a sort of cosmic 10 percent tip. Scientists say that gratitude is like a psychological wonder drug. And by tithing, I'm saying thank you to the universe—or to God or to fate or to whatever you believe in—for allowing me to be alive. I want to acknowledge how lucky I am to have food, a roof, a bed, a warm shower, and a father who didn't sacrifice me on top of a mountain. That deserves a donation to the Big Tip Jar in the sky, don't you think?

What else has he learned? Here are Jacobs' four rules to live by

More Stories of Giving

A.J. Jacobs's newest book, The Guinea Pig Diaries (Simon & Schuster), was released in September.


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