TITHES AND REDEEMING THE TIME

I want to write about giving to God. The first mention of giving to God [or sacrifice as itís called] was in Genesis where Cain and Abel brought offerings to God.

In the next dispensation of time, Abraham gave tithes to Malchizadek the priest of Salem, or Jerusalem, from the spoils that he took in the war of the kings in Genesis 14. This is the first actual mention of the tithe in the Bible. Tithe refers to giving ten percent of something.

Jacob, after his dream about the ladder up to heaven and the promise of Godís blessings on him, vowed to give tithes to God of all that the Lord gave him. Genesis 28:22: "And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." This was all before the Law was given, before they were required to tithe. People who believed in God felt a responsibility toward Him in that all we are and all we have comes from God.

God said, in Psalm 50:10: "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." Under the Mosaic Law, one tenth of all grain, fruit, flocks, and cattle, everything that grows, even honey, was declared to be sacred to Jehovah, as, so to speak, rent due to God. Strictly speaking, He was the Owner of the land. The tithe was to be brought to the Temple and given to God or sacrificed to Him. The firstborn animals, the first calf or lamb or goat kid that was born to a female, as well as every tenth newborn of the flocks and herds, and one tenth of the produce of the soil were to be offered to God. The Law didnít specify what fruits of the field and of the trees were to be tithed. It includes everything edible, everything that was stored up or that grew out of or on the earth.

In the law it stated that every tenth animal that passed under the shepherdís counting stick was to be given to the Lord, healthy and feeble alike. It forbid any attempt to substitute one animal for another. If you exchanged one for another, they both had to be redeemed.

Leviticus 27: 32-33, "And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. 33: He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed." This tenth was to be assigned to the Levites for their service. They were the workers who maintained the place of worship. They were to give a tenth of those receipts to the priests for the maintenance of the high priest.

Numbers 18:24 & 28.24: "But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 28: Thus ye also shall offer a heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron the priest." The people were commanded by God to do the following things:
(1) They were to bring their tithes and firstfruits to Godís chosen center of worship. These were to be eaten in a celebration with their children, their servants, and the Levites.
(2) All the produce of the soil was to be tithed every year, and these tithes, along with the first born of the flock and herd were to be eaten at this feast.
(3) In case they had a long distance to travel they could convert the produce into money, which was to be taken to the Temple and spent for food for the celebration. Deuteronomy 14:22-27. Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23: And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. 24: And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 25: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine house, 27: And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
(4) At the end of three years all the tithe of that year was to be laid up within the gates. This means stored safely inside the gates of their towns. A festival was to be held and the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and the Levite were to be included.
(5) Last, it was ordered that after taking the tithe in each third year, called the year of tithing, every Israelite had to declare that he had done his best to fulfill God's command. This would be something like we do when we sign our income tax papers and state that our figures are true.

Here's what this amounts to:
(1) one-tenth of all the produce from the soil was to be given to the Levites;
(2) from this the Levites were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high priest;
(3) A tithe, probably a second tithe, was for a feast;
(4) In every third year the festival tithe, which was actually a third tithe, was to be shared with the poor and the Levites.
Tithing constituted a confession that the whole land and all their possessions belonged to God and that it was God alone who gave them all these blessing.

God had some further instructions for His people. Deuteronomy 11:18-19. "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. 19: And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sit in thine house, and when thou walk by the way, when thou lie down, and when thou rise up." This tells us to constantly have Godís Word in mind and to use the time wisely to teach our children where everything we have and need comes from. After all, itís just on loan to us from God. This connects us to a passage in Ephesians 5:15-17. "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17: Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." This says, "redeeming the time," or, "making the most of every opportunity."

God gives us that time as well as the talents and finances we have. Itís up to us to determine what part of all that we'll give back to Him. This is part of the freedom we have under grace that they didnít have under the Law. Under the Law they had to give liberally of all they worked for and the animals they raised. They had to give a lot of their time and even go to certain places to share in the feasts. God required it. This took an lot of time as well as the equivalent in money to do this. They really didnít have a choice. Under the Law they would have had to use more than ten percent of their time to meet all the requirements for giving. There was no escape from that.

Today weíre generally very jealous and selfish about our time and we resist any attempt by someone to take up that time. I don't like to waste my time talking to telemarketers. We even ration our time out sparingly to God, even though Psalms says our times are in His hands. Shouldnít we, if we know Jesus as our Savior and are under Godís grace, want to spend more time freely in His service and in the study of His Word? These Old Testament folks were required to take time and attend the feasts and sacrifices. We're not even required to go to church. Too often our worldly activities cause our attention to God's Word and our attendance where His Word is being taught to come in a poor second.

God wants our real commitment to Him.
[1] He wants us to devote more of our time serving Him by helping our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[2] More time in prayer and meditation at the Prayer Meeting as well as prayer at other times.
[3] He wants more of us at the Lordís Supper on Sunday morning.
[4] He wants us to help others in their spiritual development, particularly the young people.

Under the Law God required everyone to serve. Under grace each one of us is privileged to serve. This is what God means by making the most of every opportunity [redeeming the time] that He gives us. He gives our time and He wants us to use our time for Him first and use it wisely.

Think back to Deuteronomy 11:19, the scripture about instructing our children. Every society has only 20 years to influence each generation, the job of civilizing the babies that are born each year. These innocent little things don't know anything about our language, our culture, our religion, our values, our customs or our personal relationships to each other and to God. A baby is totally ignorant about democracy, communism, civil liberties, the rights of the minority and the rights of the majority, respect, decency, modesty, morality, honesty, customs and manners. If a human being is ever self centered itís when we're a little baby, and we all started out as little babies. All these things have to be taught and monitored to form the person that will be a benefit to God and to society. We have to give them the right directions, repeatedly and in detail. You canít find an address in Denver using a map of Dallas, and you canít raise a child properly using the wrong directions for their life. God has given us the complete instruction manual and the road map, the Bible.

God calls us stewards and we should take that seriously. Weíre stewards of the Gospel if we have experienced salvation. Weíre also stewards of our resources. This includes our time as well as the money, the talent and abilities God gives us. We know all things are possible through Him. Thatís why we need Him to help set our agenda for our lives. We need God in every facet of our lives.

Here's an interesting story from the words of Jesus. MARK 12:41-44. "And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42: And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43: And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." This is often used to illustrate that it's not how much we give, it's our motive.

Let's relate this passage to "time". This passage does concern financial giving but it also concerns living for Christ. We usually give partial dedication of our lives to Christ but God wants our total round the clock dedication. Our public commitment to Christ that others see is good and necessary, but what God wants is our total private commitment. "She, out of her poverty, put in everything." Thatís total commitment. "They gave out of their abundance" and really made no sacrifice at all. That's very little commitment. This is true in the lives of many Christians. Thereís a small commitment of our TIME given to the Lord, the rest is spent on ourselves. God wants our total life, not just "of our abundance." This lady's gift expresses the belief that everything we have belongs to God and that He is worthy of it. God has promised to provide for those who wholly trust in Him. God doesnít mind us having things, He minds "things having us." God will bless us with as much as He can trust us with. If He canít trust us, weíll get so caught up in the things He gives us that weíll forget who gave them to us. God never asks us to do something without giving us something to do it with, and this includes time. He gives us every day we live. God doesnít give everybody the same gifts and He doesnít give everybody the same amount. God gives us what He knows we can handle. Sometimes even then we mess it up. Whether we do handle it properly or not, God wouldnít give it to us unless He has first given us the capacity to handle it. If God gives you a gift He has already established that itís within the power He has given you to use it properly. God will never ask us to do anything He wonít enable us to do. All this relates to the "time" He gives us here on earth as well as the material things.

God divided the night from the day, back at the start of this present creation. Man put a clock into it, and divided each day into twenty four hours.

Now, if Godís people under the Jewish Law were required to give ten percent of their gain plus a lot of their time to Him, how do you and I stack up on the "time" issue?

If we gave 10% of 24 hours each day to the Lord, that would be 2.4 hours a day. Of course, we have to have 8 hours sleep, so that cuts the day to 16 hours.

How about devoting 10%, or 1.6 hours every day to reading the Bible and studying it, and you can include going to church in that time. That's 11.2 hours a week. That seems like a lot of time to devote to what's called "religion."

Godís a pretty reasonable God and surely He doesnít expect us to take time from our daily work to serve Him. After all, thatís where we get the money we give back to Him, and we don't want to come up short there. Heís the One who provided us with the job and the ability to do it in the first place. So, if we work 8 hours a day, that leaves 8 hours time for ourselves and our self maintenance.

Ten percent of 8 hours is .8 hour a day times 7 days and that would be 5.6 hours a week.

Letís say you come to the Communion and the Bible Hour. That's 2 hours. Subtract 2 hours from the 5.6. That leaves 3.6 hours, [3 hours and 36 minutes] of our rationalized "time tithe."

Now, let's split that between 6 weekdays, and that's 36 minutes a day for us to devote to the Lord. Thatís a long way short of what God would like us to give.

Even at that, how many of us actually spend 36 minutes a day, every day, with God's Word?

Don't take this as a standard of how much time we should spend with the Lord. We benefit accordingly when we spend the time with Him, whether it's in prayer, study, or service. Right now, God's watching us to see what weíre going to do with what He's given us, both with our time and our resources. Remember, if God hadnít already given you the ability to serve Him with what He gave you, He wouldnít have given it to you in the first place. So now itís up to you and me to use the time and money and life He's given us to honor and serve Him. God loves to have our time. He's got enough money with all those cattle on a thousand hills that He owns. He's given us the ability and the resources, now itís up to us to prove that we believe His decisions for us are right.

He may be saying, "Show me what you can do with this!" Donít waste time complaining that you donít have the ability. Donít say "I canít build a house, all I have is these dumb trees and a saw, and a hammer and some nails." God will provide the ability. What He wants is availability. God will give us the "time" it takes to do what He's got planned for us to do. I believe this includes the length of our lives. The human conscience is a reality that we all acknowledge but we donít seem to understand. Our conscience isnít God guiding us in our heart. Itís what enables us to tune Godís voice in, or to tune Godís voice out. Our conscience enables us to know right from wrong and to make a decision which way weíll go.

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