Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Healthy Margins Series: Finances

Money – we worry about how to get it and how to spend it. It causes more stress and arguments than almost everything else. Thankfully, the Bible gives us a wealth of ideas on how to handle our money (very punny right?).
            Why Do We Need Money? It’s much easier to pack around money than bars of gold or a herd of cows to buy what we need. And it has a fairly constant value. But where do margins come into play?

Biblical Margins:
            God’s best is not for us to stress over our bills every month. We can’t predict unexpected things that come at us from time to time, but His guidelines help us meet our needs with enough extra to help others when they need it.

            The middle section of the “page” goes for - housing, food, clothing, and transportation. If we’re spending too much in this area – living outside our means – our margins will be dangerously slim or even non-existent. So first we must choose a realistic standard of living surrounded by these margins. I believe this is God’s plan for our spending:





            The first margin has to do with Him. Are you surprised? Since He graciously gives us all things, God should be first One we give back to, in the form of Tithe. If you’re not familiar with this word, tithe is 10% of our earnings God tells us to give to our home church. It pays for our pastors’ salaries, utilities, furnishings, supplies and so forth. Even better, it makes it possible for us to minister to our community in a myriad of ways. These three verses explain it from God’s perspective - Lev. 27:30; Mal. 3:10-12; Num. 18:29.
             The second margin supplies for our future – our Savings. We need to set money aside for retirement, to send our kids to college, and to buy new appliances when needed. Even a small margin saved bit by bit is better than paying on a loan with huge interest. It will add up over time if we don’t keep dipping into it for non-essentials. Proverbs is filled with pithy little sayings of wisdom for just about any situation. These verses tell us: sock money away when it’s available - Prov. 6:6-8, 13:11, 20:4; prepare for disaster - Proverbs 22:3, and keep track of assets and vary investments - Proverbs 27:23-27.
    The third margin is all about Giving. Offerings are what we give beyond our tithe, for programs such as Celebrate Recovery or Divorce Recovery, missionary salaries, disaster relief, the local food pantry, child sponsorship, clean water projects, educational and medical needs, and so much more. We give offerings because we love God and want to be a part of His work.
            There are so many ways to give it’s overwhelming. But a margin of our income will make a difference and please our Heavenly Father. He calls us to care for the fatherless, widows, the poor and needy. Here are a few favorite verses on giving: do it willingly - Deut. 15:10, Prov. 11:24-25, Acts 20:35, 2 Cor. 9:7; don’t take it allDeut. 24:19-21, give when you have it - Prov. 3:27-28, be generous – Prov. 14:31, 21:25-26; Luke 6:38; Rom. 12:8.
            Now for the margin you’ve been waiting for – FUN! God understands our need for fun – remember He created laughter and enjoyment – but He also knows we’re tempted to put our wants ahead of our needs and the needs of others. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Bible doesn’t say much about fun money. However, there are many warnings against wasting our resources on frivolous toys and pleasures that don’t last. So rejoice fully in what you can afford and spend without regrets. 

             My next post will introduce margins for relationships, also known as boundaries.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Healthy Margins Series: Work

             The old saying says, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” However, the reverse is also true, “All play and no work makes Jack a poor man”- not only monetarily, but in character as well. As in all things in life, balance is the key. I originally intended to cover work and money in the same post, but the more I studied, the more I realized we need to look at them separately. So today, let’s focus on work.

Why work?
            God created us in His image and Jesus said He is always at work (John 5:17). So it makes sense that we need work too. God knows being productive with our time gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction (Gen. 1:26-27; Eccles. 3:12-13). Our paychecks provide for the needs of our families (2 Thess. 3:11-13; Titus 3:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). They also allow us to give to those in need, who will in turn, give to us when we have needs (Deut. 15:10-11; Eph. 4:28).
            Work is a good thing. However, God knows we have a tendency to go overboard. If a little is good, a lot must be better, right? So we lean toward working too much on one end of the scale, or, we rebel against what we see as confining, boring, or status quo, and choose laziness instead. This is where margins come into play.   
            If you picture a piece of notebook paper with margins on the sides, God’s design for work might look something like the diagram below. The reasons mentioned most in scripture for taking time off from work are: to worship, to nurture family and relationships, to participate in ministry and community, and to enjoy rest and play. That way work doesn’t take over our lives, but neither do our pursuits of selfish pleasures. (The column to the right should read: Relationships - Family & Friends)





 Biblical Margins:
            Since we’re spiritual beings, we need some time each day to develop our relationship with God, and one day each week completely dedicated to Him (Deut. 5:12-14). Work can easily overstep its boundaries – it takes discipline to make reading the Bible and communing with God a priority (Psa. 42:2). Without Him, our work becomes meaningless, as King Solomon said, “a chasing after the wind.”
            The second most important pursuit is to nourish relationships - with our family and friends. God comes first, then spouse, children, and others. And just in case you’re thinking, “Well, I work with my _____, does that count?” Not really. Nice try though. We’ll talk more about that later.
            The next margin is for the pursuit of ministry and community involvement. That will look different for each individual, depending on what you’re passionate about and how God has gifted you (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Pe. 4:10-11).
            The last margin we need around work is rest and play. God created us with the need to rest (Psa. 3:5; Mark 6:31). Studies continually prove sleep deprivation contributes to health problems, depression, and unproductive work time. Rest restores and rejuvenates. God also revives us through laughter and celebrations. He wants us to give thanks for the bounty of His blessings, and share those good things with others (Neh. 8:10).
            The Bible has a lot more to say about work and the margins we need to keep it in balance. I listed only a few references in this post (did I hear a sigh of relief?). I hope you’ll read them on your own. If you want to do a bit more study, I recommend using a Bible website such as If you type in key words like: work, earn, provide, rest, or give. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
            In the next post, we’ll take a look at what margins are needed for healthy finances.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who Needs Margins?

This is a topic the Lord has been speaking to me about for some time. I kept waiting to have it more “together” before presenting these ideas to you, because I didn’t want to be guilty of sharing something I’m not putting into practice myself. But, I’m still a work in progress, and this is such good stuff.  You shouldn’t have to wait to hear it until I reach perfection in my own life. That’s not going to happen this side of heaven.

So, for the next few posts, I’m going to share about the importance of margins. They are important in every area of life, for our health and well being. Our society and human nature doesn’t teach us these things, but God’s Word is full of the wisdom of margins – what they are, why we need them, and how to put them in place.

When you hear the word margins (not margarine, which would be a substitute for butter), you probably picture a piece of notebook paper. The pink line on the left and white spaces at the top, right, and bottom are visual parameters for writing. These margins are guides. On paper, as well as in life, some people welcome these cues and others refuse to acknowledge or submit to them.

Why do we need margins?
Beauty and Clarity
From my years as a home school and private school teacher, I can tell you, margins are important for several reasons. School papers with words neatly contained within the margins are attractive, easy to read, and allow space for the teacher to make comments and corrections. It doesn’t matter how impressive the writing is, if the words span from edge to edge with added thoughts scribbled in all directions. Especially if there are no paragraph breaks. Reading a paper like this is like trying to listen to a person who talks at lightning speed without ever pausing for breath.

Margins are a beautiful thing.

People who live within healthy margins are beautiful too. Their lives are attractive, uncluttered, and have space to receive compliments, as well as correction and ideas for improvement. They give themselves room to breathe. When I’m around people like this, I feel like I have space to breathe too.

There’s another reason for margins as well.

Health and Safety
Margins are not only beautiful, many times they’re critical. I love walking the little back roads around our house, but I have to be vigilant, because in most places there are no sidewalks or shoulders for pedestrians. The road simply drops off into the ditch, a tangle of blackberry bushes, or an electric fence holding fields of curious milk cows. I remember the day I heard a car speed around a blind corner toward me. The driver swerved too far when he saw me, hit the gravel on the other side, over corrected, then headed back to the ditch where I had leaped for safety. I felt the wind from his car just inches away as he sped past me down the road.

Many of us, and I’m preaching to myself first here, are like this car – careening down the road with no margins, over correcting, endangering ourselves and others in the process. Every time I get sick, and it’s been more often than I want to admit in recent years, my husband, family members, and best friends ask, “Do you think God’s trying to get you to slow down?” The answer, of course, is yes. So I’ve been asking Him what changes I need to make in life to establish better margins and He’s given me a lot to think about…and put into practice.

I hope you’ll join me for this series on margins and see what God might say to you too. Then, as we listen and apply what He tells us, we can begin to add more breathing space in the following areas of our lives.
·         Money Matters
·         Relationships
·         Family Life
·         Physical Wellness
·         Thoughts and Emotions
·         Spiritual Vitality and Ministry