There’s no denying that Dave Ramsey has inspired thousands of people to pay off debt and change their financial situations for good. Although I don’t follow all of his principles, I do find most of what he teaches inspiring, and I think many of the principles he teaches are sound.
However, there’s one area where I vehemently disagree with him.
And that’s when it comes to giving.
According to Ramsey, Christians are called to give 10% to the church (and I agree that tithing is biblical), but he says that after that we should “take care of our own first” and not give any more until our debt is paid off. I don’t personally think of tithing as giving. We tithe because we believe we’re called by God to do so. Giving for us (or what Dave refers to as offering) is different, and that’s what I’m talking about in this post.
What also bugs me is that he seems to believe that the purpose of giving is to become more prosperous:
- “You need to be giving some because giving changes you into a giver, and givers are less selfish people and have a tendency toward more prosperity versus selfish jerks…[But] I find very little indication that you should give above the tithe until you’ve taken care of your own household. “
- “Who is better than someone who is giving? By giving, you change who you are into a more attractive person. You can’t help it. It just happens automatically. Over time, you’re going to end up having the potential to make more money than you would any other way…But as a starter, while you’re in debt, I’m going to do my tenth as a Christian, and that’s all I’m going to do—for now. “
Besides disagreeing about the reasons we should give — and I’m 100% sure that giving for your own benefit is not the right reason — I also disagree that you should wait to give until you’re out of debt.
To be clear, I’m not saying we should give money away instead of fulfilling our obligations. If you owe someone money and they were expecting that money yesterday, you should pay it off before you do anything else. Otherwise, you’re essentially using their money for your own charitable giving.
But if you have debt — like a car payment, mortgage or even a credit card — and you’re making regular payments according to your agreement with the lender, I think it’s selfish to not give so that you can meet your financial goals sooner.
Now, Ramsey’s rationale is that once your debt is paid off and you have a fully-funded emergency fund, you can be more generous.
I do agree with that.
But you know what? Tomorrow is not guaranteed. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to live until tomorrow to give….and besides that, there are children dying around the world right now who need help.
Please know that I’m not being judgmental. Our family doesn’t give as much money as we could (or we’d be living in a one-bedroom apartment, eating rice and beans and never going on vacation), and we’re nowhere near our goal of giving away 50% of our income. And I really don’t know what the line is as far as how much we should be giving.
What I do know, though, is that sacrificial giving is biblical, and I believe that means we should be giving even if it means it will take us longer to meet our financial goals.
Obviously the answer is to avoid frivolous debt in the first place so that you have more to give (I say frivolous debt, because I don’t personally believe that all debt is bad). But if you already have debt and are working to pay it off, I think you still need to give generously and sacrificially while you’re working toward your financial goals instead of prioritizing paying off debt above giving to others.
What do you think? Do you think it’s better to pour everything into reaching your financial goals now with a plan to give later, or is it better to give now while working toward your financial goals?