In the evangelical world in which I inhabit, Dave Ramsey is a kind of folk hero, almost. There is no doubt he has plenty of good wisdom and commonsense to offer when it comes to money, both for the young and old. He does so from a certain kind of biblical perspective, which I think does some justice to parts of the biblical picture, even if it doesn’t sufficiently take in the whole. Others offer counsel among similar lines with some differences. What I do like about Ramsey is how he helps people get out of debt and hopefully avoid it. With the simple yet powerful maxim: Don’t spend more than you take in. And with suggested strategies and practices to implement that. What I don’t agree with is some of his generalizations about debt and the poor. Yes, there generally is an upward mobility for those who come to Christ and seek to live with integrity. But no, not everyone who is in that category is going to avoid serious difficulties. Unfortunately people can take my last statement here and rationalize their way to making bad choices, not making the better, hard choices along the way.
We would have been far better off if I would have listened to the wisdom of my wife. Back during the time when I considered myself the head, I didn’t listen well to her. Most of the time when we’ve disagreed, she has been right, a solid majority of the time in fact. Like for example when I was trying to pay up for seminary, and instead of applying for a grant which somehow I didn’t think I deserved, or trusting the Lord to provide (and going from there) as my wife suggested, no, I had to pay it off with my credit card. And other bad decisions I made along the way, not knowing what I was doing, and the result. Of course it is difficult to climb out of debt.
Unfortunately debt cannot always be avoided. Sickness, job loss, lack of insurance (in these United States, though that currently is changing, even if not all that well) can push a family over the cliff and into financial difficulty and even ruin. Contrary to what Dave Ramsey seems to suggest (I hope I’m mistaken, and I would think he sees exceptions to the rule. To his credit he always is gracious and has advice for everyone) the poor aren’t always poor for a reason reflecting badly on themselves. Other factors are often at work. True too with those who are in the middle and upper class.
The most important thing I think that can be said in regard to money and everything else is simply this: Follow Jesus. Be in scripture, listen to those who give advice, and above all mark well the words of our Lord. Seek to live life with God’s righteousness and kingdom in view and as the goal in and through Jesus. Let wealth be beside the point of that. Let’s be generous with what we do have. And yes, let’s not incur needless debt. Do trust the Father to provide, and be led by him and grow in faith in that way.
We need to pour our lives into what lasts beyond this life. As we do we find that the good that comes from that is not only good for the life to come, but for life in the present, as well. And we need to remember that we are all in this together. We need to help each other in ways that will help us grow and mature in our life in Christ. And part of that will be how we handle worldly wealth.