“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet with God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. they seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.” Matthew 23:4 (MSG)
As a minister, these words of Jesus terrify me. They ring in my ears every time I speak or teach. Are the things I am about to urge these people to do real? Will these things lead them to a deeper relationship with God? Or are they simply another hoop to jump through or task to perform to feel “spiritual”? It’s a constant struggle in my mind.
Sacred margins in our lives are wonderful things. True margin moves us and shapes the content of our lives so that God is more evident through every moment and activity. I hope most of us have experienced this in some way — that prayer, that time of fasting, that reading of scripture, that quiet time, those moments of true community & connection that change both ourselves and the world around us.
I have to admit, though, that many of the “spiritual” activities I have done in my life have not been like this. There have been times when spiritual disciplines or church activities have just been routine items to check off my list. They have existed for their own benefit and not affected me in the ways in which they were intended. In essence, the margin they have created has been fake.
The fault for this falls into my own lap. It’d be so easy to sit here and blame the church or tradition or empty practices. But the reality is that when used improperly – or overextended – all of these systems fail.
Technology is the same way. Things that are intended to help us can be overextended and actually end up being counterproductive. Shane Hipps likes to use the example of a car. A car, when used properly, helps us travel much quicker than we could on our own. Yet when we get too many cars on the road, gridlock occurs and our travel is impeded. The thing intended to help us has now become a detriment.
So are the margins in our lives real or fake? Real margin points us to God. It infuses even the most meanial task with the divine. It gives us context to understand the world around us and to see the fingerprints of God in our lives.
Fake margin does none of that. Fake margin becomes a means unto itself – another activity added to our schedules that in the end becomes a heavy yoke. Instead of enjoying the banquet, we load ourselves down like pack animals. Instead of order, we get chaos.
Do you have things in your life that are intended to bring order, but instead bring chaos? What are they?
How can we tell whether our margins are real or fake?