Sunday, November 04, 2007

Margin in Finances (eighth in a series)

Having margin is not just relegated to having time to relax and room for relationship. Financial margin is having some space between our income and our outflow, which allows room in our finances for giving, for saving, and for emergencies that inevitably come. This is another area where margin is key for us to have peace, and it’s an area where so many in our culture and in the Church are way out of whack.

It’s hard to have financial margin here in America. Advertisers are after us from the time we are pre-schoolers, telling us about one more toy or cereal that we can’t live without, and they don’t ease off as we get older. In fact the “toys” and “cereals” get more expensive, and the benefits that they promise seem more and more alluring, because they promise us beauty, status, happiness, sex, and fulfillment.

And so we are encouraged to live right up to our financial limits, spending every dollar as soon as we get it, and even to go beyond our limits, charging things on credit. We make choices to have payments and bills for things that we may or may not need, and spend a lot of time worrying about how to pay those bills or spend more time working in order to afford what we bought.

One of the costs of living this way is that our ability to participate financially in building God’s Kingdom is severely limited. Many times, in our heart of hearts we want to give more than we do, but there is just not room left when we add up what needs to go out plus the things that we want.

Another cost is that our time and attention is taken up by a focus on money, giving us less and less of those things to give to resting with God, being in relationship with others, and more. Financial stress is one of the leading causes of stress in America and is one of the leading causes of divorce. Such a premium has been placed on money, and it has been elevated to such a place of delivering hope and happiness that when we don’t have as much as we think we should, it can consume us.

But the Lord doesn’t want us consumed with money and worrying about that. Jesus said, “Why do you worry about clothes and food? Your Father knows you need those things. Seek God and His kingdom first, and everything else will fall into place.”

Financial margin gives us room for that seeking. Next we will look at three simple ways to move towards financial margin.

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