Margin

Our current teaching series is called Synchronize, our engagement with Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. This past Sunday we focused our attention on the second half of Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-34. Take a moment to read that passage (for online Bible reading you can go to biblegateway.com) and then consider the idea of living more sanely, more humanly -- consider the idea of margin. Richard Swenson is a former medical doctor who has written a book by this very title: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2004). I highly recommend it to you as meaningful commentary on Jesus words in Matthew 6. Let me explain.

Swenson suggests that the only adequate way to live well is to protect the space that exists between people and their human limits. He calls this space “margin” and says this space has largely been lost to us in contemporary life. We know it as the disease of overload. Ironically, as we spend our energies trying to overcome our human limitations, we lose the very possibility of the thing we seek after. In the search of a bigger life, we find that life gets squeezed, diminished, small. We push hard, hoping for a breakthrough, but the horizon keeps receding. What to do?

Swenson’s antidote is simple: restore margin. If we are to experience joyful, healthy, and meaningful lives then, in Swenson’s experience, we need to fully own who we are. We need to learn the lessons of the creation we are part of: the supplied-for, blessed world we live in. Jesus talks about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and their sense of happy limitation. Take a lesson, he says. The irony here is that in accepting our human limitation we actually become more connected to the bigger reality we are part of, the more we hunger for. The truth is that only in our smallness can we find the largeness of a God-blessed life.

In the second half of Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us to dismiss the I-am-my-own-god-illusion and embrace our humanity by understanding our temporality and dependency. He points to the wisdom of living within human limits. And what is given to those who practice this way of being? Do a quick search through the text and see what you find -- how about treasure in heaven (v.20) and the gift of the kingdom (v.33)? This is what Swenson is talking about -- the surprising gift of life that is discovered when we make room for it.

This Sunday we are going to jump backwards in our study. We are going to review the premise on which these wise words of Jesus are based, the life resource that is described at the beginning of the chapter. We are going to talk about prayer. See you at 9:29 or 11:11.

Bob Osborne

Take time to ponder these questions: 1. What practical changes could you make right now that would open up a bigger view of life and meaning? 2. What do you think Jesus is asking when he says “where is your treasure”? 3. What is your relationship to worry? What practical ways of living might help you learn the way of “unworry”? 4. Get real now -- what do you need to say no to, in order to say yes to a bigger and better life?