Ronnie was more than an acquaintance, but we weren’t close friends. So until we bumped into each other on the street one particular day, it hadn’t occurred to me how long it had been since we had seen each other.

"Hey man, where have you been keeping yourself?" I inquired lightly.

"Well, Steve," he began slowly, "I’ve just gotten out of prison."

Then with sadness in his eyes, the young man began to relate a painful story. Ronnie told me about the successful small business he had owned. He was earning $5,000 per month making keys and doing lock work. And his business was growing. But, despite all he had going for him, Ronnie had thrown it away. Instead of controlling his money—he had allowed his money to control him. In the hope of making an easy score, Ronnie had begun leaving his business early to play video poker games. The habit soon became an obsession. Before long he was spending (and losing) over a $1,000 a week on the machines! Eventually, he was left broke, hungry, and without gas money. Too late, Ronnie realized that it had all happened because of his greed and lack of self-control.

A Very Common Problem

Most of us don’t lose everything we have, and most of us don’t wind up in prison. But, in a more general context, can’t you relate to Ronnie? Haven’t there been times in your life when you lost control of your money, and a sense of desperation gradually destroyed your joy and peace? If not, you’re a better man than I!

As many of you know, my ministry is an unusual one: I travel the country presenting the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches, colleges and other venues. Often people mistakenly assume that because I teach this stuff, I must do everything right with my own money. As my wife Bonnie would say, "Yeah, right!?!?" I try hard to practice what I preach. But the truth is, I’m a fellow struggler too. One of the reasons I teach this material is because I need it too.

I can remember a number of times when laziness took over and I failed to maximize my earning potential, or, I overspent—and I found myself in financial quicksand. Maybe you are there right now. If so, this article is for you.

My purpose is to make the case that one of two things is going to happen in your financial life. Either:

1) You will control your money, or

2) Your money will control you.

It can all be summed up in one statement:

Money is a wonderful servant—but it is a terrible master!

A Typical Story

Over the years I have seen a lot of get-rich-quick schemes come and go. I have seen good people like Ronnie swallowed up in systems that wouldn’t work, couldn’t work, and didn’t work. Most of these people didn’t fall into gambling or criminal behavior. Most of them are normal, typical, everyday people like you and me—but they ended up equally broke.

Many are more like my friend Dennis. The two of us grew up together—we were best friends. Dennis always dreamed of financial tranquility, but was never willing to pay the price. As college men, the two of us decided to spend a summer doing sales work together. It was a great opportunity to be productive and earn the money we needed. But, since we would be working without supervision, to be successful we had to be self-starters. Dennis began with great intentions—but as the summer went on, he lost his desire to succeed. Although success in our jobs required getting up early and working late, Dennis spent many of his days either sleeping in or visiting a theme park in a nearby city. Needless to say, the summer was not a financial success for Dennis.

After college, the same cycle continued. Dennis went from one job situation to another. The combination of his poor work habits and inability to control his spending kept Dennis in constant turmoil and financial distress. He owed money to friends, banks, and family. It wasn’t until the early nineties that Dennis finally woke up and decided he was tired of this sort of an existence. He made the hard decision to change his lifestyle and his spending habits. He decided to take control of his professional and financial lives—instead of allowing them to control him. Happily, today Dennis is settled, successful, and in control of his financial household.

Three Ways To Achieve Financial Freedom

When someone asks me for help getting their financial house in order, I tell them that it is a matter of learning to control their money. I only know of four ways to do it. I strongly advise against one of them since it involves the use of a mask and a gun. The other three options are totally legal, incredibly simple, but frequently overlooked:

1) Spend Less.

2) Earn More.

3) Invest Wisely.

I know, it’s so simple. You didn’t need to read this to learn something so basic—right? I’ll grant you, conceptually speaking, this is no-brainer stuff. But in my experience, not one person in twenty is willing to follow these simple steps. Have you ever wondered why doctors smoke cigarettes and insurance agents don’t buy coverage? It’s not because they believe smoking is safe or that living without insurance is wise. It’s because they don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do what they know is right!

I like this simple three-step approach because, for me, it answers all the questions.

Spending speaks to what we’re doing with what we already have. Earning involves the actions we can take to improve our standard of living. And, investing focuses on future planning. Taken together, these three steps will determine how well we control our money.

There’s no rocket science involved here. It’s all pretty simple stuff. It involves about 1 part information, and about 9 parts dedication. The hard truth: Until you make a personal commitment to the three steps above—financially speaking, your life isn’t going to improve.


Steve Diggs presents the  No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar  at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at  www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.

A complete financial compendium, 19 chapters
• What you can do today to get out of debt and kill the Debt Monster
• A,B,C's of handling your money God's way
• How to save, invest, and retire wisely
• How mutual funds work
• How to stop fighting over money
• What to teach your kids about money
• Learn how home & car buying, college financing and insurance work.
• How to develop a budget that works -- forever!
• Features simple charts, graphs, and easy-to-use forms.

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