By Dr. Wendy LeBolt
“I plan to have a little chat with God when things settle down a bit,” my friend tells me as she hustles off to tend to kids, carpool, errands, shopping, dinner, and an evening of card writing and gift wrapping. I know her to be a person of deep and abiding faith, but she is living life one day at a time and bit by bit it is becoming too much for her. When she has completely exhausted all of her resources, she’ll arrive at that last resort: making time for God.
Ah, where do we squeeze God in? Especially as the holidays approach, not only do our dollars diminish but our time vanishes too. So many things—good things—lay claim to it. Family and friends, celebrating and serving, work, recreation, and rest all clamor for their share of our days. We’ve only got 24 hours, for crying out loud, can God possibly expect us to give 10 percent of that too?
Well, according to Scripture, we owe a tithe of what we have been given. Our time has been gifted to us, given just as our talent and treasure, and is to be used and used well. Therefore I see the tithing of my time as a biblical concept. Returning 10 percent to God is not just casual, give me what you can spare or give what’s left over after you’ve used what you need—we are talking a cool 10 percent skimmed off the top. Can we afford this tithe of our time?
Where Do You Spend Yourself?
Are we really so short of time or are we simply spendthrifts? The first step toward an answer is to ask ourselves, where does our time go? Where do we spend the time we have?
1. Make a list of the things you do in a day and the approximate number of minutes you devote to each. (Be sure you don’t go over 24 hours!) Include: eating, sleeping, working, resting, commuting, talking, screen time—web surfing, television watching, etc.—recreating, playing, exercising, child care, health care, personal grooming, and everything else you can think of. Be honest with yourself. Anything that takes your time goes on the list.
2. Draw a pie chart and fill in the proportions according to time as you spend it. Hint: It may work well to start by charting time spent sleeping. Label and shade in the hourly sections (or fractions of sections) according to usage. Note: your time expenditure on weekend days may be very different. You may decide to create a separate pie chart for weekdays vs. weekends.
3. Perform an appraisal of how you use your time. Are there any surprises? Does the chart reflect how you’d like to spend your time? Is the time you are spending worth the time you’re giving each activity?
4. Reflect: How much time do you give to God in each 24 hours? When and where do you apportion it? Is it lumped together? distributed throughout? squeezed in where you can? first thing? last thought? scattered between? only on weekends?
Can You Afford 10 Percent?
If it is our desire and intention to give God the best 10 percent of everything, including our time, how can we enact this? How can we give our best time to God with enough left over to meet the demands of our days?
1. View your chart as a target and draw a circle in the center (as a bullseye) which represents the middle 10 percent of the pie. (It’s as if Little Tom Thumb stuck in his chubby thumb and extracted the juicy center plum.) If you’re numerically inclined, mark a point 10 percent of the way along a line from the center to the perimeter of your circle and use a compass to trace a circle which includes that point. The circle which encloses this 10 percent of the pie is your targeted tithe of time.
2. Shade in that center circle. That’s God’s time and God’s portion of the distribution of your day. These minutes are the firstfruits God asks of you.
3. Imagine starting at the center of your circle all day long and giving the first 10 percent of each activity, the first portion of minutes, to God.
4. Reflect: How would this focus affect the time God gets in your day? in your week? How do you think it would affect the time which follows?
• How would your two-hour staff meeting change if you started by giving God his portion?
• What if you offered the minutes before your exercise class to pray to God as you stretch?
• How would the meal taste that was prepared by hands that welcomed God as you cooked?
• When you picked up your crying infant, could your first moments bring peace in the Lord?
• Would your sleep be more restful if you first invited God to fill your dreams?
• On waking, what if you asked God to rise and shine into your day?
Closing in on the Target
Are you giving God his portion of your talents, treasure, and time? Do you have activities where you fully tithe your time? Are there any which are absent a tithe completely? How might you reapportion your time to reconcile any shortfalls and move toward the time tithe target?
1. Evaluate your time expenditure chart and make changes to the pie as needed.
2. This week, begin every activity with time given intentionally to God, inviting his presence. When you first adopt this practice, it may help to wear a wristband to tap or a ring to twist as a reminder to bring God into your transitions.
3. If you forget or rush ahead, leaving God for later, recognize it and recommit to the firstfruits tithe and try again.
4. Reflect on your effort to give God his portion of your time:
• How did the rededication and redistribution of your time change the moments which followed?
• What was the hardest thing about setting this time aside as God’s time?
• How will time awareness change the way you spend God’s time?
What would God show us if, instead of giving him the last bits of our days, we awakened with faith on the dawn of each new day, confident that our Lord has already provided enough time in our 24 hours to accomplish all he desires? I think our days would go very differently.
The first 10 percent of all the Israelites had, Scripture tells us, was to be holy and set apart as belonging to God. Today when we give not only from our goods and our gifts but from the time of our days, it lifts a truly sacrificial portion to the maker of time itself. This we do not as payment but in trust that as we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness . . . all these things will be given to us as well” (Matthew 6:33). In returning to God what is rightfully his, we live in anticipation of that mighty provision.
Dr. Wendy LeBolt lives, writes, and works to help kids with fitness in Herndon, Virginia.