One of Our Most Important Stewardships
I was driving home feeling terribly discouraged. I don’t think it would be too much to say this was one of the lowest points of my life. I had to tell my wife, Katie, who was pregnant with our first child, that I had just been laid off. With the loss of my job as an elementary schoolteacher also came the loss of our medical insurance.
You see, about two years earlier, I learned of a teaching position available on a local naval base that would give me credit for my military service. This resulted in a considerable raise, but the one drawback was that I lost my secure, tenured position at the district where I taught. The Great Recession hit, and schools began cutting new teachers. So even though I’d been teaching almost ten years, I was included in the terminations. I knew it was going to be difficult to find a position anywhere because every district was facing the same financial crunch.
You might be thinking, So, a book about finances God’s way. Did you just think that God would somehow provide you a job? Actually, I did! Years earlier, I became a Christian in my early twenties during my first year of teaching elementary school. Soon after, my passion for ministry increased. So you can probably imagine my excitement when a local church, Grace Baptist in Lemoore, California, was looking for a part-time youth pastor. I applied, they hired me, and my elementary school schedule—which granted me summers and holidays off—worked wonderfully with my church position.
After losing the teaching position on the naval base, I was still a part-time youth pastor, but the pay wasn’t enough to support my family. I told my senior pastor I would have to look for a teaching position elsewhere, and more than likely, that would mean no longer serving as their youth pastor. Grace Baptist’s leadership team stepped out in faith and brought me on full-time. I knew this was a huge financial strain on the church, but because I felt called to ministry and trusted God to provide, I gratefully accepted the job. Within a few months, as I made the transition to full-time youth pastor, my income dropped by nearly two-thirds. My medical insurance and retirement were gone as well. I had to support my growing family on a fraction of the salary I had received earlier.
Believe it or not, we didn’t feel the financial pinch. We had already been living frugally, so we didn’t have to make any lifestyle changes. The major difference was that we couldn’t put as much extra money toward our mortgage. This book is the genesis of how all of us, regardless of our financial situation, can use what God has provided even when we find ourselves with less to spend because of commitments, payments, a crisis, or job change. I’ll give you Tip One right now: Live off less money than you make, and you’ll be prepared if you ever really must live off less money than you make! In the pages ahead, I’ll share more tips to put in your financial-planning pocket. But first, I’d like to share why finances God’s way matters so much to me and why I want it to count for you too.
Some Credibility and Encouragement
There are many finance books already available, so why another one? What makes this one different? Is there any reason you should trust what I have to say?
Of greatest importance is that I’m not asking you to trust me, but rather, God. This book is not a collection of my opinions about money, but God’s words as revealed in Scripture. You’ll see in the following chapters I do my best to unpack the Bible’s key verses related to money. God is the One “who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18), and He “makes poor and makes rich” (1 Samuel 2:7). That means God knows what you should and shouldn’t do with your finances, and He has provided you with the needed instructions in His Word. My desire is to present these instructions in a clear, engaging, and biblical manner.
I’ve taught extensively on money to the church I serve. The most common type of counseling that I give is for marriages, with many of the sessions revolving around finances. The time I’ve spent with people—whether couples or individuals—in counseling has made me familiar with the most common problems in marriage, and many of them relate to finances. I have seen people struggle, and the time I’ve spent studying the Bible has equipped me to help them find solutions. I’ve been blessed to watch the truths of God’s Word resolve their problems, restore their relationships, and strengthen their financial situations. Your Finances God’s Way is the culmination of hundreds of hours of Bible study and counseling. I wrote this book because I am passionate about this area of Scripture and life.
As a pastor and counselor, I have witnessed the blessings that come from obeying God and the negative consequences that result from disobedience. As a husband and father, I have experienced firsthand these blessings and consequences myself. As of 2021, our oldest child of nine, Rhea Grace, is fourteen. Perhaps God will bless us with more. We have always been a single-income family. I was a schoolteacher when Katie and I married; then I became a full-time youth pastor. And in 2010, I moved from that role to become the senior pastor at Woodland Christian Church in Woodland, Washington.
At no time have we ever lived off anything more than modest salaries, but God still enabled us to pay off all our debt, including our mortgage. Some months we put a few hundred dollars toward debt, while other months we allocated a few thousand. When Katie inherited $10,000, we didn’t think twice before putting it toward the mortgage, and every tax return went toward the mortgage. The year I worked part-time as a youth pastor and full-time as an elementary schoolteacher provided the most money we ever made. More than half of each paycheck went toward the mortgage.
I share my story for three reasons. First, to give you confidence in the biblical principles presented in this book. Second, I don’t want you wondering, Has Scott “walked the talk,” or is he a hypocrite? When I talk about debt, I want you to know we don’t have any. When I talk about paying off a mortgage, I want you to know that’s what we’ve done. Third, I don’t want you thinking, That’s easy for you to say, Scott; you’ve probably made more than I make. Whether you make a lot of money or a little, you’re in the prime of your career or just starting out, you already have a family or look to start one, these principles work because they’re rooted in God’s Word.
In the following chapters, I’ll talk more about how my family handles finances without causing us to feel like we are going without, and how managing finances God’s way brings freedom, not lack. For now, I’ll simply share that our financial situation reminds me of what Jesus did with the fish and loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) and what Elisha did with the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). In both accounts, there was not much available—a few fish, loaves, and vessels—but God stretched the resources dramatically. He can do the same with our money if we seek to honor Him. The opposite is also true: If we do not honor the Lord with our finances, He can keep even considerable wealth from stretching very far. As God says, “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).