Margin: I Don't Have Enough Money!
I Don’t Have Enough Money!
Read Luke 12:22-34
Jesus talked a lot about economics in a culture that for most people meant subsistence living, what we would call paycheck to paycheck with some lay-offs scattered into the mix. If people in that setting needed to be told to consider the lilies of the field, what would he preach here in DuPage County? Our financial stress is often self-inflicted. The siren call of advertising and our penchant for keeping up cannot be resisted. We simply do not live within our means. We slide into the idolatry of stuff and we rely on our own ability to not only sustain our need, but provide for our pleasures, too. When we hit a fiscal bump in the road we put on a good front to hide our “failure”.
Jesus’ wisdom? Don’t be anxious, trust God’s value system. You are valuable, not only in the essence of who you are, but in your role in His Kingdom. Put your sites on that. So once again, the answer to lack of Margin in our finances is Disciplines that help us center on God. He shifts our perspective as Paul describes life in the Kingdom, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV
The disciplines we focus on this week are all variations of abstention. When we are worried about not having enough, we quiet our heart and let God tell us how much is enough. The motivation for this discipline is worship for the God who provides, not our status as a good/better/best follower of Jesus. (Matthew 6:16-18) We worship God and find freedom from the idolatry of money and what it buys. When we abstain in a variety of ways, we find the Margin God offers.
Dallas Willard wrote, “(Fasting) teaches us a lot about ourselves very quickly. It will certainly prove humiliating to us, as it reveals to us how much our peace depends upon the pleasures of eating.” Change that word “eating” to consumption of any kind and our consumer driven lifestyle is suddenly revealed for what it is. Fasting for our purposes this week is to say enough; enough consumption, enough adornment, enough ease. Listen to God reveal himself as a true source of peace.
Read Psalm 62:10b ?Dallas Willard defines Simplicity as “the arrangement of life around a few consistent purposes, explicitly excluding what is not necessary to human well-being.” Frivolous consumption corrupts the soul away from trust in, worship of, and service to God. Our treasures, given the fade of time and the light of God, are proven to be indifferent things, poor foundations for our identity or future.
Read Micah 6:8 ?Once you’ve learned about God’s sufficiency your eyes will see an even larger truth, your sufficiency is intended to provide someone else’s deficiency. Out of our funds, our goods, even our physical strength we can actively promote the good of others. We become partners with God in bringing grace and mercy to the world. Sharing resources expresses a humility that values the other’s need.
We normally associate fasting with staying away from food for a period of time, using the time we normally spend preparing food or eating in prayer, Scripture and meditation. One of the side benefits of fasting from food may be the realization that we won’t starve by eating less! The resulting health effects naturally follow.
But there are other ways of fasting. Among them, we can fast from spending. Some families do this during the Christmas season by buying fewer gifts for family and using the money saved to buy things for the less fortunate, or contributing to Christian aid organizations. If we regularly fasted from spending throughout the year, we’d not only be in better financial shape, but we’d find that our emphasis on “stuff” would diminish as our desires grow for other things: family, friends, God, the needy.
Try putting your credit card on a fast this week (or month). Assign a purpose to your cash (the Envelope System). Indulge no spending whim while God outlines the truth about the priorities of His Kingdom. Watch your fretting about money and material things lessen as you intentionally and regularly put your needs off for a time.
Heavenly Father, teach me to hold on lightly to the things of this world. Help me to focus more on you and less on the things I think I need to have. Amen.
The Shaker hymn says it well:?’Tis the gift to be simple?’Tis the gift to be free?’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be?And when we find ourselves in the place just right?’Twill be in the valley of love and delight?When true simplicity is gained?To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed?To turn, turn, will be our delight?’Til by turning, turning, we come round right.
Contemplate the meaning of these lines and the complexities of your life that squeeze out Margin. The beauty of the hymn is found in the realization that as we simplify our lives, pruning our list of “nice to haves” and limiting ourselves to a smaller list of “need to haves”, the cares of the world become fewer. Things settle in a place that’s right. Instead of things - family, friends, conversations, faith, love, become our focus and are experienced more richly and deeply. When we realize we need less, then we are less bothered when others have more. Money and what it buys becomes less of a focus.
Read Matthew 5:3-12. Nowhere are blessings associated with money or material things. Instead, Jesus shows the value of lives which focus on heavenly currency. Try cleaning a closet or clearing the garage as a spiritual activity listening to God.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV)
It is in acts of service to others, especially non-believers, that we communicate Christ’s love in us, and His love for them. People will much more remember that we prayed for them when they can also recall what we did for them. Our deeds have validated our words. But this takes our time or money, and requires us to be intentional.
Money is our time and effort converted into a storable form. As we focus more on meeting the needs of others we take the focus off ourselves and the trinkets and stuff we want. We make an eternal impact on another life. Humbly we’ve valued the needs of another over our own. When we as Christians narrow our focus, trim our list of things we “just can’t get by without”, and develop a passion for helping others in need, we are building up treasure in heaven. This is especially an important discipline for Christians who are in positions of affluence, influence, power and leadership.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for our preoccupation on material things in life. Pursue us with your Spirit so that we may focus our time, abilities and resources on that which is lasting. Help us to make your kingdom work, as well as relieving the burdens of others, our highest priorities. Amen.
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