Our church offers a class where we teach Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" which is a big draw for a big need. I think that stupid debt runs rampent in this country and we need to be smart about how we spend our money.
Dave Ramsey has offered this as a great tool to help people overcome their debt. I think that the intentions of this are great, but like so many things we have put what I think can be a bad focus on it.
I have want to share what I think are the differences between debts reduction and biblical stewardship.
#1. Do you want to reduce debt to have more money in the future, or do you want to reduce debt so that you can be more generous with your money. This is more than just giving a larger percent to your church, but also to other ministries.
#2. Do you view your savings as a storehouse for your excess for a rainy day or do you view it as a resource that can be used for the kingdom of God. If you feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit to give your money away to the poor or anywhere else are you willing to do it, even if it means giving up your "dream retirement"?
#3. Does "living on less" cause you to sympathize with those who have even less? It is easy to think that we are doing the will of God be simply not making dumb decisions with your money, but doing nothing but saving is also a stupid decision. Jesus talked about this, with the man that built larger storehouses to hold his excess and died that very night.
#4 Is your savings becoming less and less about making sure that you are financially free to do the will of God when he might call you to something different and becoming more and more about a lack of faith for God to provide us with our "daily bread"? There is a very fine line between saving for the future and hoarding your money.
#5 Are you planning for retirement or are you planning for a freer lifestyle to serve God and others? I recently met a pastor who believes that retirement (in the conventional sense) is a sin. I would have to agree with him. I know that the definition of retirement is very wide, kind of like jr. high students who are "going out" when they don't "go anywhere".
I do not say these things to bad mouth Dave Ramsey, quite the oppostie actually. I just worry that we have taken a good thing and twisted it. I do not think that throwing our money away is good, there is a huge difference between giving money away and throwing it away. Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread, this is a prayer of faith. Asking God to give us exactly what we need to get by, not too much so that we hoard it and grow to have a sense of entitlement, and not too little so that we can't get by.
All in all, I am just voicing this concern in hopes that anyone who reads this will look be finanically faithful and not just think that financial peace is just about saving so that they can have a bright future with all of the money that they saved, but the peace that comes from a life of generosity. To feel the freedom that comes from being able to hold loosely to their money. Spending it wisely so they have more to bless the lives of others as well and not just their own in the future.