I know I'm about to step on all sorts of total-money-makeover toes, but my heart is unsettled and twisted so here it goes. I'm not a big Dave Ramsey fan. But before you throw your shredded credit cards at the computer, I praise the Lord for the many many people who Ramsey has helped snowball their way out of suffocating debt. And I mean that.
Okay, so here's my beef. For starters, I can't quite wrap my head around the live like no one else so that you can live like no one else philosophy. Does Ramsey mean for us to live like no one else TODAY (by driving a junker and shopping Goodwill) so that during our retirement years (whatever those are) we can live more comfortably? luxuriously? Or does Ramsey encourage folks to live like no one else TODAY so that when they reach eternity, they can live like no one else? The latter might be more Biblical, sort of, but is that what Ramsey is saying? I get the sense that he means the former, and that is where he loses me. It is in that concept where our culture has interfered with Biblical Truth. God doesn't motivate people to live simply or frugally so that one day they can live a grandiose lifestyle. Our culture tells us that's how it should go, but that's not God's way.
Secondly, I don't agree with his seven steps to financial peace (and can someone please define financial peace?) The steps begin with building an emergency fund and are followed by getting out of debt, saving, investing, saving for college, paying off your home, and then building wealth. Building wealth is step 7a. Step 7b? Oh you know, that thing that we're supposed to do . . . um, um, oh right . . . giving. You know, that act of being Jesus to the world that we are commanded to do over and over and over and over and over again. At least that's the way it goes in my Bible.
Look, I'm not discrediting that there is Biblical support for saving and investing, in fact, each of the seven steps on their own are valid. But who is to say that God wants each of us to follow them in that order? And the God I know would never ever ever put giving last (after building WEALTH?!) That's just not the Jesus I know. (I realize that Ramsey puts tithing up at the front. It's not one of his seven steps, but he absolutely prioritizes it. But tithing and giving are two separate issues, and to my disappointment, too many believers aren't doing either one. For what it's worth, tithing means 10%. Tithing is not monthly leftovers or an arbitrary number. It's 10%. That's what a tithe literally means. You can't tithe 3%. That's giving 3% and calling it 10%. That's lying. Okay, I needed to get that off my chest, phew).
All that to say, I don't know why I was surprised recently when I saw on Dave's facebook page that he is promoting a Give Like No One Else challenge. My initial thought: Awesome! Seriously, now that's what I'm talking about. At least that's what I thought. Until I clicked on the link. And realized that in conjunction with the giving challenge are cash and prize giveaways. Dude, are you serious?!
Why oh why oh why is it necessary to motivate giving with materialistic reward? It's as if he's saying, "Hey, the Bible teaches that the true spirit of giving produces eternal fruit, but who needs eternal rewards when you can win a Kindle right now?"
And before you get me all wrong, it's not about the money or the stuff. For heaven's sake, I'm one of the wealthy ones! It's about the heart. It's not about the car or the square footage or the label. It's about our grip. And that's where we've screwed it all up as Christians. We're too busy pointing fingers at so-and-so's such-and-such when we ourselves can't get past a toilet-submerged iPhone or the collapsing economy of the richest damn country in the world. Relative to someone else, we all have too much. Yes, you. And me. But it's not the too much. It's the letting go. If God asked his faithful servant Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited and only son Isaac, you better believe he wants you to let go of your insert-most-treasured-earthly-possession-here. It's not the I-saved-for-5-years-to-own-the-car-of-my-dreams that matters. It's that if God speaks to your heart to sell your precious wheels and do something else with those resources, would you? Could you? Without hesitation? It's all a matter of the heart. It's holding loosely to our money and stuff knowing that at any moment, God might have other plans.
Because let me tell you, following Jesus doesn't come with health and wealth. That's a crock, and a sickening one, if you ask me. Remember Paul? He followed Jesus nearly to his death by stoning. He traveled BY FOOT hundreds and hundreds of miles to share the Gospel, without earthly possessions. All he had was faith, and that is all he ever needed. And that's all you and I need no matter how badly we want to convince ourselves that we need or deserve or own x,y, and z.
So why do we have such a gosh-darn hard time giving selflessly and sacrificially? Why do we need earthly incentives when that is not the Gospel? Why are we consumed with establishing financial peace when our dependency should never ever ever ever be on ourselves?
And that is my biggest beef with the Dave Ramsey culture. How can we put ourselves in a position to trust God with every single penny He has bestowed to us if our goals are retirement funds and college savings? There is only one goal that matters, and it's going to manifest differently for each of us. That goal is glorifying God with the resources He has given us (and He gives to each of us separately and differently). It is finding contentment no matter if we are climbing our way out of debt or sitting on a hefty cushion of savings. It's trusting God when He tells us to save or buy or let go or liquidate or sell or give or give or give or GIVE. It's praying over every check we write and through every payday. It's turning to Scriptures before we turn to a so-called financial guru.
And let me tell you, I'm just as big a failure as the next guy. I make greedy, selfish choices every. single. day. Without fail. My flesh craves Target and Pottery Barn clearance and a black Range Rover with tinted windows. I am human, watch me spend. But God is BIGGER. He continues to stir in me a love for giving because it glorifies HIM. And for every day that my lifestyle doesn't match the one I deem more comfortable, He blesses me with something internal (and eternal) such as His peace. His comfort. His contentment.
I hesitate to even post this because I'm just as big a hypocrite as anybody else. I suck at letting go of a certain appendage better known as my MacBook Pro (among other things), and I'm really good at pointing fingers at that family with the heated driveway (or worse yet, coveting that heated driveway everyday during the month of February).
But God has brought me a long way. And I have faith that if I continue to lean into Him, He will continue to do a good work in me. I want to take this amazingly blessed life that He has given me and turn it all over to Him. And as I stumble in big fat ugly ways throughout this journey, I can only pray that I develop a greater sense of what it means to depend on Him. And I don't ever want to fall out of love with giving from my heart for His sake and not my own selfish motives.
So hear me out. This isn't about Ramsey. I clicked on what I thought was going to be an encouraging link about giving and was terribly disappointed. And I was reminded that much like my two-year-olds favorite exclamation is "Mine!" we are all in desperate need of a reality check. I pray that more people turn to God for financial direction and are filled with a desire to give for one reason and one reason only, because He first gave to us. And for that we can never give too much.