Most all of us have heard the phrase, “time is money.” But what does that really mean? Well for most of us, we can turn our time into money when we have a job. We can put in 40 hours of time in a week and receive money in exchange, in the form of a paycheck, of what our time is worth to the employer. Often, the more education, or the more experience a person has, their work time is worth more.
We also value our spare time. We may even value our spare time more than our work time because we have less of it. But since we generally don’t get paid anything during our spare time, our reference of time being money isn’t always true. What we really mean to say is that, “time has value.”
As Christians, we say that God values the worth of all persons. And that, God has given each of us many gifts, including our personal resources of time, talent, treasure, and testimony. That’s kind of a catchy, easy to remember, phrase that we often use when we talk about stewardship. But just for clarity, talent means our abilities, and we all have the ability to do something, even something as simple as praying for someone. Testimony is really a mix of time and talent that we often refer to as witnessing. And we all have the choice to share some portion of all of these gifts with others in some way. That was God’s intent.
In our claim to being good stewards, we say that we should strive to give at least 10-percent of our personal resources to God. We have easy to use formulas to help guide us, such as, we should live on 80%, save 10%, give 10%. And then once we are able to reach that ratio, we should begin to look at how we can move some of that 80% money into the other 10% monies to increase our savings and giving. We do all of this by budgeting for our wants and needs.
So as generous disciples, we commit to making a conscience effort, and sometimes pledges, in our budgeting, to give some of our money. But by doing so, the only thing we generally think about when the offering plate is past in front of us on Sunday morning is the giving of our money. So then, where does the giving of our time and talent fit in to our offering? When is it that we are allocating our time and talent to God as part of our budget plan?
We have often talked about how we should apply the “first fruits” aspect of giving to God first, and allocate 10-percent of our income to tithing before we spend it on anything else. So shouldn’t we also be thinking about giving God 10-percent of our time before we use it doing something else? I would take an educated guess and say that most do not think of doing this. And that is part of the problem our churches are facing today. We are giving less time to the church, and ultimately less time to God and to Christ’s mission. The results are evident by looking no further than in our own congregations.
In a recent Leading Ideas article published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership (August 29, 2018) associate director Ann A. Michel writes, “people who think they are too busy to serve at church should be challenged to reexamine their priorities and make first fruits commitments of their time… learning to steward our time can free us from the tyranny of endless societal pressures, help us step away from a self-destructive pattern of chronic busyness, and experience the joy of serving God and others.”
“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17-18, NRSV).
If God created us as his first fruits creatures, then shouldn’t we be honoring Him with all of the first fruits that he has given to us, including our time?
We often use the excuse that our lives are so busy that there is just not enough time during the week to include any obligation to a church related activity outside of Sunday mornings. The problem with that is, we are making choices to do other things that keep us busy and we put our time dedicated to church mission at the bottom of the list. It’s the same thing as saying, “If I have any money left over at the end of the week, I’ll use some to make an offering.” Shouldn’t we be setting aside both money and time in our personal budgets? We have financial budgets to follow, but where is the time budget that we follow? Some might say it’s our personal calendars. Then I would say, have you penciled in giving time to the mission of the church this week?
The bottom line is that we don’t have our priorities aligned with God’s intentions. We don’t have our needs and wants separated into two categories. They have become all wants. Who wants to spend time in church mission when there is something else we could be doing that’s a lot more fun? After all, the kids and grandkids have ballgames and other activities that are more important than church. Right?
“Being a Christian is more than holding a list of right ideas; it is about radical obedience to Jesus in every part of life. God’s boundless love sets us free for lives of responsible stewardship in which we generously offer our lives in service to God’s reign. Discipleship is both an inward and outward journey. Jesus calls us to follow him and to invite others to experience the transforming power of his grace” (http://www.cofchrist.org/basic-beliefs).
Mother Teresa once said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”
When Jesus talked about love, he often used parables, metaphors, and examples of how to do it. Most often it was demonstrated by the giving of one’s time to help another. Read the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10:25-37, where Jesus explains what it means to love your neighbor. It takes time to love your neighbor.
Yes, our time is valuable. Our time is precious. But like money, we can hoard all we want of it, use it all on ourselves for the pleasure of it, but in the end, it will mean nothing if a portion isn’t given in service to God.
The Apostle Paul said, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NRSV).
What Paul was talking about is that, if we lose our focus on what we are doing with our spare time, we can be lured away by temptation toward doings things that are not good choices, and are unproductive to our life, and to God’s purposes.
Do you have the time?