I'd like to tell you about a miracle in my life, one that is hard for me to fathom could actually happen knowing what I know about my past. And that, I think, is the best way to tell my miracle story—with a look at my past in three brief scenes.
I’m somewhere around 7 or 8 years old. I am a voracious, obsessive saver of every penny I get. As I am entering a supermarket with my mom, I have my entire savings in my pocket: $35.
As the shopping is about to begin, I see a box of trading cards I am crazy about. I grab the box and look at it longingly.
“Well, are you going to get it?” my mom asks.
“I’m not sure,” I say nearly trembling with fear. “I’d spend all my money.”
“Well, that’s what you saved it for,” she said as if buying them shouldn’t be any big deal.
I couldn’t pull the trigger.
“Okay, look. Do this: Put the box in the cart, and you can think about it as we shop and by the time that we are done, you can be done making your decision, alright?”
I put the box in the cart and did exactly what my mom suggested. I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it, and when the time came to make a decision, I was so racked with fear and confusion, I burst into tears—and I didn’t buy the cards.
I’m going with a bunch of friends to a baseball game, and as we approach the ticket booth, I see something that fills me with deep concern. The ticket price was $26. I had researched the ticket prices online and saw that the seats were listed as $22. I pulled my group to the side and said, “Guys, hey, look. This is bogus. These prices are four bucks more than they were listed online. Are we actually going to go through with this?”
They looked at me as if I had three heads.
“Are you kidding me right now?” my embarrassed wife said under her breath. “Just buy the tickets—please!”
On a night of celebration for my wife and I, we’re driving around downtown San Diego, and I notice that there is no place to park without paying at least 15 bucks. We’ve just recently moved from Missouri—where you NEVER have to pay for parking—and I am starting to get hot about it. I drive from lot to lot, and the more time I spend on the road the more upset I become. “There is no way I’m going to start out this night 15 bucks in the hole,” I yell out. “I’ve had it. Let’s just go back to Mission Valley where we don’t have to pay for parking,” I say like a baby.
“No, let’s just go home,” my wife says, exhausted by my behavior.
I had ruined the night. “You know what your actions told me,” she would say later, “that I wasn’t worth $15 to you.”
I grew up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood to hardworking parents. We never went without, and I was provided for in every way. But for some reason, my young brain looked around at my ramshackle neighborhood, and I just knew becoming rich was my ticket out. And so I gained the save-money-at-all-costs mentality that created in me the kind of person that could produce the three scenes above. Attracted to all things money, I took the RFL class at Rock Church (Rock Financial Life, the Rock’s course on Biblical principles for stewardship).
One night some slides were placed on the screen that would help us identify which of the six financial personalities we were. I watched and listened as the teacher presented on givers, risk-takers, and spenders, approvingly nodding my head as he taught. When the SAVER slide appeared, it offered “pros” on the left side such as enjoys saving, avoids debt, and prioritizes spending. For each, I patted myself on the back.
But on the right were the “cons”: obsessed with money, cheap, steals people’s joy…
I was devastated. I had been pegged. That is what I did all the time—crushed joy, even my own. My obsession with money made me incredibly bad company. I knew I had to change. “Please, God, I can’t go on like this.”
And yet, look at what God was up against. The views I held about money were not mere perspectives or opinions, but deep, dyed-in-the-wool, emotional needs attached to my identity and in some way, my survival. They were not going to be loosened from my life without a fight.
Yet the miracle occurred when, during the RFL course, God crashed through and allowed me to see, with hi-def clarity, how much pride and control and misunderstanding I had about money—mainly my misconception that the money in my financial accounts belongs to me. It doesn’t. It belongs to God. The miracle is that where I was once the stingiest person imaginable—and it was killing me—I now am on a mission to live on 10% of my income and give away 90%. And I can’t wait.
You see those numbers correctly. I have been so liberated by God’s principles on money and have experienced so much joy and freedom that I have devised a financial plan to give away more money each year until I hit a 90/10 ratio.
What could flip a person that upside down but the power of the Holy Spirit? In the process of learning and applying his financial principles, the Lord also gave my wife and me the ability to pay off $50,000 of student loans in about four years.
Today I am one of the RFL teachers and coaches, and I love helping people invite God into their finances—to help give them the freedom they are desperate for. Every financial decision—spending, saving, giving—is a deeply spiritual thing because we’re making decisions with someone else’s money. We’re stewards of God’s resources, and we’re going to be held accountable to the decisions we make with His money. That is why every time I go through the course, I’m challenged to better align myself with the Owner’s heart. When I do that consistently, my heart continues to change. We can always improve our stewardship—and it is a great joy.
Whether you have lots of money and are doing fine, or are broke and in debt, there is much to learn about God’s prescription for wise stewardship. I feel 100% certain when I say this: everybody should take the class. There is so much God wants for you to know and so much joy He wants you to experience.
If He can change me, He can change you. And if He can change you, you can have victory in your finances.