Tithing Your Time

Tithing doesn’t make any sense—at least, not on paper. The very idea of giving up ten percent of your yearly income (especially after the government has helped itself to a sizeable chunk already) sounds like the road to financial ruin.

Except it isn’t. Most longtime members of the Church can tell you that, instead of acting as a shortcut to declaring bankruptcy, tithing works. We can’t tell you exactly how, because it doesn’t always make sense to us, either—all we know is, when we give God what belongs to Him, He makes sure we get what we need, too. These past few weeks, though, I’ve been realizing that the principles behind tithing extend far beyond our bank accounts.

Disappearing time

As some of you know, I just recently finished the last of the coursework for my associate’s degree, which was a relief to both myself and my (extremely patient) wife. The previous month or so had been filled with many late nights of coming home from my day job to work on assignments until I couldn’t keep my eyes open—and then going to bed to start the whole thing over the next day. As completing assignments became my primary (and sometimes sole) focus, other areas of my life began to feel the effects. I had less time for my wife and, even worse, less time for God.

But it would be alright, I told myself. All I had to do was plow through those last few assignments and everything that was off-kilter would fall neatly back into place. So I poured everything I could into crossing that finish line, fully intending to address whatever needed addressing once I had a little more time.

More time never came. Before I even finished my coursework, I was given the opportunity to rebuild a local company’s website from scratch. The chance was too perfect to pass up, so I took it—and ensured myself a nearly seamless transition from working excessively on schoolwork to working excessively on web design. I’m still in the middle of that project, and I’m beginning to understand that I’m not likely to stumble upon the surplus of extra time I was hoping for. There will always be another project; there was always be another something to eat up my time and take my focus off of the truly important things in my life.

Setting it aside

That’s where the concept of tithing our time comes in. Through tithing, we set aside a fixed percentage of our material possessions to give as an offering to God—but it’s just as important that we make God an offering of time as well. God isn’t concerned with getting your stuff—what He wants much more is a relationship with you, and that requires time. Your time.

IMG_1585 (1024x683)Sometimes we talk about “finding” time, as if time is loose change we might discover tucked away in a pair of pants we haven’t worn in a while. But time doesn’t work like that. We each have the same 24 hours to work with, so it’s not about “finding” time. It’s about setting it aside—tithing it, so to speak.

I don’t mean to imply that we each need to be setting aside exactly ten percent of our day for Bible study. What I’m saying is that, just like with tithing our money, unless we make the conscious effort to set aside time for God, it’s never going to happen. The Creator of the universe deserves some of our time every day, and it’s going to take us specifically setting that time aside for it to happen. But the analogy goes a bit deeper than that—the following are three principles of monetary tithing that can give us insight into setting aside time for God.

1. Tithing is unconditional

This is one of the fundamental concepts of tithing—it isn’t optional and we don’t get to set the terms. The Bible is very clear: “all the tithe of the land…is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). There isn’t a conditional clause there; we’re not told to tithe if we think we can afford to, and we don’t set that money aside and label it as “God’s (unless I decide I need it).” The tithe (or ma’aser, which is literally Hebrew for “the tenth part”) belongs to God—it isn’t ours and we have no claim to it.

That same principle translates into the time we set aside for God. If we can go through an entire day and say that we were just too busy to make time for God, what we’re really saying is that there were too many other things in our day that we decided deserved attention instead of God. If we’re being honest, it’s not that we cannot make time for God—we just choose not to. Christ told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, emphasis added), and there’s no way to do that unless we regularly spend time with God.

2. Attitude matters

If there’s anything worse than not spending time with God, it’s spending time with Him begrudgingly. If you’ve ever been in the company of someone who made it clear they’d rather be anywhere else, you can understand why. They sit there with a little storm cloud thundering over their head, letting you know that they’re doing this because they have to, not because they want to.

Ugh. Yes, thank you for brightening the whole room by deigning to endure my presence.

Our communication with God shouldn’t involve us standing there with our arms crossed and asking, “Well? I’m here, what more do you want from me?” Paul once reminded the Corinthians to “let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The same is true when we give of our time—if it’s a begrudging action that screams “I’m only doing this because You said to,” then it’s not something God is going to appreciate very much.

3. Tithing brings blessings

In our first point, we looked at Christ’s admonition to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), but we didn’t look at the context. Jesus had just been speaking about some of life’s biggest stresses—namely, ensuring we have the provisions needed for our survival. He concluded the subject by saying, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33, emphasis added).

See, the one who benefits from tithing to God isn’t God. He has the incalculable riches of the universe at His disposal (Isaiah 66:1), so I think it’s safe to assume that He isn’t depending on your tithe to make rent. The one who reaps the benefits of tithing is you. When we give God His tenth of our income and when we make the effort to make time for Him, it’s an act of faith—an act that tells Him, “God, I’m not sure how I’m going to manage without this, but it belongs to You and I trust you to take care of me some other way.”

And He does.

The windows of heaven

God inspired the prophet Malachi to write,

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.

(Malachi 3:10)

We’re not talking about a tiny return here. God promises to pour out blessings on our lives from the windows of heaven in return for giving back to Him what He already owns. Likewise, what do we gain when we give of our time to Him? We sacrifice minutes and hours, and in return we gain a strengthened relationship with our Creator, a deeper understanding of His way, and a firmer hold on our calling to eternal life as His children.

If there was ever a blessing we don’t have enough room to receive, I’d say that’s the one.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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