This article is primarily directed at Baby Boomers—a generation of people who, like me, were born between 1946 and 1964 and are now in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. We’re in a new season of our lives, but there is something holding us back from living the life we want. We think about it more and more as we get older. It can be discouraging, depressing—it can define us, even rob us.
There is a principle that applies to every one of us—a necessary consideration as you move through your life, whether your generation is Boomer, X, Millennial, or Z. Many Boomers missed, overlooked, or avoided this step and are now feeling the effects.
What is it? It’s managing your resources well. It’s being faithful. It’s creating margin. The Bible addresses this directly: Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2, NIV).
Fellow Boomers, we are so fortunate to live at this point in history that offers opportunity to have a full life, good health, and the opportunity to remain youthful and vibrant in our fifties, sixties, and seventies. You can take care of yourself and keep busy and healthy, but unless you have already made the decision to take care of your financial resources, you’ll find yourself poised for opportunities which never happen.
I just re-read O. S. Hawkins’s book, Antology. What on earth is “antology” and what does it have to do with this issue? In the Old Testament, King Solomon challenged us to go to the ant . . . consider her ways, and be wise (Proverbs 6:6–8, KJV). Dr. Hawkins writes in his book, “. . . the ant ‘stores’ her provisions in the summer and ‘gathers’ her provisions in harvest for a very important reason—winter is coming!” Studying the ant gives insight as it particularly applies to our own winter season of life.
Like many Boomers, I still have big hopes and dreams and expectations. I enjoy life. What has happened to so many of my Boomer friends is they have extended their lives, they have taken care of their health, they are spiritually strong—but they’ve failed to set aside adequate resources. They have no margin!
What does margin look like and what is your next move to get it? Well, it’s gonna hurt! Change is always hard, but being willing to change is more than half the battle.
Here’s what I suggest:
1. Do an honest financial assessment, especially about stewardship and financial margins. Where are you?
a) Struggling, not able to make ends meet.
b) Surviving, living paycheck to paycheck.
c) Stable, saving some with an emergency fund.
d) Secure, saving for long term goals.
e) Surplus, you have more than enough!
2. Do an honest spiritual assessment. Do you believe God has a role to play? God owns it all! Psalm 24:1 says, The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord. Do you believe God can and will provide for your financial needs and help you achieve your financial goals?
3. Are you willing to change? Are you willing to add a spiritual dimension to your finances? Will you determine a starting place and begin a life of change?
For my wife Sharon and me, the biggest change in our financial status came as a result of simply being honest with God and being honest with ourselves about money. We knew what to do—but we were unwilling to do it! We waited a long time in our life together to make some of the most basic and fundamental changes in the way we handle money.
So, the first step for us was consistently giving a tithe of our earnings to God. You know the old adage—a thousand-mile trip always begins with a first step. When it came to money and creating margin for us, it seems like everything hinged upon that first BIG step of tithing.
There absolutely is a biblical standard for giving in the Bible—actually 2,350 scriptures about giving and money. Jesus actually said more about money than any other single topic!
The Old Testament teaches the concept of a tithe, which means “tenth.” The Old Testament model also teaches “storehouse tithing,” which is bringing your tithes and offerings into the local church.
How important is this first step? The book of Malachi talks about individuals and families who rob God through their tithes and offerings! So, tithing is a biblical principle, a mandate for wise and mature living—the first step in creating margin.
In the New Testament we see a new model for giving which builds upon the Old Testament principle of tithing. In the New Testament you see a model for giving which goes way beyond giving a tithe: a culture of generosity. For Sharon and me, we are giving more now than we ever dreamed we would give. We’ve discovered how much we love to give, and how blessed we are trusting God to meet our needs!
When people hear our testimony about creating margin, they often ask us, “Where are y’all now? Do you have margin to enjoy your life?” Our answer is always the same: “We’re on the journey, life is good, and we’re trusting God!”
Ashley Clayton is executive director, church affiliation and stewardship for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Living Stone Community Church in Mesa, Arizona.