I read an article recently bashing Dave Ramsey’s ministry because the author felt Dave’s approach implies that 1) God wants His people blessed financially and 2) people are individually responsible for their financial state.
The author says, “People are poor for a lot of reasons, and choice is certainly a factor, but categorically blaming poverty on lack of faith or lack of initiative is not only uninformed, it’s unbiblical.” She goes on to list a number of factors that could create financial hardship in a person’s life. Things like the economy, the societal oppression of people in certain demographics (racial oppression or gender inequality), medical bills, being born into a poor family or poor neighborhood, and other systemic or individual injustices.
Friends, an article like this one sets off certain alerts in my mind, and I’d like to offer the suggestion that you consider making this a litmus test for what articles you believe and what articles you share. And perhaps even what articles you write. Yes, I’m preaching AND meddling tonight.
Two Broken Pillars
Articles like this one are standing on two broken pillars:
- A fair amount of time is spent bashing and discrediting another Christian’s ministry.
- The central assertions of the article are biblically incorrect: “God does not bless people with money” (direct quote) and “applying biblical principles will not change your physical circumstances” (my paraphrase).
Bashing Others is a Bad Idea
When speaking from a critical spirit, you’re not likely to be dealing gracious truth, even if there are grains of truth in part of what you say. If your words are cookies, then I’m not interested in eating cookies made with even just one rotten egg. Have you ever smelled a truly rotten egg? Eww. No amount in your food is okay.
It has become popular today to attack Christian ministers who are financially successful. Although I may not choose to do the same thing that some ministers do with their money, that’s not my place to judge. Unless they are engaging in truly unethical business practices, I don’t care what they do with their money. That’s between them and God!
As long as the majority of their teaching matches my understanding of the Word of God, I will listen to them. If there are too many things I don’t agree with, then I will stop listening to them. But even when I feel that their teaching is detrimental to others, I don’t usually “speak out against” a minister of the gospel. (If I’ve done it in the past, please forgive me — my current conviction is not to do this.) Instead, I refrain from promoting them and if I feel someone else is perhaps heading down a harmful path in listening to them, I’ll pray that God will reveal the truth to that person.
I’m not certain whether using a specific article as a talking point and example in this blog post is doing the same thing I’m accusing the author of doing — bashing someone else’s ministry. Maybe it is. Maybe I should keep this post entirely generic and speak in broader terms. However, at the moment, that seems less effective than sharing a specific example. [EDIT: I’ve now removed the link to the original article and kept this as general as possible just to avoid walking that fine line.]
I hold no ill will towards the author and actually respect her writing and the journey she’s been on, from what I’ve read of it. I’m not bashing her as a person or discrediting her ministry. The subject matter of her post involves the reputation of my God and the well-being of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and contains a subject that I find is often misunderstood. For that reason I wish to pursue this discussion in a respectful, non-bashing way with my friends, the readers of my blog. If a stranger comes along and benefits, all the better.
God is Not Okay With Poverty. Read the Whole Bible, Friends.
The author of the article asserts, “But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.” Hmmm. Nobody is perfect. I’m not saying Dave Ramsey and every word he says is correct and the perfect interpretation of the Bible and the facts of life. But his views on poverty are by and large very well-informed and quite biblically sound.
The author of the article basically says, “You may be stuck in poverty due to circumstances outside your control and God’s ability to fix, because of things like where you live and what family or ethnicity you were born into. But that’s okay because you have God’s love and peace in your heart, and that needs to be enough because that’s all He promised.”
A companion piece to this is the idea that rich people can’t be close to God and God chooses the poor and thinks they’re better off than the rich. It’s the same old Catholic teaching of the virtues of poverty, come back around with fresh trappings. Just as wrong today as it was a thousand years ago.
It grieves me that so many in the family of God reject what He says over and over and over again: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” – Proverbs 10:22
This isn’t the place for a full list of scriptures showing that God endorses physical wealth for His people. I encourage you to do a study on what God thinks of wealth and how He says to handle finances. I did not follow any one ministry’s teachings to reach the conclusions I have. My personal convictions are based on my time spent in study of the Word itself under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 1 John 2:27), and then I read widely to see others’ perspectives and pick up details they share from their studies that I may have missed.
“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” – Deuteronomy 8:18
The old covenant God established with Abraham and his descendants was a reflection of His desire towards us, a shadow of things to come. It provided some things in the physical realm based on obedience to certain agreed terms.
Read through Deuteronomy 28 and look at the patterns given there. What things were considered the blessings and rewards of the covenant? What things were considered curses? God hasn’t changed His mind about what is good for His kids and what is bad.
Simple but effective litmus test for certain controversial doctrines: Any time you see something that is listed as a curse under the old covenant presented in a Christian teaching as something “good”, that teaching has something wrong with it. Dig deeper and find the truth.
Is the “prosperity gospel” wrong? Or is the “poverty gospel” wrong? First of all, it depends on the details. I’ve heard some truth on both sides. And error on both sides. So dig deeper. Look at the patterns across the whole Bible. Look at the intent and the heart behind the rules of the old covenant.
Didn’t Jesus Diss the Rich?
When viewing the New Testament teachings on riches, keep them in the context of what all Jews (including Jesus) at that time already knew inside and out: that wealth was a blessing from the Lord and poverty a curse.
So when Jesus says things that seem to fly in the face of that (the Sermon on the Mount, for example), look to the heart of what He’s saying. Look for how He’s shaking up the status quo. Again, the status quo was the letter of the law: wealth means you’re obeying God, poverty means you’re not. There were a ton of people abusing that system.
Rich people walked around flaunting their riches as proof of God’s approval. They never needed to look any further than their bank statement to have proof that they didn’t need to improve their character or change their ways. Poor people were not only suffering the experience of poverty itself but at a huge social and religious disadvantage.
Jesus challenged all of them with a deeper reality: God looks at the heart.
Jesus taught that what is in your heart is the focus of His attention. A man whose faith is in his wealth will have a hard time entering the kingdom of God. A man who lusts in his heart is as guilty in God’s eyes as one who commits the act. The woman who gave only two cents actually gave the most. Those who are aware of their poverty (the poor in spirit, the grieving, those hungry and thirsty for righteousness) are therefore closest to the kingdom, the most ready to accept the almost-too-good-to-be-true news.
Jesus was raising the bar so that people would be primed for the revolutionary act of the cross, and the message of the gospel: that the curse of the law was gone and every blessing available in the original covenant was now available for all those who believed.
Anything Less Would Be — Not the Gospel
So why are we so willing to embrace this idea that poverty is okay with God? That He just wants to save our souls, and not give us a better life today, tomorrow and every day that we draw breath on this earth? Why are we accepting less than the full gospel?
Oops. Did I just set off some of your alarm bells? “Full gospel”, isn’t that a doctrinal group, one of those crazy ones? Well, honestly, when I typed those words I wasn’t thinking about that group at all. It is the natural phrase that comes to mind when I look at the difference between what I see in the Bible and what so many want to embrace — a gospel that only includes some of the blessings God intended for us. I can only imagine why some are so unwilling to see it. Perhaps afraid of wealth and its corrupting influence? I can understand that. But I’m not going to let fear stop me from receiving what Jesus purchased for me on the cross.
All of it.