The Reflection You’ll Probably Want to Skip
One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.
You are probably wondering why I think you might want to skip this reflection. It has to do with my experience as Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. During my sixteen years in this role, I preached three sermons each October on the topic of personal and financial stewardship. I would help my congregation understand what it means to use well all the gifts God had given us, including our money. Every year, I'd see our worship attendance dip during stewardship season. A few folks admitted to me that they just didn't want to hear sermons about money. So they took a breather in October.
Today's reflection isn't about money, exactly, but it is about tithing. So, like I said, you might want to stop reading right now. But I invite you to hang in there. God might just have something to say to you today through the last chapter of Leviticus.
This chapter provides divine guidance for situations in which people want to dedicate something or someone special to the Lord. The laws of the chapter deal especially with financial arrangements related to such dedications. Verse 30 addresses the subject of tithing: "One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy." Thus, the people were to take a tenth of what they harvested and offer it to the Lord. (According to Deut. 14:22-23, the people were supposed to eat a portion of their tithe in the temple as a way of celebrating God's goodness!)
Designating a tenth of one's harvest for the Lord was a reminder that, in fact, everything ultimately belongs to him. This remains true for those of us who aren't farmers. The produce of our lives—our income, our accomplishments, our artistic creations, our relationships, our children— belongs to God, even as we belong completely to him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Tithing can help us remember whose we are and whose stuff we have been given in trust. I know many Christians who faithfully tithe on their yearly income, and others who seek to tithe on their time. The point is not to give God his tenth so we can do whatever we wish with the other ninety-percent. Rather, through tithing we signify that all that we have and all that we are belong to God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the idea that God is the real owner of your stuff? And of you? When you give your money, your time, or your gifts to the Lord, why do you do it? What do you think about tithing on your income?
PRAYER: O Lord, the truth is that I belong to you. You have given me life. You have given me new life through Christ. All that I am is yours. All that I have is yours.
Forgive me, Lord, when I fail to live as if this is true. All too often I act as if my stuff is mine, my time is mine, my life is mine. Mine. Mine. Mine! (I sound like a two-year old, sometimes, don't I?) May I see my life as a gift from you, and all the good things in my life as from your generous hand.
When it comes to the subject of money—the thing we'd rather not think about—may I be a good steward of all that you have entrusted to me. Help me to be faithful in devoting a regular portion to you. Help me to exceed that baseline with a generosity that reflects your own grace.
I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.