The Other Side of the Boat

“He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’  ‘No,’ they answered.  He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” – John 21:5-6

Do you have any recurring problems in your life? Since this is a personal finance blog, let’s focus the question on money.  Are there some financial issues you’ve been trying to resolve, or money-related goals you’ve been trying to accomplish, only to run into the same roadblocks around every turn?

Despite your best efforts, are you weighed down with the burden of debt that refuses to disappear?  Do you keep having the same financial arguments with your spouse?  Does the “empty” light keep flashing on your savings tank?

A Fishing Tale

A long time ago, a couple of experienced fishermen named Simon Peter and Thomas set out for a night of fishing.  Since they were professionals, we can assume they used all the right equipment and all the right techniques.  They did what they knew to do.  And they came up empty.  They tried again and again for an entire night, but when the morning sun came up they had caught nothing.

Then they made a brilliant decision.  They took in some coaching from the greatest Coach who ever lived, and they followed His advice.  They cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  And they caught more fish than they ever imagined.

If you’re facing a recurring financial issue, maybe it’s time you tried the same approach.

First, take it to God.  The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Second, do what you sense Him telling you to do.  All too often, I have tried to resolve problems on my own, with my own “wisdom.”  But as a truly wise person once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

A Personal Example

For much of the five years that I have been writing and speaking about money full-time, whenever there has been a challenging circumstance, my wife, Jude, has come alongside me with encouraging words or a helpful verse of Scripture.  Her encouragement has meant more to me than I could ever adequately express.  However – and this is huge – somehow I came to see her role in “my” work as that of an encourager.

Over the past 18 months or so, I have come to a very painful realization.  Many times Jude has offered specific business advice that I have not acted on, only to discover some time later that she was exactly right.  But even that realization was not enough to change my behavior.  I continued to resist her business ideas.  Even worse, I sometimes dismissed her ideas outright.

And then I came across a verse that rocked my world: “Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground” (1 Peter 3:7 MSG).

It was bad enough that I wasn’t treating Jude with the love and respect she deserves.  But here toward the end of the Bible is a spiritual law as powerful and consistent as gravity: Show any hint of disrespect toward your wife and your prayers will be hindered!

I had been stuck over certain business decisions for some time.  I had been praying about them, but not sensing any clear answers.  Finally, God directed my eyes to those words in 1 Peter.  In essence, he told me to cast my net in a different direction.  Stop trying to solve this or that problem and start listening to your wife!

So I did.  Whenever we talked business, I started listening to her much more intently.  I started trying on her ideas as if trying on clothing I would have normally dismissed as not my style.  And guess what?  I discovered that Jude has some amazing ideas.  The more I have listened to her ideas, the more my eyes have been opened to a whole new set of possibilities.  I have never felt more excited about the future of OUR business.

What About You?

I meet lots of people with recurring debt problems.  Some have worked their way out of debt only to get right back in.  If that’s you, begin casting your net in a different direction by considering the question: how serious are you?

Proverbs 3:27-28 states: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow—when you now have it with you” (emphasis mine).

Are you serious enough about getting out of debt to really think about what “is in your power to act?”  Are you serious enough that you would drop your home Internet connection to free up money for debt repayment?  Are you serious enough to go from a two-car family to a one-car family?  Are you serious enough to stop using credit cards?  Maybe it’s time to do something different.  Maybe it’s time to cast your net in a new direction.

Where are you in need of a different financial approach?  Or, if you’ve tried “casting your net in a different direction,” what’s been your experience?  Join the conversation by adding a comment below.

At the beginning of each month, I write a post specifically about what we can learn from the Bible about managing money effectively.  Here’s why.  If you’re not a subscriber to this blog, please sign up.  You’ll get insights about wise money management delivered to your e-mail inbox twice a week.



12 Responses to The Other Side of the Boat

  1. Matt Bell February 1, 2011 at 1:03 PM #

    Ann – He might need to be challenged by some other men in his life. Are you guys in a small group? It’s a great setting to read and talk about books like “Love & Respect.” Working through that book with some other husbands was really helpful for me. Or, does your church offer “Men’s Fraternity”? That’s another great program for guys to get involved in where they will be challenged to step up. Those are a couple of ideas that come to mind.

  2. Ann February 1, 2011 at 11:13 AM #

    Wonderful article! Any advice for wives who like Jude, have spirit lead suggestions that are being ignored by their husbands? I’ve been praying for my husband to seek input from me and counsel from others concerning our financial situation, but so far he has chosen the “ignore it and it will go away” approach.

  3. Matt Bell December 10, 2010 at 10:11 PM #

    Good to hear that the article resonated, Mitch. I don’t know if it’s a universal guy thing or what, but I’ve been hearing from quite a few who say they’ve gone looking for answers “out there” only to realize the answers were close at hand.

  4. Mitch December 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM #


    This article really hit home because there have been many times that I went against a feeling inside that what I was not right or I didn’t listen to my wife. Almost everytime I’ve done this, I ended up regretting my decision. You also reinforce how important a Christian spouse is. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article. Merry Christmas!!

  5. Jameta December 7, 2010 at 12:13 PM #

    Hallelujah! Very thought provoking.

  6. Matt Bell December 5, 2010 at 8:10 PM #

    Emily – An outside perspective/accountability is a huge help when working your way out of debt. I wonder if you husband would be more willing to talk with someone if it wasn’t a relative. There are some excellent ministries that do this work at no cost such as Good $ense and Crown. If you’re involved in a local church, see if it offers one of these ministries. If not, Crown will work with you over the phone or online. Start by going to and click on “Find a Coach.” I hope this helps.

  7. Emily Green December 5, 2010 at 9:54 AM #

    Hi Matt,

    I think my husband and I need a fresh perspective and to cast our net in another direction. I suggested talking to my brother-in-law, who is very willing to help and is wise with finances. My husband is reluctant to be transparent — our debt is embarrassing. Any ideas?

  8. Matt Bell December 4, 2010 at 4:48 PM #

    Daryl – Thanks for your comments. Love that story about the furniture decision. I have found your experience so true — buying on credit makes it easy to edge God out of the equation, and miss how he wants to bless us in the waiting.

  9. Daryl December 4, 2010 at 3:08 PM #

    Matt – Thanks for your honesty and speaking from your heart. I also really appreciated your personal application from the Bible. In marriage, we are no longer two but one. How great it is that God is using both of you to further advance His Kingdom.

    My wife and I have struggled with finances over the years. The amount we make doesn’t matter. There will always be more things to buy, more items that break (e.g., car repairs, roofs that leak, etc.). Stress free living exists with accepting daily provision from the Lord.

    My wife and I have a tendency to use credit cards instead of saving money to buy things. One time, we were tempted to buy some furniture on a “no interest, no payment for 12 months” plan. We were all ready to sign up when we said no and decided not to buy the furniture. The very next day, something I was struggling with at work resolved itself. That taught me to “wait and see how God provides” instead of “buy now and pay for it later” in many ways.

    I believe that how we view and use our finances is “living our faith out loud”. Thank you.

  10. Matt Bell December 4, 2010 at 2:38 PM #

    Thanks, Andrew and Beck. I’m learning. Little by little.

  11. Beck December 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM #

    Thank you for sharing. Great article. I think what neat is that you listened to Jude and it’s a huge source of creativity and inspiration – something that was lacking before. Plus she is validated. Win-win. It so important to really be heard.

  12. Andrew December 3, 2010 at 4:33 PM #

    A great challenge, Matt. Thanks.

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