Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Get Rich Biblically

This kind of stuff turns my stomach.

There will always be snake-oil salesman, but when the marketing (read: lying) is pulled from scripture and wrapped in the trappings of Christianity I take personal offense. I spend my life trying to persuade people (including myself) that the meaning of human existence is giving ourselves away in order to be truly found - and then someone like Dave Ramsey comes along and tells my parishioner that God wants them to hoard.

Blessed are the poor, Mr. Ramsey.

Indeed, since you're so concerned about what the Bible says about money, let's take a look.

Against our notion of private property contrast this: The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. (Lev 25:23)

Read that whole chapter about Jubilee which is a regular redistribution of wealth that would pretty much kill our credit economy.

The book of proverbs which you quoted as if it were supportive of your money-management scheme has this to say: He who trusts in riches will wither. (Prov. 11:28)

Jesus is the harshest critic of all. He said, "No servant can serve two masters; for 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 God and Mammon." (Luke 16:13) Mammon means wealth in Aramaic.

"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20)

"Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:24)

"Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again" (Luke 6:30)

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth" for "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19, 21)

The Bible frequently counsels an inner attitude of detachment from wealth, "If riches increase, set not your heart on them." (Ps. 62:10)

But Jesus goes much further instructing the rich young ruler to sell everything he owns (Matt. 19:16-22), and when the man can't he says, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 19:24)

"Take heed," Jesus says, "and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions... Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail." (Luke 12:15,33)

Between those two verses Jesus tells the story of a rich farmer who hoards a good crop. By our standards he is savvy - Jesus calls him a fool. (Luke 12:16-21)

Pastoral advice about money abounds in the epistles as well.

Paul says, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Tim. 6:9)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you'" (Heb. 13:5)

Greed is idolatry. It is as bad as adultery and thievery. It is the source of violence; "You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war." (James 4:1-2)

I'll stop here. As I've been admonished before, anyone can use a concordance. It will do no more good to continue piling up quotes.

But this is more than a selective list of proof-texts. This is a dominant, even overwhelming, theme in scripture that is exactly the opposite of what Mr. Ramsey says. He says on his site that money is mentioned in scripture over 800 times, but never bothers to let his readers know that nearly every single time it is in a negative light. It's demonic.

Don't listen to me, though. I'm depressing. Go listen to Dave Ramsey. He can tell you how you can get rich biblically.

18 comments:

Doug Hagler said...

This is a big relief because I was afraid that somehow God would demand that I live for something other than my own aggrandizement and comfort. Thank goodness I was mistaken, and the selfish things I want are the things God wants for me!

Craig said...

Yes, especially that whole get rid of debt thing that Ramsey preaches. What in the world is he advocating that for. Not only that, but living within your means, how dare he.

Aric Clark said...

@ Craig,

Let's try that again without being passive aggressive or resorting to sarcasm.

I have read through his website and some of his pamphlets and listened to a couple of his shows. I don't claim to know the man personally, nor that everything he says is pure unmitigated evil, but he is, in my opinion, grossly misrepresenting the Bible and a Christian perspective on money. I have laid out my case why.

If you disagree - bring me something of merit to consider rather than flinging obvious troll-remarks into the comment threads.

Steve Schuler said...

Aric,

Please take it a little easier on Craig. I think his wording could have been a little less provocative, but it would have taken a lot more language to convey the same message. I am not real familiar with Dave Ramsey, but Craig does convey what I perceive to be the heart of Ramsey's message, "... get rid of debt...(by) living within your means...", over and over and over again.

Perhaps this should be obvious to us, but evidently it isn't. Both the average citizen's (not mere consumers) debt and our Government's debt defy any semblance of rationality. Ramsey has been a longtime advocate of personal responsibility in financial matters.

I am not a fan of Right Wing Radio (Hate Radio) but within that genre Ramsey stands out as an unusual voice of sound common sense and good reason. In no way, in my limited experience of listening to Ramsey, does he promote anything which even remotely resembles "Prosperity Gospel". His references to his own Christian orientation are not exploited or exploitative, are not central to his radio presentation, and are infrequent. He seems to offer sound advice, sometimes bluntly and possibly painfully so, to his callers, but does not appear to exploit his callers or audience in a manner in which people are demeaned or brutalized. He does not seem to promote in any way the notion that the accumulation of wealth is inherently virtuous, although he might say that financial resposibility is. His show is not heavily politicized, a welcome relief for those of us compelled by circumstances beyond our control to an over exposure to talk radio. I have not visited his website so can't comment on that aspect of his enterprise.

I am not speaking as a die-hard fan of Ramsey and can not testify that Ramsey changed my life, thankfully. I do invite you to listen to Ramsey's show for one week and see if you don't reconsider your overly harsh, by my estimation, assesment of his character and potential to benefit a society that has become so well adjusted to indentured servitude that counsel such as he provides is so desperately needed.

For what it is worth, my own political ideal is oriented towards Social Anarchism, too far removed from the realities of our contemporary world to be taken too seriously by me or anybody else.

Steve Schuler said...

As an after thought, to really get a better perspective on Ramsey's radio show make a point of listening to 3 hours of Rush Limbaugh as a prelude to listening to Ramsey. One sometimes gets the impression that they might be hearing the voice of a Saint or an Angel after a heavy dose of the Hellspawn known as Rush Limbaugh! (Laugh if you are able!!!)

Aric Clark said...

Steve,

It's kind of you to intervene for human decency. I apologize to both you and Craig if my previous comment came across as harsh. I freely admit that I can be a *strident* personality and it leaks out against my wishes from time to time.

I will take the time to listen a bit more to Dave Ramsey as I am able. I would also like to point out that I said nothing ad hominem. I do not know Dave Ramsey nor purport to.

What I did say, and I stand by this criticism, is that he is grossly misrepresenting the Bible. It may be true that his basic message "get out of debt" is harmless, or even noble, but it is not the gospel. Really saying that he compares favorably to Rush Limbaugh is not a compliment. My complaint is NOT that he is a conservative radio show host who deigns to offer financial advice - my complaint is that he passes it off as Christian.

Craig said...

Aric,

I'm sorry if I came across as needlessly sarcastic, but Steve has it right. I also am not a Ramsey fan, listeneng to him harp endlessly about living completely debt free gets old. I've not listened enough to make any kind of blanket statement, but I have rarely heard him make reference to his debt free concept as "Christian" or to himself that way. I also have never heard anything from him that would put him in the same league as the prosperity folks. What you have done, albeit for a fairly small audience, is to lump Ramsey in with Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, The Two Kenneths (Copeland and Hagin), and more of that ilk. I would simply suggest a little more research before you vent. I have to wonder if you object to all financial planning resources that claim to be Biblical or Christian, or just this one.

Aric Clark said...

Craig, follow the link at the very start of the post. He has an entire curriculum (as in a class intended to be taught in a church) one can order (which I have read because a member of my congregation brought it to me) which explains how the Bible supports his method of financial planning. I am not speaking from ignorance, he does misrepresent the Bible.

Yes, I would object to all financial planning resources that claim to be Biblical or Christian that also contradict Jesus' ethos of "Blessed are the Poor".

There are probably many people out there equally or more deserving of this criticism. I bring Dave Ramsey up because it was recently brought to my attention by a parishioner.

Do you just take issue with my approach or do you actually think that the Lily of the Valley speech (for example) is compatible with "God wants you and your family to have financial security so here are 10 easy steps to increasing your income"????

Craig said...

Aric,

It would seem however that if you go to Matt. 25 that Jesus is teaching that it is wrong not to use your resources in such a way as to increase them.

I think that it is interesting that you assume that Ramsey does not teach that this "increase of income" should not be used to benefit the poor. From what I have seen and heard (not a ton, but I did peruse your link), my impression of increase your income is soley a result of eliminating debt from your life. For example, if you eliminate interest and live within your means then you will have "more" money for other things. I'm pretty sure that he encourages folks to use their "surplus" for charitable giving as well as other things.

Again, I'm not so much defending Ramsey as questioning your tone, and what appears to be a knee jerk reaction. Finally, if you can't show some evidence that the Bible teaches that money is "demonic" it will be necessary to question your ability to correctly interpret scripture.

Just a few that seem to mitigate your contention.

Matthew 20:14-15
Matthew 25:15-27 or so
Matthew 26:9
Luke 19:13-23

Not exhaustive, but a sample that not all of the 800 odd verses in the Bible contend that money is bad.

Given the fact that at least one of your parishioners appears to be seeking some Biblical guidance on finances, maybe you could take the opportunity to develop your own curriculum and teach it. It certainly is a topic that gets a lot of attention from the Bible.

Aric Clark said...

Craig,

Get over my tone. It is not a knee jerk reaction. Once more, I've read an entire 30-page curriculum written by Dave Ramsey about the Bible and Money, I've read through his own website and listened to 2 of his radio shows. I am confident that I understand what he teaches about the Bible and its relationship to money and my criticism is apt.

I have shown ample evidence for what the Bible teaches on money in the post. As with most things the Bible is not absolutely uniform, but the weight is overwhelmingly opposed to wealth.

You not only failed to show examples which counter that overall trend you bolstered my argument with your passage choices.

Matt 20:14-15 is the conclusion of a parable about a man giving money away in a way that is utterly contrary to our capitalist sensibilities.

Matt 25:15-27 and Luke 19:13-23 are analogous parables about a servant-master relationship and what it means to know your master and follow his commands. The master gets angry with the last servant because he knew what the master wanted and didn't follow through. That is he knowingly acted against his master's wishes. THAT is the problem. It is a mistake to interpret this parable as having anything to do with money. We don't think the Parable of the sower has anything to do with farming. It is a metaphor. But even if you insist on seeing it as related to money the point still remains that the money does not belong to the servants, but to the master - and God has given us plenteous examples elsewhere in scripture to indicate how we should use the things that belong to him - for the benefit of others. It would STILL be wrong to assume from this parable that it was okay to seek personal wealth.

Matthew 26:9 is where the woman brings the oil to anoint Jesus. Once again it is an act of generosity. She is giving the money away and Jesus admonishes his disciples not to be legalistic about their charity, but to accept kindness offered to them.

You can "question my ability to correctly interpret scripture" all you want, but keep it to yourself, because in repeated interactions with you it has become abundantly clear that you have nothing to teach me on scriptural hermeneutics.

I'm done with this conversation. I've laid my case out and I'm beyond caring if you agree.

Craig said...

Aric,

Great, glad to talk to you. I guess my suggestion that you do you own curriculum really was out of line. I would respectfully ask that you share the source of your contention that money is "demonic".

For the record, far be it from me as a humble layperson to question the hermeneutics of someone with your exalted educational status.

I harbor no illusions about you agreeing with anything I might say, but it's still occasionally fun to get you going.

Doug Hagler said...

Craig

It seems to be especially fun for you when you're passive aggressive about it :p

Craig said...

Doug,

No it's more fun for me when Aric makes ridiculous pronouncements then doesn't back them up. (not to mention when he gets all fundy and dogmatic) He asserts that money (an inanimate object, or more accurately now, the theoretical expression of an inanimate object) is in fact "demonic" when questioned he gets all huffy. He also asserts that the Biblical view of money is that "nearly every single time it is in a negative light", I provided a few verses that do not depict money in a negative light, and he shifts the goal posts. In the original post he asserts that "money" in in and of itself "demonic". However in his response he changes from money to wealth, then to greed. If pointing out his inconsistency is passive aggressive then I'll plead guilty. I will also bow before his superior hermeneutical and isogetical skills, be cause to do otherwise would be foolish. But hey, if he can't deal with a little tongue in cheek crap, it's not my problem. I asked a legitimate question, which instead of answering, he gets all bent. Then I made a reasonable suggestion, to which I get more of Aric's passive aggression (lght on the passive). So, pardon me if I don't react the way you want, life's hard.

BTW, if Aric wants to rid himself of his demonic money, and pass on his retirement, I'll be happy to let him know where he can send it to do some good in areas of significant need.

Doug Hagler said...

Who would've guessed that Dave Ramsey would lead to such discussion?

"I will also bow before his superior hermeneutical and isogetical skills, be cause to do otherwise would be foolish."

This is an example of what I'm talking about. I only bring it up because it makes it almost impossible for me to actually hear what you're saying. I realize it is something that Aric and I do as well, so its fine for you to point that out, and my intent is to do that less, especially in written form.

The thing with tongue-in-cheek jokes is that they work well when you have a lot of established rapport with someone. What we seem to have established here is a perpetual argument that periodically flares up on blog comment threads. This isn't rapport so much as seeming like contention for the sake of contention (which I guess is what the internet is for, but still) So when you write something tongue-in-cheek, I'm going to tend to take it seriously because mostly we argue rather than joking around (as we would probably do if we met in person).

Just something to think about as we comment on blog posts.

As for citing money = demonic, Aric has done this in detail when the *exact* argument broke out between you and him, as I recall, when he posted on Mammon months ago on his old blog. I can sort of understand why he might not want to re-hash all of that over again. Perhaps we can just log your disagreement that money = demonic and move on?

Steve Schuler said...

This thread needs some comic relief. I came upon this suggestion a while back in a different obtuse discussion. Save it. I'm sure you will be able to use it in the future. Or not.


"Mental patients predict the future: internet forums."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MMXvU4O9OA

Craig said...

Doug,

I'm pretty sure I've never argued with Aric over money=demonic. It's possible, but I don't remember. Since his blog is closed I can't refer back to that. I'll take your word that he has a good reason. It seems as though it would not be too much to ask for one reference to support a statement that is as outside of the mainstream as money=demonic. But that's cool. As far as the rest, I may be guilty of over assuming a level of familiarity that doesn't exist. For that I apologize, I'll try to keep it in mind. Maybe you can give me a little benefit of the doubt in the future as well.

Doug Hagler said...

That's a deal, Craig.

The post was about Mammon, as I recall, but you're right, the post itself is down.

I guess I'm just sort of bored with this one. I didn't know who Dave Ramsey was before the post, and I'm not sure its enriched me to learn :)

Craig said...

Doug,

Again, I've gone back and forth with Aric over a number of things, but really don't remember this one. So, I guess I'll have to hope for more enlightenment.

It's also interesting that the primary focus of Ramsey's stuff is simple. Get rid of all debt, live within your means. I find it hard to believe that anyone could disparage that. Personally, I agree in principle, but am not sure how realistic it is in our current economy.

I don't know that I'm bored, but there certainly doesn't seem to be anywhere else to go.