Let me tell you about my moment.
I was cruising down the freeway in Fort Worth one beautiful spring day, on my way home from my wonderful job as a not-so-mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper. I was in one of my designer suits, Ferragamos on my pedicured feet, my manicured hands on the steering wheel of my fabulous fifty-thousand-dollar leased SUV, while my hair—with a fresh, seventy-five-dollar haircut—shimmered in the Texas sunlight streaming in from the sunroof. I was privileged enough to be driving to a beautiful house in one of the most coveted suburbs in the area, where, after greeting our children’s nanny in the housekeeper-scrubbed foyer, I would prepare a fabulous dinner, then take a dip in the pool or perhaps soak in the waterfall hot tub.
My husband and I made good money. Our infant twins and preschool son were healthy and happy. We were mighty blessed.
And we were flat broke.
The beautiful home was mortgaged to the hilt. We were fourteen thousand dollars upside down on the “fabulous” leased SUV. My clothes, the kids’ clothes, the haircuts, the makeup, the shoes—all of it went on credit cards. The bills were piling up, but I figured the debt was just part of living my “fabulous” life.
But something inside of me was becoming deeply and profoundly uncomfortable. After making all the minimum credit card payments, sometimes I didn’t have enough money left over to pay for groceries. So I put the groceries on a credit card, along with the diapers and the gasoline.
There was an emotional shift at home as well: Scott and I started to get really agitated whenever something broke around the house because we knew we didn’t have the money to fix it. We were tense and unhappy, in spite of our house full of stuff.
While I had not yet realized just how bad things had actually gotten, I knew deep down that we were headed to a bad place financially and that the slightest unexpected financial setback could send our life crashing down around us.
Fortunately, on that fateful spring day, something happened before I made it home, something that would change my life forever.
Our children’s nanny, Melissa, had become a trusted friend, and I had let her in on our little secret that things were not as perfect as they looked. In response, Melissa bought me some CDs of sermons taught at her church—about money. I put the CDs in the car to listen to on the commute to work, but I was skeptical. What is some pastor going to tell me about money? I know all about money! I thought. But I listened. And on the way home that day, I heard a sermon called “The 90-Day Challenge,” taught by some guy I had never heard of before, named Jeff Drott.
As I listened to him tell his honest and heartbreaking story of losing everything yet finding God, and then learning how to manage what God had entrusted to him, God reached a place in my heart that had been untouched for a very long time. I had been in church thousands of Sundays but never knew God cared how we manage our money.
In the sermon, Pastor Jeff used a funny, churchy-sounding word that I had never heard before—stewardship—and it pierced my heart like a dagger. My mind was spinning in a way that even now is hard for me to explain. It was like taking a final exam and realizing that half the test was based on a chapter I had accidentally skipped over. I felt panicked. Stewardship? What? What is that? Why do I not know about stewardship? How did I not know that the Bible teaches about money management? Suddenly I realized that everything I thought I knew about money and how to manage it was not only wrong, it was in direct violation of what the Bible teaches about finances. And even after all those Sunday school lessons and church sermons, I had absolutely no idea how polluted my head, heart, emotions, and attitudes had become.
That’s when I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit speaking directly to my materialistic little heart: Honey, you missed this.
If you miss this lesson called stewardship, you miss everything.
When you spend more than you earn, your whole life is a lie. My whole life was a lie. A charade. A house of fancy cards that was ready to topple over. I began to cry so hard that I had to pull over on the side of the freeway. I sat there for probably ten minutes or so, just praying and crying out to God to forgive me. To help me fix things. To help me change. What a mess I had created! We had tons of debt and no savings and were highly leveraged on everything from the shoes on my feet right on up to the home that sheltered my family. How did I let this happen? I wondered. How could I be so stupid? How did I miss this?
I went home and added it all up, all the debt. All the credit cards. All the monthly expenses. The debt was bad—about sixty thousand dollars’ worth, just on the credit cards, not even counting the house or the stupid SUV. And because these were the days when “universal default” was still in play, once we made a late payment on one card, the interest on almost all of them went to more than 30 percent. In a matter of months, sixty thousand grew to more than one hundred thousand, even after we started budgeting and trying to do things the “right” way. We had a huge hole to dig out of.
It was not quick; neither was it particularly enjoyable, but eventually, we saw sunlight again. We were very blessed during the process because our house of cards never fell. And we never filed bankruptcy, never lost a house in foreclosure, and never paid a bill more than a little bit late.
But it was hard. We sacrificed. We sold the SUV, happily, and the house, after many tears. We didn’t see the inside of a restaurant or a movie theater for a long, long time. And yet, in spite of our sacrifices, trivial as they were compared to the trials of so many, we gained a thousand times more than we gave up: new friends, a whole new way of living, and, finally, peace.
Thank you, God, for that peace.
Your Money God’s Way is not about my story, but I wanted to tell you about my “moment” for two reasons: First, this book is bold. I will say things to you that other people don’t have the courage to say—or that you may not have the courage to say to yourself. I don’t mince words or beat around the bush, and I am not going to baby you. If you’re old enough to read this, you’re big enough to receive the very kick in the pants you probably need in order to do better with your money. Yet as you read, never think for one second that these words are coming from someone who is looking down her nose at you. Not me.
If you are in a bad place financially, please know that I have been there too. I have cried the tears. I have stayed awake at night, wondering if I should pay the credit cards or the mortgage. I have gotten physically sick more times than I care to admit during bill-paying time. Yes, I’ve been there.
But one critical moment turned into a life-changing journey for me. So the second and most important reason I’ve shared my moment with you is that I am hoping you will have a moment of your own. I hope that as you read this book, you will allow God to speak to you and to heal your heart. What’s more, I hope you will ask Him to reveal His truth to you. It is only through God’s truth that we can ever be free.
We got a lot of bad advice from well-meaning people during the early days of trying to clean up our mess. Fortunately, as we fumbled around for some truth, we found two things that genuinely helped us: Christian financial coaches and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
Once things started improving for us, we were so excited about what we had learned that we began volunteering at our church (yes, we joined the church that produced the CDs our nanny had given us), Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. We began in faith to help others with their financial problems, even as we continued to work through our struggles with our own. And during that time, I hounded the pastors so often with ideas on financial stewardship that they eventually asked me to come on staff, probably so I would just shut up and implement the plans myself. So I did. I left my journalism career and went into ministry, becoming a pastor who specializes in biblical financial education.
A couple of years later, I got to meet that guy, Jeff Drott, who’d had the nerve to preach a sermon on money and get into my business that day on the Fort Worth freeway. He hired me for my current position at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. What a joy it was to tell him that before he had ever met me, his story had changed my life.
God always has a plan.
Because I have worked at two very large churches, I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands of people in varying degrees of financial health. Unfortunately, many of them are in economic crisis. It breaks my heart to see good Christian families go through the heartbreak of foreclosure, the agony of debt, and the misery of divorce brought on by money problems. The good news is, though occasionally financial upheaval cannot be avoided, 99 percent of the time it can. In the following chapters, there is truth that will help any family either recover from or avoid a fiscal catastrophe.
If you are doing great with your money, congratulations. This book will help you stay on the financial mountaintop and avoid the pitfalls that ensnare most everyone else. Read carefully with an open and humble heart and remember: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If you’re struggling with your money, take heart. God has a plan for you. He has a purpose and a calling for your life that is unique to you, and He can take you there, even from where you are right now.
One of the most fascinating things I’ve seen in my ministry is that while many families can be experiencing the same general type of financial distress, such as unmanageable credit card debt, foreclosure, etc., the root causes are different for every family, and each needs a particular solution. The way God uses individualized ways to walk different families out of financial distress is nothing short of miraculous. It’s as if He has a personal financial prescription for every family willing to ask Him for it and work hard to achieve it. In Your Money God’s Way, I will help you figure out what God’s prescription is for your family.
Once you discover your own path, you will have your own story too. And while I cannot tell you what the twists and turns will be, I can promise you that your story will be different from anyone else’s because God designed you, your life, and your calling to be unique.
But in order for God to bless you and change your circumstances, you have to be willing to change yourself, or more specifically, your heart, your head, and your convictions. Because if your money is messed up, the problem really isn’t your money; it’s you. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Here’s why: in Matthew 6:25–31, Jesus promised that our heavenly Father will meet all of our needs. Sure, hard times will come, and bad things will occasionally happen to good people, but if you are in a systematic pattern of not having enough, it is not because God is not providing for you; it is because you are not managing what He has already given you.
And you know what? Most of us have failed in this area. Some of us, including me, have failed spectacularly, time and time again. The important thing is to recognize when we have weaknesses in this area, figure out what those weaknesses are, and then take steps to overcome them. That is what this book is about.
Your Money God’s Way isn’t a “how to get out of debt” book, a savings book, or a budgeting book. It is a book about why you’re not doing those things already, and as you read, you will finally begin to understand why you don’t do the things you say you want to do with your money. More important, you will learn simple steps and timeless truths to help you change those habits—for good. Understanding brings change. And understanding why you make the decisions you make regarding your money is the first step to making better decisions.
Imagine what your life would be like if you never again had to worry about money. Envision how it would feel if you were giving, saving, living below your means—and having fun with your money. Now picture going to sleep and knowing that all the bills are paid, your nest egg is being funded, you have cash set aside for a rainy day, and through your generosity, others less fortunate than you are being helped. Wouldn’t that feel good? Wouldn’t you like to have that feeling?
You can, and you can have it much sooner than you think. But you’ll have to work hard to challenge your beliefs and start thinking about money as God does.
God’s way is always better than our way. Understanding how to manage your money God’s way is the key to ending your economic worries forever and living the financial life God designed for you.
Excerpted from Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the Seven Money Myths That Keep Christians Broke by Amie Streater from Thomas Nelson (copyright 2010). For more information, visit www.AmieStreater.com or www.ThomasNelson.com.