Dave Ramsey: the good, the bad, and the ugly…

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Bryan is an artist, father, husband, and son (not really in that order). He works for the Department of Vetern's Affairs and writes and administers The Fireside Post with his father, Ohg Rea Tone. His writings have not been published, though they have been printed a lot.

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Dave Ramsey: the good, the bad, and the ugly…

Dad,

When my wife and I moved to Nashville, Tn a few years ago we had nothing but some debt, a few barely marketable skills and a toddler. We weren’t sure now the new life we were living together and the new value system that we were trying to implement married the idea of money to our daily lives. I am a sucker for talk radio, and shortly after we moved I began to listen to the Dave Ramsey show, which is hugely popular in Nashville since it is the home of the show and the host. We bit at the bait and my wife and I became fanatics, we sold stuff. we worked hard. We built an emergency fund and haven’t used a credit card since. it is amazing how fast you can climb out of a hole once you STOP DIGGING. We also met some friends and began a conversation about simplifying our life. We decided that it was just as much a burden to us to keep moving all of our stuff as it was to keep hauling around the debt we had accrued. Once we got rid of our stuff and most of our debt, we realized that we liked spending time together as a family, and that our faith grew stronger the more we practiced it together.

That’s when the disparity of our values and the Dave Ramsey message began to drift. Dave does nothing to challenge the virus of consumerism in our culture. He only suggests that you buy you stuff with cash. Valuable advice, given that America is a country out of control with debt. But, we are out of control with stuff, too. It is the essence of self indulgence to believe that we are somehow entitled to a lifestyle that caters to our every whim. We spend so much money on junk food that it tokes just as much spending on diet programs to combat our country’s obesity. We drive tanks for vehicles that cost us a third of our income and wonder why wars are fought over oil. Jesus rode, in all his glory, on a donkey. I see fish emblems and Jesus bumper stickers on Saabs and Audis. In a road trip with my cousin a few weeks ago I saw a shiny black 1 ton Dodge Ram pickup in the parking lot of a Taco Bell with a church logo on the door. It was the pastor’s truck.

I still follow the advice of Dave Ramsey. We are done with debt. We will never borrow any money for anything again, and if we choose to buy a house with borrowed money, that money will be paid back in full in as short a time as we can possibly manage. We will also choose naps together whenever the opportunity presents itself, even if it conflicts with the opportunity to make money. Our house will be small, and relatively empty. Our cars will be small, old, and paid for. Our sleeper couch will be with us as long as it remains in one piece. Our goal for our grocery budget is $120 a month, and we come pretty close. The Goodwill is our Target, and I haven’t been inside a Wal-Mart in over two years.

I am glad that we had the opportunity to take advantage of Dave’s plan. I am just as glad that there were others on our journey that challenged us further, and I believe I know a little more today of what it means to own the consequences of my faith. Shouldn’t we challenge ourselves, if we claim to follow Jesus. to make our lives look a little more like his today than they did yesterday?

Bryan

See: Dave Ramsey Provokes

There Are 7 Responses So Far. »

  1. I think the spirit of your post is good, but it’s a little misguided in my opinion.

    We are called in Scripture to be like Jesus, but I don’t think that means “Wear robes and sandals and ride donkeys.” I think it means to live life with open hands, speak the truth and love others. You can totally do that and still own some stuff. Don’t go crazy with it and don’t let the stuff rule your life, but dude, some stuff is okay.

    Do I think it’s totally cool that you’re choosing a minimalistic lifestyle devoid of all the crap that come sometime be accumulated by us humans? Yes, and I support that 100% if that’s what you want to do. But please don’t say we’re called by Jesus to drive beater cars and live in tiny houses with little to no material possessions. It’s simply not Biblical.

    And you’re completely wrong about Dave doing nothing to battle consumerism in America. Dave regularly rails against “stuffitis” on the show and has said too many times to count that material possessions do not hold the key to true happiness. Dude, if you’ve listened to the show for more than an hour then it’s highly likely you’ve heard Dave say that the bottom line to this whole Financial Peace stuff… the #1 reason why you should get out of debt and build wealth… is so you can give a big percentage of your wealth away to people who need it more than you!!!

  2. I have to disagree with this comment.
    “But please don’t say we’re called by Jesus to drive beater cars and live in tiny houses with little to no material possessions. It’s simply not Biblical.”
    Have you forgotten the story of the rich young ruler? He had great wealth, Jesus told him to sell all and give to the poor, and the man went away sad because he was very wealthy.
    It is true, we are not all called to be exactly the same. Jesus challenges different people in different ways. It is difficult for each of us to realize, in our tiny human brains, that we should be supporting our fellow man in whatever that calling is.
    Not everyone follows advice radically, but for some, it is absolutely necessary to attack the challenge full-on, no holding back, for the challenge to make a dent in that person’s life. After that impact has been made, there can be a re-evaluation of your lifestyle and the choices you make.
    If you feel challenged how you are living, great! If you see that you can be challenged in more areas or ways, why not take a bigger leap? You may find you like what happens.

  3. Dawn, the example you give of the rich young ruler is one of Jesus telling a person to do something that He already knew was in contrast to what was in their heart. It would be like if Jesus encountered a person today who’s idol was television, Him saying to this person “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must give up television.” He knew that the young ruler valued his possessions over anything else, and so He called upon him to lay them down, give them up, knowing that if he did that, he would be willing to make God the one true Lord of his life. It wasn’t a blanket statement for all believers.

  4. Chris,

    Thanks for the thoughts and comments. You make valid points, and though you were right to cerrect me on the fact that Dave does nothing to combat materialism, I do hear a message in his show that suggests that wealth is the goal, not sacrifice. The things that you mention, the sacrifices that he suggests, are so that one can be wealthy later in life. I am a Dave Ramsey fan, and I think he provides a blessing and a message of hope to all the people that choose to walk the path that he lays out. I think that Dave, just like every other Christian in the world, should evaluate his language every day and find ways to improve his message to make disciples, not just wealth. In the intro to his show, the lead in says “Its about building piles and piles of cash!” That is the kind of language that sends a mixed message. I have also heard him tell callers to “Go ahead and buy the SUV, you deserve it.” He is not just a financial counselor, by his own admission, he is a Christian teacher. The jump from “Jesus doesn’t call us to drive beater cars” to “I deserve this S new SUV because I have been working so hard” is not a leap, but a small step. We tend to justify our behaviors rather than evaluating them, and that is the direct cause of the consumer epidemic that we find ourselves amidst. Soon, we are slaves to the master of money. I didn’t suggest that we wear robes and sandals and ride donkeys, only that our effort should be to engage our behaviors every day to try and walk with Jesus, and to live in his example.

    And, we are called give away what we don’t NEED and live simply so that others might not be oppressed. It simply is biblical:

    Matthew 6:19
    Treasures in Heaven
    19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
    20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
    22“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
    24“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

    Matthew 6:34

    Do Not Worry
    25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[1]?
    28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
    34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

    Some various proverbs:

    16He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
    and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

    17He who loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

    2Ill-gotten treasures are of no value,
    but righteousness delivers from death

    Luke 3: 10

    10“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
    11John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

    And Dawn already mentioned the rich young ruler, of course.

  5. Hey all, enjoying the discussion. I, too, like Dave and follow some (not all) of his advice. He’s much smarter than I financially speaking, and has helped literally thousands of people struggling with debt to gain control of their lives. Something that I can’t do in my position, and I commend him for his contributions. I do agree that he is not above being challenged. I think his contributions could be so much greater and more life changing to so many more people than the struggling debtors if he would begin attacking consumerism more. I do like his occasional points on “stuffitis” like Chris mentions, but wish he would stop recommending the American dream to those who are well off. If he would recommend the radical message of Jesus to both the oppressed and to the rich.

    It doesn’t take long to find statistics on the rich and poor. Are there people in need? Yes. Are there even brothers and sisters in our own faith that are in need? Yes. We’re all agreed on that, I think. So let’s just forget for a moment the radical calls to help our neighbors (followers of Jesus or not) or enemies. Let’s just concentrate on our brothers and sisters in the Way. Here’s the clearest passages I can find about how things are patterned out for us in the scriptures:

    from Acts 2 and 4

    (chapter 2)
    44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
    (chapter 4)
    32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    Until the day when there are no needy persons among us, I simply must strive to live with only the things I need and share my possessions with them. That is entirely biblical…why isn’t it taught? I have never heard that preached from a pulpit, and sincerely desire to be a part of a church who will challenge my wife and me in that way. We are just like the couple in chapter 5 who gave part of it and lied about the rest that they kept for themselves…we lie to ourselves and to others saying we don’t have anymore to give when we absolutely do…we just don’t want to change the way we live to meet others’ needs. But that’s just the radical call we are called to by our donkey riding Lord! In my humble but strong opinion. :)

    That’s why we will never own a $40,000 car or a big mansion. We won’t live perfectly…we will make mistakes and buy things we don’t need or keep things we could give away. But by the grace of God we will strive to live with only what we need.

    Amanda and I have been creating a new phrase that we’ll say with every thanksgiving prayer. We don’t have it down yet, but it goes something like this:
    “Thank you for giving us everything we need, and please help us to be grateful and generous with the rest.” We want to acknowledge that we do own and have more than we need and that we live in abundance, while asking for help in giving more.

  6. Bryan, Scripture is strong, no?

    Let me ask you a question: Do you save money at all? Any cash? Any retirement?

  7. Chris – you’re involvement in this discussion is invaluable. Thanks for joining in.

    I do save money. And I spend money. I try to keep what I am going to need, and not to spend too much on the things I want. I do spend money on things that I want, and sometimes I have strong conflicts within about some of the things that I keep. I have another blog, the Iowa Diaries, where I am discussing the spiritual disciplines, and I have considered making an inventory of all of my possessions and listing those that I see as frivolous on that blog, but I haven’t. That would truly be a big job. We don’t save any retirement, but that’s because we are only on, like, step three I think. My daughter will be responsible for getting good grades and finding creative ways to pay for college, We aren’t saving for that, though I am not ruling out the option of finding creative ways to help. Our cars aren’t beaters, I never said that, they are a ’94 and a 2000 model and we take good care of them, so we drive in relative comfort. The fact that I want more options on my car does not trump the need of those in my community that are hungry or struggling. My car is reasonable, and I should not sell it for $1500 and buy a $900 car so that I can give the $600 to the food pantry. I am not suggesting that kind of irresponsible stewardship. But what happens is that, the same way that we justify debt, we justify spending and satisfying our own urges rather than seeking out those that might benefit more than us. Dave talks about giving, and he does a great service to the listeners of his show, but I, personally, don’t think he goes far enough. Perhaps he doesn’t have to, perhaps that is the role of bloggers and neighbors and churches, to challenge each other to take the next step and look at the number of coats that you have. Do you have two where you only need one? I think Dave would say that he doesn’t care how many coats you have, he is a financial counselor. He is interested in how much you paid for them and if you used cash. He challenged me in that way, and I am grateful. I still reap the benefits of his teaching. But I have been just as challenged in more specific ways by those around me to be more like Jesus.

    I don’t claim to have the answers, I am merely processing my thoughts, and I thank all of you for participating in that process.

    http://www.theiowadiaries.blogspot.com

    you should check out one of my friends that is having similar conversations:
    blog.iamnotashamed.net

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