Dave Ramsey Review: Should Christians Build Wealth Like Crazy?

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On the bottom of every page in the book The Total Money Makeover Dave Ramsey writes the words, “Live like no one else, so that you can live like no one else.”  Unfortunately, Dave Ramsey never completely defines what that means.  My understanding of the phrase is something like this – “don’t buy something now, so that in the future you can buy something better.”  This makes me wonder: Do I sacrifice today so I can win more tomorrow, or do I sacrifice today so I can help someone else win tomorrow?  Is the goal of Christian finances to build wealth?

Remember, I like Dave Ramsey.  Though I think he makes too many generalizations.  But on the issue of building wealth, I disagree with Ramsey.

As Christians, it is essential that we clarify our financial goals.  While our spending, earning and investing might mirror the actions of others, the differentiating factor is our motivation.  Ultimately, I believe frugality is an intentional discipline where you control your spending for a desired goal.  A significant part of that goal ought to be to assist others.  What is your ultimate financial goal?  Have you established one? What does it mean to have financial peace?  Are financial peace and financial freedom synonymous?

Ramsey’s seventh step instructs us to build wealth like crazy and give.  Granted, this phase involves spending, saving, and giving.  I have no problem with those categories.  However, it seems that in this process giving is undermined.  Something about the seventh chapter simply does not set well with me.  And yes, I know the chapter does talk about giving, but I believe it is a sub-topic instead of a main topic.  Ramsey could have written, live like no one else so you can give like no one else, but he did not.  He could have encouraged us to give like crazy in step seven, but wealth building takes precedence.  I am not saying that Dave Ramsey the man is not generous – I’m sure he is!  I’m not saying he doesn’t teach about giving – he does.  I’m not saying the possession of stuff is evil – it’s not.  I am saying I wish he would have made giving a greater focal point of the entire seven step process.  Get yourself and your house in order so you can be more useful in God’s kingdom.

In my article on Spending Money and Guilt: A Christian Conversation I confessed my tendency towards an inability to fully and completely enjoy my status as one of the world’s wealthy.  I am burdened (blessed?) by an active financial conscience.  I pray, I earnestly pray, that I will never be concerned about building wealth like crazy.  I don’t want to hoard.  I am already doing enough of that with what I currently have.  Instead of trying to build wealth like crazy, I am striving for financial peace.  I am looking for financial freedom.

    How Do I Define Financial Peace?

  • The ability to follow God’s calling without wrestling with the monetary implications.  As a minister, my livelihood depends on funds I receive from preaching the Word of God.  This can be a complex relationship at times.  Financial peace completely removes that factor.
  • The ability to provide for my children.  I have sat with mothers who have worried over their children because they had nothing to feed them.  That worry is painful and excruciating.  Peace flows out of the realization that my children are well fed and provided for.
  • The ability to provide for the needs of others.  I want to learn to increase in the grace of giving.  I pray God grants me that opportunity.  I want to experiences the fullness of the blessings of giving.

I pray that the financial advantage I gain as a steward for Christ will be used to bless others as much as it blesses my own family.

What are your goals?  How do you define financial peace?  How does ‘building wealth like crazy’ jive with your faith?

Comments

  1. Nicole Whaley says

    Really appreciate these thoughts, Craig. Especially this as a focus/goal/motivation: Get yourself and your house in order so you can be more useful in God’s kingdom. We’ve been blessed to witness several people striving to do just this…and not in a proud, ‘look at me’ manner. It is so empowering and humbling to see this in action. — Nicole

  2. says

    Craig,

    I appreciate your emphasis on the importance of giving in a Christian’s finances. I especially liked how you pointed out that Dave could have said “live like no one else so you can give like no one else”, but he did not. That’s my biggest concern with Christian financial advice today. So often we get caught up on how wisely managing your finances can do so much for you (helping you become rich and buying the things you want).

    But Jesus’ emphasis (and the rest of the Bible as well) was that we should use the good things God has blessed us with to help those in need. Jesus was vehemently opposed to His followers amassing wealth beyond their needs because such a goal is motivated by greed and covetousness. Yes, we should use wisdom and prudence in our finances – but it’s not so we can become rich and have all the “nice things” the world offers. It’s so we can use the abundance (that which is beyond our needs) to help others.

    Anything else is from Satan and threatens to consume Christians with discontentment and slavery to Money (greed).
    .-= Paul Williams @ Provident Planning´s last blog ..Selfish or Selfless? =-.

  3. 01SP03 says

    In addition to the quote “Live like noone else, so you can live like noone else”, Dave Ramsey also says “Live like noone else, so you can GIVE like noone else.” In his final class in Financial Peace Univeristy, he discusses THE GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING. The whole lesson is about GIVING to others.

  4. Wendy says

    Dave Ramsey teaches that we are to be good stewards of money.
    Become debt-free.
    Accumulate wealth – while also being generous.
    Once wealth is accumulated then we can live like know one else which includes GIVING like no one else.

    In his Financial Peace course and on his talk show he talks extensively about the living like no one else / giving like no one else connection. He even dedicated an entire section of Financial Peace University to this subject – GIVING like no one else.

  5. Jason says

    I agree 100% with your comments Craig and Paul and I’m disappointed in how rare your view on this seems to be with Christians!

    Whether we have a lot of wealth or a lot of debt, we can still be in bondage to Mammon. Giving is the “cure” for this bondage and I’m not convinced (based first upon multiple warnings from Jesus, followed by confirmation from my own experience) we can truly be free from this bondage while building extreme wealth. I’m afraid step seven may cause many people to be motivated to get out of debt, but not be motivated to get out of financial bondage as they’re still controlled by the wordly motivation to “Build Wealth Like Crazy”. This seems like an odd motivation for a Christian to promote when layed along side the warnings against accumulating wealth on this earth by Jesus himself (the one we are to follow, correct?). Don’t take that wrong, I think earning a lot of money is great when accompanied by attitude to let it pass through like a river, not let it “Build up” like a dam. A dam lets some through as well (Not unlike building wealth like crazy while also giving a lot away), but I think the river is a better picture of what Jesus is talking about. I like your idea of changing step seven to “Give Like Crazy” and I’d go as far as having that alongside the other steps as well to temper oversaving for retirement and college. Step seven would be even more motivating if it was “Give Like Crazy” as Jesus says we are storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven. If we really grasped this concept of eternal rewards, it would be a much greater motivator than building earthly wealth. We could change step seven to “Build Eternal Wealth Like Crazy by Giving Like Crazy!”

    • says

      Jason,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Perhaps you’re right we may need to see if it is best to be step seven or if it should come sooner.

      I does make me feel strange that build wealth like crazy is what motivates so many Christians. But, you are right, making a lot of money is not the same as building wealth. It depends on what you do with the money you earn.

  6. Caleb says

    James 5:3..The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand against you on the day of judgement.

    This verse as well as the parable of the Rich Fool have always kept me guarded from the goals of typical people (ie Becoming a millionaire). I think if I were a millionaire I would be scared to death. I know me well enough to know that money tends to take a place above God more than I’d like it to. For me I struggle with how much do I need (retirement, savings, etc) vs. how much should I just give away.

    The Rich Fool sounds too much to me like the American Dream retirement. Save up enough to just stop doing work and relax on a beach for the rest of your days. I’m not sure Dave Ramsey is proposing this, but I know there is a push that we should be millionaires. He has been quoted many times saying there is no excuse not to be a millionaire. I think everyone’s individual situation is different and seeking out God for that “how much is enough” is your best starting place. Let’s not forget Dave Ramsey or your financial advisor are just flawed human beings.

  7. Philip Nash says

    Sorry, but Jesus was Jewish and as such I find it strange this notion that we as Christians need to “wrestle” with the morality of building wealth – a notion that strikes Jews as bizarre. Ramsey wholeheartedly endorses the book by Rabbi Daniel Lapin entitled “Thou Shall Prosper” In chapter one, the first paragraph no less, Rabbi Lapin states “Believe in the morality and dignity of doing business.” There is nothing in the seventh chapter of Ramsey’s book that as a Christian I find troubling at all. On the contrary, I find it “troubling” that Christians continue to thing there is something inherently “wrong” with building wealth. Here’s the bottom line, if I don’t need God’s permission to spend eternity with him, then I don’t need his permission to be wealthy.

    • says

      Philip,
      I guess the question I would ask is if Jesus fully embraced the historical Jewish approach to wealth or if he attempted to redefine the function of wealth in the Kingdom of God. My study shows that Jesus was attempting to challenged the traditionally held of view of wealth.

      • Philip Nash says

        Dear Craig:

        Thank you for taking the time to reply.

        You said YOUR study shows Jesus was attempting to challenge the traditionally held view of wealth. Aside from the studies of other theologians who completely disagree with your conclusion, what exactly was that traditionally view to which you allude? That wealth was inherently good? That it was positive? That it tied closely in with Rabbi Lapin’s statement in the opening of his book (I notice you didn’t address that). Jesus was Jewish AND the Son of God. We don’t believe in three Gods. Rather in one God manifest in three persons. Jewish Jesus could not have challenged the traditionally held view of wealth (or anything else for that matter) without being in rebellion against his Father and his own faith tradition. It’s hard enough to win at life from a financial perspective at all in this day and age. It’s made harder still when elements in the faith continue to suggest that there is something inherently wrong for Christians to win at life financially or to suggest that as Christians, we should not aspire to that. But I believe the issue goes much deeper than this. The heart of the matter is the right to make choices in life. I’m alarmed at the increasing number of attacks on democracy and the fundamental right of self rule. We all know Islamic fundamentalists do this but a growing number of fringe evangelicals and fundamentalists are doing this as well, using (or rather misusing) the 13th chapter of Romans (for example to justify their position. In short, people who get out of debt do so by choice. People who decide to build wealth do so by choice. We receive Jesus by choice. The title of your article is revealing. “Should Christians Build Wealth Like Crazy?” calls into question not only wealth building, but our right to choose to build wealth and be financially independent. Again, if I don’t need God’s permission to spend eternity with him, then I don’t need his permission to be wealthy. (I notice you didn’t address that either). It’s a lot easier to help the poor and the disadvantaged when we have the wherewithal to do so that without.

        Respectfully,

        Philip Nash

        • says

          Philip,
          Thanks for your reply.
          Some Christians traditionally defend our pursuit of an ‘unchecked’ pursuit of wealth by referencing Old Testament characters (i.e. David and Solomon). I believe it would be fair to say that New Testament ethic is a fulfillment of the Old Law. Matthew 5-7 is full of Jesus challenging the Old Testament ethic. Life after Jesus looks very different than life before Jesus. Reading Jesus statements regarding wealth, he never seems to teach the American notion that you should strive to become as wealthy as possible. In fact, I believe he teaches us to be guarded about our wealth (true, being guarded about wealth doesn’t preclude a person from being wealthy). I’m thinking specifically of passages like Luke 12:13-21 (and others of course).

          Philip, I do believe in the morality and dignity of business. I wish more Christians had multi-million dollar businesses. Having wealth and keeping wealth are completely different discussions. I’d like to pattern my life after men like Jonathan Edwards who says we ought to ‘earn as much as we can, save as much as we can, and give as much as we can’. However, I would disagree with the premise that money is a direct sign of ones contribution and value to society (and argument that Lapin makes). I don’t think Hollywood stars and athletes are being affirmed as more valuable than teachers or police offices simply because they make more money.

          I’m not sure how long you’ve been a reader of this blog, but my articles are for people who are wrestling with the financial implications of their faith. I believe the more generous we are the more we honor God.

          Regarding the statement – I don’t need God’s permission to spend eternity with him, then I don’t need his permission to be wealthy. I honestly don’t know what that means so I can’t comment on it. If you’d like to clarify I’d be happy to share my thoughts.

          I guess I’d ask the question this way – is Jesus happier to see his followers build as much wealth as possible or is he happier to see them use that wealth for the sake of the Kingdom? At the end of the day, the more we give and invest in the Kingdom the more that reflects the heart of Christ who for our sakes became poor.

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