Table Talk


Margin and the Meaning of Wealth

Here is a simple little idea about how managing our time and money impacts our ability to recognize God calling and purpose. I’ll try to be deductive by defining terms, offering a few observations and a proposition.

DEFINITION: Margin is distance to the edge — the edge of the page, the edge the cliff, or the limits of your discretionary time and/or income.

OBSERVATION 1: Our list of things-to-do expands to fill our available time. Increase our discretionary time, and the demands upon our time tend to increase with it. Creating margin is not as easy as it seems.

OBSERVATION 2: The same thing is true with money. The number of things we “need” seems to grow with the increase of our disposable income. Amazing how that happens.

OBSERVATION 3: If every moment of our day is filled with activities, responsibilities, and lists of urgent things-to-do, not only will we fail to recognize great opportunities when as they arise; opportunities to serve God, serve others, or enjoy relationships. Those opportunities will pass like ships in the night. They will come and go without us realizing it.

OBSERVATION 4: In the same way, if we live on the edge financially with little or no margin, we will probably miss opportunities to invest, save, or give. We will miss those the opportunities as well without realizing it.

PROPOSITION: We tend perceived our opportunities in particular and our purpose in general within the context of the margin we create for ourselves. In other words, with no spare time for anything, people are unlikely to think too deeply about new ways to serve. With no financial margin, they are unlikely to devote themselves to contemplating the meaning and purpose of their wealth.

The question arises about whether this is a biblical idea or just old-school conservatism. Several examples from Scripture quickly come to mind: the man so busy with his crops and cattle that he declined the invitation to the great banquet, failing to perceive the importance or the uniqueness of the invitation. No margin in his schedule. Then there were the 10 bridesmaids, five wise ones who carried extra oil, and the five foolish ones who missed the coming of the groom because they too had no margin.

Creating margin in our lives is not as easy saying that we should. Some realities in life are unavoidable. Yet, many of our trials and tribulations are self-inflicted. Case in point, the prodigal son with his compulsive spending or Martha with her compulsive busyness in the kitchen while Jesus himself was sitting in the living room. I live with far less margin than I would prefer and yet still feel the tempting pull to move a little closer to the edge. And therein lies the larger problem — that many of us live on the edge with regard to both time and money, not by necessity but by our own choice.

Walt Walker

Franklin, TN

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