“Woe to you……………………! For you tithe mint, dill, & cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”Matthew 23:23 NRSV
Jesus’ words are incredibly striking, in light of everything going on in the world today, when looked through the lens of racial inequalities or the coronavirus. What if Jesus is trying to impress upon us where our attention should be focused? What if we learned to shift our focus according to the text? What if a tenth of our days were actually focused on practicing justice and mercy and faith?
A “tithe” is considered a “tenth”, ten percent. Jesus admonishes us for only paying attention to the money while neglecting the things that really matter. As I look at it, there are 24 hours in a day. That would mean nearly two and a half hours each day. (Yikes! Jesus is messing with our time binging Netflix or video games or fill in the blank!) Maybe he meant a tenth of waking hours, instead? If I get the recommended eight hours of sleep each day, that brings the amount of time down to 1.6 hours.
When it comes to stewardship, parishioners will often ask me if a tithe is a tenth based on “gross” or “net” earnings. To which my response is typically, “Yes.” In other words, the technicality of “gross” or “net” does not matter to me. What a parishioner decides is between them and God. I let them figure out the technicalities; it’s not mine to judge in the first place. The point is for each person to make their offering to God in shared ministry: time, talent, and treasure. When it comes to a tithe for Justice & Mercy & Faith, whether it’s 1.6 or 2.4 hours, the point is for there to be time focused to these matters.
Which brings me back to Jesus’ words. He says that the economic details of giving are being addressed but personal details of giving have fallen aside. What if we actually spent time (a tithe, in whatever varying amount that is for each of us) each day involved in activities of justice and mercy and faith? What would that mean for the world? What would that look like?
How do we begin? What if we put it in our activity planners so that we seek it out each day? I’ve seen gratitude journals. I’ve even seen faith journals. But, what about justice journals or mercy journals? Or, do we feel safest with faith journals, so that we can focus inward instead of outward? What if God is calling us to both? What if Jesus is even laying out the ratio for our daily justice and mercy and faith tithing? What if the ratio is supposed to be 2:1? Us looking outward twice as often as looking inward…seeking justice and mercy and faith DAILY.
Mind blown! Woe to you ………….. (fill in with my name)! It’s time to make changes.