One thing all pages of books and printed documents have in common is the use of margins.

Have you ever wondered, “Why have margins? Couldn’t you get more words on the pages with them?”

Just think of how many pages you could cut out of a book. I suppose you could cut out spaces between words to save even more space. Wouldn’t that be good use of resources?

However, without margins we would experience information overload. No space around the edges and between words would make it difficult for our eyes to process the information. We might save paper or space, but we would lose time, waste energy and increase stress in attempting to read the publication.

Now think about all you cram into your life. Does it come closer to looking like a page with margins and spaces or a page filled with words from side to side and no spaces between words?

Like the pages of books, our lives need margins. However, most of us have to be intentional about building margins into our lives.

God did this when he rested on the seventh day. God built margin into the created order and commanded us to build margin into our lives.

The Great Recession showed us that many Americans had very little financial margins. Hundreds of thousands of people were financially overextended. They lived beyond their means, leaving no room for the unexpected.

Any time you are living outside the margins, you are becoming enslaved to your debt. This is not good stewardship. Proverbs 22:7 says, “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender” (NIV). So whenever we borrow, we lose a portion of our freedom.

So is borrowing wrong? Certainly not. Most of us could not have a house and many of us could not have a car without some debt. It’s a matter of how much financial margin we want to leave ourselves. The problem is that many people don’t leave any and too many people don’t leave enough.

So when God says that we should be generous and give him as much as 10 percent of our income, most people say,  “That’s not possible. All my money is already spent.”  And that is true. The question is, “Is that the way God wants us to live?”

Greed is a problem regardless of how much or how little money we have. Many think, “Well, if I had his or her money then I’d build in some margin.” The reality is: if you are greedy with a little, you will be greedy with a lot.

The more money we have, the more things we see that we want. Our toys just get bigger. Our bills just get bigger.

If you have no margins with a little, you will not have margins with a lot. Building margins into our lives is a matter of choice and discipline, regardless of how much or how little we have.

How do you know whether you have any margins built into your life for God and others? These questions can provide a checkup for you:

When God puts a person of need in your path, do you have some spare time, money or energy for him or her?

When you say “no,” is it because you have no margins or is it because you are wisely protecting the margins you have so you can say “yes” to the most important things in your life?

If you had some unexpected expenses right now, do you have some savings that could take care of them?

Are you living beyond your means, spending money on things you don’t really need?

Are you addicted to stuff?

Do you have peace in your life that comes from having enough quiet time, alone time and Sabbath rest?

Do you use the amount of debt you have as an excuse not to respond obediently to God and give to his work?

Are you working so much that you never have enough time to spend with your family or with your friends?

If you do not have healthy margins in your life, you need to put your house in order. Matthew 6:33 provides us guidance on how to do so: “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [that are essential to life] shall be added to you.”