Thursday, June 2, 2011

Max out or margins?

Throughout the whole "May 21st is the end of the world" debacle, I don't think I even ONCE thought that it might actually be true. I would venture to guess that most people only briefly considered the possibility, if at all. But I do think it was an excuse for a lot of Christians to bring back the cheesy charge to "Live every day like it's your last, because you never know when your last will be." I admit, as cheesy as the phrase is, the lifestyle behind it sounds pretty radical and attractive sometimes. Throw caution to the wind! Give everything away! Make every minute count! Love people deeply! Spend yourself on behalf of others! Sounds kinda like the way Jesus lived. Usually when I think of how I'm compelled to live my life as a Christ follower, this is how I see it playing out. But my sister disclosed her frustration with the phrase, saying, "If I lived every day like it was my last I'd be homeless." This is true. If I were to follow this to the letter, I wouldn't have two pennies to rub together.

On the (seemingly?) opposite end of the spectrum, I've been hearing a lot of talk in books, Bible studies, and blogs about creating margins for ourselves. You know, buffer zones. My dad likes to point out that margins keep us safe. Think about a highway: were it not for the extra space, the bike lanes, the lines painted on the road, cars would be scraping by in both directions, there'd be no wiggle room at all, no room for error. My community group leader challenged us the other day to create margins in our lives that would allow us to respond when someone else is in need, whether that need is time or money or resources. This makes a lot of sense. I would love to have the money on hand all the time to give to any missionary friend that needs it. And Proverbs seems to have a lot to say about saving your money and not squandering it. I have a suspicion though, that Americans lean more towards this option for two different reasons. 1. On issues of money, margins allow us to retain some control. They give us a safety zone and eliminate most need to depend on God for provision. Is all saving wrong? No. But I would say that most people don't even question the idea of keeping a savings account. It's a non-negotiable. 2. On issues of time, margins allow us to re-learn the art of investing in meaningful relationships. In an age of iphones, facebook and twitter, we are over-engaged. In this respect, margins are a good thing. They allow time for thoughtful solitude and rest. They cause us to be intentional about giving away our time.

But which is it? Live every day like it's your last or create margins? These two ways of life seem to be at odds with each other. I tend to lean more towards the first. I like the idea of living in the palm of God's hand; not just depending on Him for my own provision, but for the means to give in abundance. I like the idea of living on the edge- maxing out. After all, I am worth much more than a sparrow and God knows my needs. And yet, I see a lot of merit in the latter option.

Which is it? Is it both? Can it be both? Is it one for some people and one for others? I'm genuinely interested in input on this.

1 comment:

  1. I don't see why your two categories have to be exclusive or on different ends of some kind of spectrum.

    If your belief system calls on you to be generous and prudent with what you have (and with your talents), then I don't know why that wouldn't be part of every day of your life.

    In my own life, I've found that when we keep a budget with measurable goals, it's a lot easier to be a more effective manager of what God has given us. It's also easier for us to see how much we depend on God. I can relay some of those stories privately.