A tithe of time

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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By Scott Baker

In modern parlance the word “sacrifice” often brings up images of soldiers on the battlefield or parents’ love for their children. I have a friend who just within the last couple of years gave a kidney to a friend in need of one. Talk about sacrifice! The word has taken on the notion of a selfless act(s) on behalf of something greater than oneself. The biblical sense of the word certainly contains that notion but with one slight difference. To sacrifice something means to hallow it; to make it holy; or to consecrate it for a higher purpose, namely God.

Throughout the Bible, God asks the Israelites to sacrifice, or to set aside a tithe of their produce (income) toward God’s purposes. The word “tithe” simply means one tenth. God knows that 90 percent is sufficient for our survival and for our happiness. To set aside one tenth means to hallow it, and make it holy for the purposes of God.

Here we are at the very beginning of the season of Lent: Forty days and nights dedicated to the Lord. One might even say “sacrificed” for a greater purpose. In the past years I’ve come to realize that the most valuable commodity in people’s lives is not money but rather time. We are being stretched and pulled in all facets of our lives. We barely even have time to sit down as families and eat together. Our calendars are full, yet amid all the hustle and bustle we find that we have scheduled out of our lives some of the things that make life worth living.

On Feb. 26, I stood before my parishioners and read these auspicious words from the Book of Common Prayer, “Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting … I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church to the observance of a holy Lent … .” Lent is 40 days (not counting Sundays, which are always feast days), which happens to be approximately one tenth of our year. During Lent we are called to sacrifice or tithe our time. Rather than filling up our calendars with our “regular routines” we are called to devote instead our energies to “self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

In short, we are called to carve out of our 365-day-year (366 this year being a leap-year) 40 days devoted to God. These 40 days are occasions by which we can claim anew the most important relationship in our lives. Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word for “spring.” By dedicating one tenth of our year to a higher purpose, we enter into the springtime of our spiritual lives starting anew with a year of growth ahead of us.

Jesus said, “where your treasure it, there your heart will be also.”

I think we could say the same thing regarding where we spend our time.

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.