Courageous Desperate People (Sep-Dec 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by Steve Diggs
September – December, 2004

I have the best job in the world. But, it’s a strange one. This is a ministry that teaches God’s people how to deal with their money. We talk about getting out of debt, restoring romance in marriages, and teaching parents how to make spending decisions their kids can respect. While it’s fun to see people catch the vision and reprioritize their lives, there are also some very poignant (spelled d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e) moments.

Today’s email included just such a situation. The letter was from Michelle. Her first words were, “I’m so scared right now and am trying to hold on to Jesus as tight as I can.” She then went on to tell me that as a single Mom she has responsibility for an emotionally troubled son whom they can’t insure. Because of too many personal leave days, she has lost her job. Her own mother has become ill and can no longer help her. She’s trying to start a business, but her car stays in the shop. And, after this month she doesn’t know how she’ll make the $922 mortgage. Whew!

Although I’m trying to help, I can’t tell you that I have a quick, easy solution for Michelle. I don’t. The truth is this: Michelle is in a desperate situation. According to the Wall Street Journal, seventy-two percent of Americans can identify with Michelle. That’s right, nearly three quarters of us are living from paycheck to paycheck—those with six figure income included! Today, many families are spending twenty percent of their monthly income paying off short term, high interest rate, credit card debt. Nationwide we have a credit card debt of over $700 billion. Last year there were over 1.6 million bankruptcies in America—more than the number of college diplomas awarded! On every front (and, every pew) there are desperate people.

I believe the problem may have its roots in the way Christians in this postmodern age parrot the culture around us. Francis Schaeffer correctly postulated that Christians have too often been driven by the world—rather than charting their own courses. This is reflected virtually everywhere. We take the world’s music and add a few praise phrases and call it Christian. We duplicate secular art and slap a fish on it—suddenly it’s Christian art!

The same holds with our money and how we deal with it. On the whole, we Christians are in the same bind as our secular friends. We want what we want when we want it. It’s called “stuffaholism” and we’ve got it bad. Of course, we deny it. But what else is it? Jesus told his followers that they couldn’t serve both God and money. We read his words and convince ourselves that “money lovers” are greedy people who are always trying to get more. But is that the only way his comments can be applied? What about when the payment book is driving our lives and destroying our peace of mind? I know because I have seen (and felt) the pain first-hand.

The world tells us that happiness is in direct proportion to how much money, power, and sex we have. Of course, intellectually we know it’s not true because if these were the ingredients for true happiness it would stand to reason that the happiest homes would all be in Hollywood.

Maybe the solution rests in a two-pronged approach: First, we need to turn off the “societal noise” around us and drink from the real well. Remember, God built us. He designed us for joy. He is not the cosmic kill-joy some think he is. He loves us. And he gives us the key to true joy—a lack of desperation, if you will. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’.”

Second, we need to comprehend the concept of community. As I share the No Debt No Sweat! Seminar in churches nationwide I’m frequently saddened by how far we’ve missed the koinonia-style fellowship Jesus prayed for. We come into our buildings looking great on the outside—and dying on the inside. And the devil loves it. He doesn’t care how many times we assemble as long as we don’t involve ourselves in any real, soul-level communion. Things will improve only when we become each other’s best friends and confessional partners.

Frankly, it’s hard for me to get this between my own ears. Teaching it and living it are two different things. My heart breaks when I remember the times I have failed in this arena. I don’t teach this stuff because I’ve accomplished it. I teach it because I know it’s true, and because I need to hear it myself—over and over again. What a refreshing experience it might be to begin our next assembly with a few courageous people who are willing to admit just how desperate they really are. Who knows what might happen?New Wineskins

Steve DiggsSteve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Financial Management Seminar nationwide. Steve and his wife, Bonnie, have four children and live in Brentwood, Tennessee. [No Debt No Sweat web site]

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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