No one wants to write a post like this. It’s so easy to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. It also makes me, the author, sound like a grumpy young man.
But, something’s been troubling me. So, I feel like I must write this post.
I’m concerned by the direction Christian finances is heading.
To be blunt, I’m concerned about the amount of Christians who allow Dave Ramsey to be the sole authoritative voice on Christian finances.
Let’s also clear one thing up from the very beginning of this article – I’m not simply criticizing Dave Ramsey in this article. I’m concerned about how many Christians are magnetically attached to his teachings as if they are infallible doctrines.
Why I’m concerned:
Dave Ramsey is everywhere. You can turn on the TV and watch him. You can look at a billboard and see him. You can turn on the radio and hear him.
I recently did a search for Financial Peace class locations and was amazed at the number of churches hosting the class within the local area of where I searched.
Dave Ramsey is extremely talented. He is a brilliant man. A talented entertainer. A gifted marketer. A God loving Christian.
Ramsey is a voice, but he should not be the voice in Christian finances.
I think the Christian church in North America is heading in the wrong direction when it allows, encourages, and endorses Dave Ramsey and his principles to be the sole voice of Christian finances.
His advice (like all advice) has an important place for a stage in our lives. However, I think every Christian should eventually graduate beyond the Baby Steps program and reach for a stage of extravagant giving.
Again, this is an indictment of ourselves, not Dave Ramsey.
Carrots are good, but if you only ever eat carrots, I’m going to be concerned. Some sweets are nice, but go overboard with it, and I’m writing your parents.
That’s why we have the food pyramid – to help us balance our diet. I think Christians need a similar type of financial pyramid that help us challenge members in all aspects of Christian finances.
Why I don’t believe Dave Ramsey should be the sole, authoritative voice on Christian finances:
I had a whole list of reasons here, but deleted them because they seemed too harsh and judgmental. Instead, I’ll simply ask you a question.
If Jesus were planning a financial seminar, would he invite Dave Ramsey to speak? Would you hear his ‘amens’ echoing throughout the seminar, class or video?
I think, at the very least, Jesus would sit through the seminar, class, or video, and at the end he’d say, “OK. That’s a great start, but we need something else to flesh out these teachings.”
Should we stop listening to Dave Ramsey, stop reading him, and stop hosting Financial Peace classes?
Using his materials will really help people – especially those Christians in debt. However, I think we must realize that his approach to finances could be dangerous if that is the only one that we’re listening to.
Who else should we as Christians listen to?
Ron Sider – after reading the book Just Generosity by Ron Sider, my wife and I were excited about starting the graduated tithe. To this day, that decision is very close to the best financial decision I’ve ever made.
Hey, I disagreed with a lot of stuff that Sider had to say about government programs, but I listened to his voice and was changed for the better because of it.
Larry Burkkett – God clearly had his reasons for calling Burrkett home when he did. I wish he was still able to provide us with godly advice. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Burkett is that he desperately wanted to be sure his financial principles came from the Bible.
A.W. Tozer and Tim Keller (Counterfeit Gods and The Pursuit of God). You’d think that a guy who writes a blog about Christian finances wouldn’t be impacted by books that helps us identify the possibility that money could be a god in their lives. As I read these books, I felt convicted that God wanted more of my time, attention, devotion and love.
Randy Alcorn – guess what? Another person I don’t 100% agree with. In fact, I’m not sure we’re on the same page when it comes to an ‘eternal perspective’. But, I’m 10,000% glad that I read the book. It helped me develop what I believed is a healthier way to look at money.
Craig Ford – Transforming Your Financial Diet. Yes, this is my book, but I won’t write something that I don’t support! This book goes against the grain. It’s intended to challenge Christians to embrace a completely different vision for their financial lives.
My final challenge to churches and Christians:
At one point in my life, 95% of what I knew about money came from the Lampo Group (Dave Ramsey’s company). Without any hesitation, I would say my view of money is much healthier and much more likely to honor God once I broadened my financial horizons.
For Christians who have only read material by Dave Ramsey, I challenge you to read one of the books or one of the authors listed above. Be prepared to reject some teachings, but be prepared to discover new areas where you need a financial transformation.
For churches who have exclusively taught Financial Peace, why not consider rotating another teacher / curriculum / perspective? I’m not calling for any churches to drop Financial Peace, but to add additional voices to the mix. From my survey and questioning, it seems like most churches only do Financial Peace.
Churches must help Christians discover these other sources of financial wisdom.
Now all we need to do is find someone who can market and entertain us with a counter-cultural financial message, and we’ll be golden.
Was I too harsh on American Christians? Do you think a Dave Ramsey only approach is unhealthy? Are you or is your church guilty of only teaching Ramsey’s information?