Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tithing Time Too

My thinking about charitable giving this week has also prompted pondering about time that we give to charitable organizations.  I remember my mom saying that once upon a time, we tithed money because money was scarce; now we'd be instructed to tithe time.

How would the world change if we spent 10% of our time on charitable and justice activities?

Some days, that would be easy.  Other days, I scarcely have time to eat lunch during my work day.

Of course, a commitment to tithe time would force me to evaluate my activities.  Often, I think we make ourselves look busy at work to prove that we're essential.

Wouldn't it be nice to work for an organization that encouraged us to do charitable work on company time on a regular basis?

Once I had a conversation with a friend about tithing time.  She's fairly open to the idea of donating money, food, and stuff, so I was surprised at her violent rejection of the idea of donating time too.  She said, "Forget it.  I don't have time.  I have to work."

I said, "If your job leaves you with so little time that you can't do volunteer work, then maybe it's time to find another job."

But I know what her job requires, and I know that she has time to donate if she wants.  What does it say about our values if we'd rather read a book than work with the homeless?  If I value time for housework more than time spent with needy children, what does that say about me?

I have been known to sneak away from work to serve dinner to homeless men.  I return to my office refreshed and renewed in a way that I'm not if I sneak away to have dinner with a friend.

I've often wondered, too, if I could find work that would let me do charitable or justice activities as my work-for-pay.  If I worked for Habitat for Humanity, for example, for 40-50 hours a week and drew a paycheck, how would I feel about that?

You could make the argument that I'd still need to tithe my time.  Work for pay is different than donated work.

And we could argue about what work counts as charitable/justice work and what doesn't.  Does the week that I spent as Arts and Crafts director for Vacation Bible School count?  Most of the children who came to VBS are not disadvantaged.  But time spent with children who may grow up to be policy makers can be important too.  And even if they don't grow up to be policy makers, they're still growing up to be the next generation of Christians.  Our VBS stressed the importance of mosquito nets for children far away (social justice!) and learning and creativity and movement.

Hopefully we spent a week modeling the kind of balance we'd all like to find.

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