"Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever." -Paul

07 June 2007

Interlude: Financial Peace University

By Matt

Last Tuesday Lisa and I started attending a 13 week seminar series held at her church entitled "Financial Peace University." It's a curriculum designed by a guy named Dave Ramsey who had a 3 hour daily radio show that talks about how Christians can use their money (the tagline of the site is "Beat debt, build wealth." The first class was definitely interesting but there were some things that left a bad taste in my mouth and I decided that I'm going to work through them here this morning since good things usually happen when I take the time to think things through while writing.

I think that the main thing that bothers me about the session is the use of Proverbs 21:20: "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." Ramsey uses this verse to justify the fact that if you have any smarts at all, you can accumulate stores of money. While he stops well short of saying that if you are a good Christian and ask for the right things in prayer you will be blessed, there is something in using this verse that seems to me bordering dangerously on Prosperity Gospel. I think that's because the implication of this verse is that the wise are going to have a lot of stuff. Now I can promise you that there are a lot of very, very foolish people with a lot of stuff and that there are plenty of wise people in camps in Darfur who have nothing at all. Or perhaps we're not to take this verse literally: wise men are good stewards of what they have and foolish men spend without regard. That I can take, but that's not the interpretation that Ramsey seems to be putting forth. And that just might be my own opinion of what he's saying, I'll admit that. However, that bothers me regardless of whether I'm interpreting it right because that's the same argument that stands against the Prosperity Gospel. And I hate the PG.

Next is Ramsey's first piece of advice on saving money. The first thing to do is squirrel away $1000 in a hard to get to account for an emergency fund. After you do that, the next piece of advice is to put away 3-6 months work of expenses in another account that, again, you only go to in case of emergency. Not a bad idea either! And then after that you start investing wisely, spending shrewdly, and racking up huge amounts of money. And this seems like a good idea, right? Who doesn't want to have money? Exactly. But one of the ideas that Ramsey puts forth is that when you've accomplished this, you don't have to worry about things. Your car breaks, you fix it 'cause you have the money, easy as that. You get laid off, take your time looking for a job because you have money for six months to cover your expenses. No problem! While all of this sounds like a good idea, I'd like to point to a quote from C. S. Lewis that I find very insightful:
One of the great dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness that money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.
That kind of hits the nail on the head, right? I think that there is a valid and good argument for having enough money to provide for your family and take care of emergencies, but I also see Ramsey not expressing a need for God to sustain him through trials, 'cause he can just write a check!

I think that statement gets at Jesus' observation that it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Not the Eye of the Needle, a fabled gate in the wall around Jersualem that most people don't seem to think exist anymore. I had been for a long time excited by the loophope (ba-dum chh!) in that verse that says that the gate is passable by a camel, just that it's difficult. Well, according to everything I've read lately, that gate doesn't exist so that is a literal needle hole which, if I'm not mistaken, is completely impassable by a camel. Yikes.

Will Mr. Ramsey address any of this stuff? I don't know. And I still have a few more things to consider as well. But I'll save those for another day, hopefully tomorrow :)

04 June 2007


by Ben

I read Proverbs 10.

I need your prayers. My work is putting a lot of pressure on me. Please pray for God's guidance and reassurance during this time. Thank you!