What is the first thing you think of when you think of the word tithing? Most likely, the word “money” would be in the top three of most people’s responses.
Old Testament instruction was explicit that the Israelites were to “tithe of all the yield of [their] seed” (Deut. 14:22). They were to tithe of their herds and flocks, and this was “holy to the LORD” (Lev. 27:32).
If we were to take these verses literally, most of us would be at a loss, as the majority of us are not in the farming or livestock business. In our western world, and current culture, we have been taught that we tithe our money, the financial “fruit” of our labor. However, what if the intent of the tithe was not just the dollars, but the result of our work? Just as the “yield of the seed” and growth of one’s herds or flocks were to be given in tithe, how would this look in our culture of work today?
How could this “tithing” of our talents make a difference in our communities to help others — “others” who may need job skills, life skills, or practical household training? How would this impact culture around us just by doing and sharing what we do best?
If you look up the word “talent” in the dictionary, you will find synonyms such as capability, expertise, flair, knack, know-how, skill, forte, savvy, nose, etc. Whether we have a college degree or not, we all have something from this list to give.
What if this example of giving could be a template we could follow? What if God’s blessing, His “opening the windows of heaven for you and pour[ing] down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Mal. 3:20) could also be true of sharing the gifts and training and talents you have been given, but in a sacrificial way — sacrificial because it takes time, and time is a hot commodity in the busy schedules we tend to keep.
Recognizing that our talents are not ours to begin with, and that they are completely a result of God’s design for us, demands a different kind of stewardship — a stewardship of our talents and abilities, and our time, as well as our financial resources.
Remember that everything we have is his. Job 41:11 reminds us that everything “under the whole heaven” is his. It all belongs to him. There is nothing you possess, whether it be a tangible item, financial asset, skill you do particularly well, or single breath of air, that does not belong to him.
Now, some of you might think, “This is great! I totally agree. When I am more established and have more degrees, or a bigger title surrounding my name, I’m going to definitely do this.” However, if this is your thinking, you are missing a huge opportunity to be faithful wherever you are, no matter how small it seems (Luke 16:10a). Tithing of the talents God has blessed you with is something that can, and should, be done no matter where you are in your career stage. It is almost more exciting in the early stages. Be faithful in the little, share the gifts God has given you with others, no matter what stage of life you are experiencing.
What if believers were to take their “gifts” into the community? How could this make a difference on poverty, both material and spiritual, that surrounds us in our local communities?
May we not be like the scribes and Pharisees, who tithed their mint and dill and cumin, yet neglected the more important “matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” In Matthew 23:23, Jesus instructed his audience that “These [the tithing of the mint, dill, and cumin] you ought to have done, without neglecting the others [justice, mercy, and faithfulness].”
Many of us would not even hesitate to pull out our wallets and be a “giver of financial resources” to those who need assistance in our communities. Come on, what kind of “neighbors” do you think we are anyway? But to pull out our schedules and be a “giver of our time” is an entirely different matter. If everything is truly his, then each minute of our day belongs to him.
Talent tithing takes time, and long ago, the Greek orator, Antiphon, said that “the most costly outlay is time.” You may have heard its paraphrase, “Time is money.” We need to reset our tithing definition beyond our pockets (which, interestingly enough, is intangible to us), and live lives where we give of our time — using our hands, our feet, our minds.
May we look beyond (yet not neglect) the traditional tithing of our finances, and honor him in the tithing of our time and talents to bring justice, mercy and faithfulness to the communities in which we live. May we live lives that are “holy to the Lord.”