A few months ago I published a post about how financial guru Dave Ramsey had built a beautiful new multi-million dollar home in an upscale neighborhood in Tennessee. When I wrote the post I intended to focus more on the fact that Dave Ramsey had built the house without any debt of any kind, and wanted to hold it up as an example of living a financially responsible life. I thought it was pretty cool that Ramsey was practicing what he preaches, and was living a cash only lifestyle.
Soon after I wrote the post the comments section quickly took a turn, and the comments turned from a discussion of paying cash for a home, or living a cash only lifestyle, to a discussion of the ethics and morality of buying such a big home when you “don't need it”, and whether you can be a witness for Christ when you have such wealth.
There were some comments that I believe made salient points about how we need to guard against allowing our wealth and possessions to become an idol in our lives, and about how we as Christians always need to be looking to Christ for guidance in our lives to make sure we're being good stewards.
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There were other comments that I think were extremely judgmental, that were assuming the worst about Ramsey and essentially saying that he was making money off the misery of others and that he wasn't a good witness for Christ.
I was thinking about closing the comments on the discussion because it was starting to devolve a bit, when Dave Ramsey himself decided to stop by and comment on the discussion to shed some light on the situation.
Dave Ramsey Comments On His House, His Debt Philosophy, Giving
It was obvious from Dave's comment that he had read much of the discussion, and I'm sure some of it was pretty frustrating to read. Here is what he said.
I just found this discussion from a twitter link. Wow. Thanks for all of your concern about my soul, my reputation and my witness. Please continue to pray for me because wisdom is sometimes elusive. The teacher in me has to reach out and help with proper biblical and life view points for some of you.
First, None of this is any of your business nor is it your problem, however in an effort to teach I have always been overly transparent. So I will try to help.
1) We tithe 10% of our before tax income to our local church
2) We have a family foundation that God allows us to give many times what our personal home or other items cost, so we give much more of God’s money to his kingdom that we live on percentage wise.
3) No Gary, we don’t have any debt any where of any kind. No corporate debt, no credit cards, no mortgage debt, no blind trusts, and no kind of debt no where no how. Didn’t you hear? I don’t believe in debt.
4) Before making a large purchase of any kind we ask God if that is what he wants us to do with HIS money. Like you I sometimes hear clearly and other times I am not sure. In the case of our home I was very sure.
5) Our home is a very small percentage of our net worth.
6) In the two years we have lived here we have had many many functions to fund raise for ministries, charities, and community causes. Millions of dollars have flowed through those events. We view our home, like everything in our life, as a tool to be used for the kingdom.
7) Yes, it blows my mind how much it costs to maintain a lot of things God has called me to manage. We have a 64,000 square foot office building (paid for) that we spend a lot of natural resources and money to keep operating and from where I came from it is sometimes hard to emotionally grasp the zeros. However, I man up, and step up to do what God gave me to do. It is weird some days though.
8) I used to say ignorant things like “what does anyone need with a ______ like that” when I was immature. Now I have been blessed to see how God uses people who are obedient when they are broke and when they aren’t. I was with a really Godly guy a few weeks ago worth 2.2 BILLION. He gives 300-500 million a year. Some of you sent him hate mail worried about his soul because he bought a $110,000 car. That does not make him wrong, that makes that person silly, foolish, and spiritually immature. Note: God gave HIM 2.2 Billion to manage, God did NOT assign you to help.
Thanks again for your concern and please continue to pray for me as I am perfectly capable of messing this whole deal up. So far though, I am not inconsistent between my message and my life. So far I have managed to keep God first, Sharon second, my kids third, and serving all of you fourth. I am having a blast and I thank all you who do understand.
P.S. I will not be visiting back to see your comments because I already know what they are: Some get it, Some don’t.
Yours In Christ,
Dave has said a lot in his comment, and I thought it might be good to dive into some of the things he touches on.
In his comments Dave mentions that the money is all God's in the first place, and that they ask God for guidance on what to do with HIS resources before they do anything. He mentions that like the rest of us he doesn't always get a clear answer as to how to proceed, but seeking God's will is important.
So what does good stewardship mean? It means using what God has given us in accordance with his will, and using it wisely. It also means working hard so that we can feed ourselves and our families, while having enough left over to help others as well.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)
For more on the topic of stewardship and using wealth for His Kingdom, check out Dave Ramsey's new course:
Wealth And Things As Tools Used For His Kingdom
Dave mentions that they consider their house, and their wealth in general as a tool to be used for His kingdom. I think that's a great way to look at how we should view the material things of this world – as merely tools given to us by God to be used to further his kingdom. When they become ends in themselves, they can become more important and we can start to lose our way.
Importance Of Prayer And Seeking God's Will
Far too often we negate the power of prayer, and don't even think to seek God's will for our lives, and in our decisions. When that happens our own sinful motives far too often crop up. Ramsey touches on the importance of prayer, and seeking God's will for your life and the resources he has entrusted you with.
We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives. Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:1-3
God Can Use The Wealthy And The Poor
I was reading in my Bible study this week about several very wealthy men in the bible – and how they were men after God's own heart. There was King David, King Solomon, and then later on I read about some New Testament Christians who had wealth and used it to help others in need. God can use those who are obedient to his will.
For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles Acts 4:36-37
Those who have much are called to give much.
We all also remember the story of the widow who gave sacrificially out of faith as well, and how Jesus contrasted that with the showy giving of the pharisees. While God hasn't entrusted us all with the same financial resources, we can all use our resources to give glory to him. We should try to avoid giving in order to gain approval from the world or other men, but instead give with godly motives.
Humility And Our Need For Prayer
Despite the fact that I believe it's OK for a Christian to be wealthy, I believe, and I believe Dave understands, the need for humility and a constant seeking out of God's will. If we aren't constantly seeking his will, the things of this world can quickly become an idol in our lives, and the money and wealth can become more important than our relationship with Christ.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16 :13-15
As the verse says, God knows our hearts. When we try to justify ourselves in the eyes of others, and use money and position as a justification of our worth, and not our relationship with Christ, that's when we start to focus more on ourselves and our own self-importance, and not God. It's something we all need to guard against.
Whether or not you agree with Ramsey's decision to build such a large house, I think there are things to be learned from this situation, such as our need for Christ, the importance of prayer and God's guidance in our lives, and our need to be justified only in Christ, and not in the eyes of others through our money and possessions. We need to focus on Christ.
What do you think about what I've written here? Do you think I've missed the mark on what can be learned here? Do you have a different philosophy on whether or not Christians can or should be wealthy, or if they should give it all away? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.