Four months after moving in with my parents, I went back to work as a freelance radio reporter. A couple of months later, I was back in Chicago, living in a studio apartment. Committed to getting out from under my pile of debt, I was taking on any story assignment I could get — working nights, weekends, whatever it took to earn as much money as possible. I also had begun dating someone I met at church.

One night, after an upsetting argument that put the future of the relationship in doubt, I found myself in the quiet of my tiny apartment, feeling very broken. It was all too similar to the feeling I had when my golf newsletter was going under. Wayne's observations echoed in my head: The more you've leaned on your own understanding, Matt, the more things haven't worked out so well and God has a plan for your life. I realized that I was still working my plan and, once again, it wasn't working out so well. I bowed my head and prayed a simple prayer: God, if you really do exist, I'd like to know you. If you really do have a plan for my life, I'd sure like to know what it is. I'm sorry for the many ways I must have disappointed you and for making myself the focus of my life. From this point forward, my life is in your hands. Do with it what you will. Amen.

Two Journeys Become One

I didn't see any lightning bolts, the clouds didn't part, and no weeping angels appeared. But after committing my life to Christ, I began to study the Bible more closely. The more I read it, the more I realized that it has a lot to say about money. Much of what I was learning about a life of faith was directly relevant to how I managed my finances. What I'd thought were two separate journeys — my financial journey and my spiritual journey— were tightly bound together.

One of my biggest aha moments was when I realized that many of the cultural messages about managing money are completely wrong. Instead of moving us toward greater success and happiness, they push us in the opposite direction. As I began helping others with their finances, I started seeing that our acceptance of the common beliefs about money management has turned many of us into prodigal sons and daughters, leading us away from home — home being a metaphor for all that truly matters and makes life meaningful.

Many financial teachers who want to help people move in a better direction with their money share a common recommendation — namely, to stop stretching so far. It's a reasonable-sounding idea, logical even, what with the savings rate and debt levels where they are. But it, too, is wrong. The real solution is that we need to stop settling for so little.

Turning toward home, toward uncommon financial success, requires that we set our sights higher, that we become clear about what truly matters and who we were made to be. It involves looking beyond the many cultural distractions that seem intent on pulling us off course, and keeping our eyes fixed and our money focused on that which gives our lives meaning, purpose, and joy. It involves refusing to settle for anything less. When we turn toward home, our use of money becomes a powerful expression of who we are and what we're about.

I wrote this book to help you make that turn and stay on the financial path toward all that's most important to you. The rest of part 1 will help you see how far you may have wandered from home in your use of money and why; part 2 will help you clarify what really matters so that you can orient your financial choices around those priorities; in parts 3 and 4 you'll learn specific steps that'll help you use money in a way that expresses those priorities.

At the end of each chapter, you'll find a short summary of the chapter's key points, some action steps, and a verse of Scripture related to the chapter for further reflection. Throughout the book, you'll also find several forms to help you act on what you're learning. If you are using the personal workbook, it contains full-sized versions of the forms along with additional forms and other tools that will help you go further with the practical applications. In addition to the workbook, a companion study guide is available for group or individual use. It will help you dig deeper into matters of the heart as they pertain to money and dive more deeply into God's Word.