“Dave Ramsey says pastors should not ask 'broke people' to tithe until they first work on their debt and budgeting.”

"Not everyone agrees with Ramsey’s advice, however. Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, says Christians should tithe no matter what their financial situation." - Christian Headlines

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pvawter's picture

Yeah, no surprise there. Ramsey is not really known for his careful exegesis and application of biblical texts. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I never directly ask anybody to tithe and I don't look at the records to see how much anyone tithes, or if they even do tithe.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I never directly ask anybody to tithe and I don't look at the records to see how much anyone tithes, or if they even do tithe.

...by simply knowing how much someone gives, how would a pastor truly, actually know if someone is "tithing"?  (Further assuming the person is filing accurate tax returns...)

David R. Brumbelow's picture

One of the ways tithing improves your life, is that it helps you better control and manage your money.  It helps to balance your life.  That will make you better able to pay off your debts. 

While I don’t know if someone is tithing unless they tell me, whatever your situation, a believer should give tithes and offerings to the Lord.  As my dad used to say, I can’t afford not to tithe; I can’t afford to miss out on God’s blessings. 

Give ten percent to the Lord, ten percent to yourself (retirement), and manage well the remaining 80 percent.  I often agree with Dave Ramsey, but disagree with him on this matter. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

...that both sides of this debate are really skimming around the edges of what it means to "tithe".  Ramsey avoids the principles of the widow's mite and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Bentley simply uses the term "tithe" or "tenth" to describe any donation of any size.  I would dare suggest that they're really talking past the other person's argument, and in practice, they largely agree with one another.   From the context, I believe both would concur that a person in fairly heavy debt ought to scale back his donations from the customary tenth.  

And for the record, I agree with them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ScottS's picture

In that article it even further quotes Ramsay:

"Unless," he [Ramsay] said, "you've done two sermons on ... debt — one on getting out of debt and one on getting on a budget.

"That's the ratio for me instead of just tithe, tithe, tithe," he said. But when pastors fail to address debt and setting a budget, he said, the reaction to a sermon about tithing is often "yeah right, I've got a light bill. That's a great spiritual concept. Maybe someday I'll get around to that.'"

So Ramsay's point appears to be "stop asking broke people to tithe" without first offering some help on giving them financial wisdom. In his Financial Peace University, on his budgeting plan, at the very top, first in the list, is the category of "Charity," and within that category are two subcategories, the first one of which is "Tithes" (the 2nd is "Charity & Offerings," i.e. any giving above that given to one's support of their church). So Ramsay is not against the asking of a tithe from the poor in toto, but rather in the how it is asked.

Ramsay's real message, I believe, is

  • Teach people the biblical issues with debt, and exhort them how to get out of the slavery of it.
  • Part of teaching them how to get out of that slavery is in the forming of a budget.
  • Part of a properly formed budget is to factor in one's tithe.

His goal is to get people tithing, but getting them there through a wise means of it, not just haphazardly tithing or ignoring tithing for the apparently more pressing "urgent" need of said "light bill" or other expense or debt.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

Editor

Why on earth would I preach a sermon about how to set a budget? This kind of thing makes me laugh. If you trolled the internet, and cataloged every single "important thing" pastors are allegedly supposed to focus on and preach about, a pastor would go mad. And, not coincidentally, Christ would be minimized or pushed out in favor of a sermon about debt principles. 

Many of these issues will be addressed as a matter of course during the regular, systematic preaching through the books of the Bible. I spent a GREAT DEAL of time chatting about a Christian's relationship to civil government when I went through 1 Peter. I had to because the text dealt with it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

Why on earth would I preach a sermon about how to set a budget?

...it wasn't really Scott's suggestion that it be the subject of a sermon.  But in the venue of a seminar or elective course offered to the congregation, it could be helpful.

My church (for example) has offered personal finance seminars on, say, a Saturday morning or a weeknight.  It can be helpful to many folks to provide a venue where such a topic can be taught from a biblical point of view. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I was referring to Ramsey, not Scott! I'm glad some churches have the personnel and resources to offer personal finance elective courses to folks on a Saturday morning. I'll think about them as I sit in my pajamas and sip coffee this Saturday ... !

All joking aside, it seems like a good plan if you have the resources to swing it. Most people don't. And, I'm not sure it's really a core function of a local church to teach personal finance. It's important, but not core enough for me to devote my resources to. You gotta prioritize based on what you think a church's mission is supposed to be. 

At best, I could swing a Sunday School series that lasts several weeks. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I can see doing a topical/word study sermon based on Exodus 20:17 and related passages, and a part of that would indeed be a budget that would be intended to restrain spending to one's actual income.  That's actually one of the things I at least used to "not like" about both Ramsey and Crown; they didn't do near enough regarding how the big problem most people have, financially speaking, is covetousness, not the lack of a budget or will or whatever.  Hopefully that has changed in the past ~ 8-9 years.

I wouldn't do it on budgeting alone, since that's really only tangentially mentioned in Scripture--"counting the cost" and all--but I can see a lot more sermons on covetousness/greed, and can see it as a very profitable (no pun intended) area of counseling.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

So a couple comes to you. They have good jobs, but past decisions, some "covetous" or maybe just unwise, but a few big ones caused by health issues (read as $$$$$) with a child that keeps regularly hitting them in the pocketbook, caused them to eventually have more month than paycheck after years of trying to do fix the problem. The debt is just too much. They give half a tithe, let's say, but not the full because literally to do anything more would cause them to have to not pay a bill. They already work as much as they can... but their jobs just never give a pay raise and insurance keeps absorbing more and more of their check. In the past, they gave 10% or more without concern over the budget, but the years have caught up with them and they cannot do that anymore. They know they are biblically wrong, but they literally would have to not pay bills to "tithe." What do you recommend? Avoid pat answers like "sell stuff" and "don't eat out at McDonald's that once a month you splurge." By the way, this is a real situation I have encountered and I would appreciate your genuine response.

 

Moderator note: Slightly edited (Jim Peet)

ScottS's picture

Tyler,

Since you preach more exegetically (I believe), then you probably don't have the primary issue that I suspect Ramsey (and I don't have any excuse for why I mispelled his name in the first post!) is referring to, which is probably the topical preacher that every [insert some period of time a year or less in length] preaches a sermon on tithing, while excluding preaching about debt or wise financial choices from Scripture.

But even exegetically, whenever one is preaching in a true tithing passage in particular (where 1/10th was the expectation), one is already discussing an aspect of budgeting (setting aside 1/10th of the increase to give), so a bit more discussion of that could be included.

There are also other passages where some attention might come to that: Prov 22:7 (and an illustration of that in Neh 5:3-5, though that was partly due to the greed of those exacting usury, v.6); Ps 37:21 (how many Christians have declared bankruptcy?: a legal action in the U.S., but a wicked one in God's sight, unless one actually reorganizes in order to repay); the illustration in Isa 55:2 assumes an understanding of how to spend wisely; the illustration in Lk 14:28-30 is a budgeting illustration to understand a spiritual truth, so it is assumed one understands budgeting there (which is a big assumption in our modern day of overspending).

So I agree, spending an inordinate amount of time on debt and budget in preaching would be a detriment, but spending no time on it would not fulfill teaching the whole counsel of God, since there are passages related to the wise use of finances that intersect with debt and budgeting.

And yes, possibly having a special session could work. Or it may be that you don't have people in your congregation that struggle at all with this issue, and so you really don't need to address it. Recall that Ramsey was opposed to preaching to the poor about tithing, without giving them the tools to overcome their habits that may have made them poor (so it may be that a one-on-one set of counseling sessions are needed to intervene in this matter, not a sermon).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Lee's picture

You can do what you gotta do.  It is possible to live on a lot less than what you think you can, but discipline and realistic views of needs, wants, luxuries, etc., are a must.  Somewhere in all that you have to figure what you "gotta do", and that very well may be some sort of regular giving plan.  

My experience: a person who won't/doesn't give when finances are tight will find other reasons not to give when finances aren't.  Just an observation.  

Lee

Bert Perry's picture

That's a great spot for counseling, and I'd hope I'd start by saying that in light of the widow's mite and 2 Cor. 9:7, that tithing is not a New Testament requirement.  We need to remember that the early church consisted significantly of slaves who had their bread and that's about it, and quite frankly asking them to give up a tenth of a meager ration of bread would have been just plain cruel.  

Now we're not slaves on meager rations, to be sure, but I can see a place where someone with more month than paycheck might serve God best by striving to rectify that.  "OK, let's use that tithe to cover some overdue bills, and if you're current, let's try to get an emergency fund going, and then start getting ahead on one of these debts....and we may have to have a chat with the little one about how much the things he wants actually cost."  

A big part of the trick as well is to model frugality.  One of the best compliments I've ever gotten, one that wasn't intended as such, was "you never buy anything."  Well, not technically true, but I buy little enough so that they see me driving the same vehicles, wearing the same clothes, and so on--quality over quantity and all that.  

Make a point of displaying frugality gently--have people over for dinner, let them see you cook, give them a house tour, all that.  Good luck!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'd love to spend time with that couple, helping them understand budgeting (etc.). But, I wouldn't preach a sermon on how to budget! I also disagree that 10% tithe is a New Covenant requirement. The only principle I see is that people should give to support the ministry of the congregation, and to help their fellow believers in time of need. 

A lady at church ( a non-member) had a meeting with me a few months ago. She's married to an ex-Mormon who hates all religion. She feels convicted to tithe, but her husband is against it. She asked what she should do. I replied:

  • Tithing is not a NT requirement
  • There is a basic principle that people should give to help a local church fulfill its mission
  • You need to decide if this is a "I must obey God rather than men" moment, and I can't tell you in this circumstance if this is that moment. If he commanded you to not go to church, this would be that movement. 
  • You also need to consider 1 Peter 3, and your obligation to try and win your husband to the Lord in a winsome way. 

I know nothing about Ramsey. I do know people fawn over him and swear by him. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I can't help myself... I have to support Dave! Smile

I believe that Financial Peace University is one of the most worthwhile teaching programs that any church could possibly implement.

I also believe that financial bondage is a factor that hinders Christians/churches/ministries to a greater degree than any of us can imagine.

Dismiss Ramsey with a harumph if you will.... As noted above, the Bible is filled with references to money in both testaments, so you are not fully discipling people Biblically if your church has no plan to talk about it. Furthermore, very few pastors that I have ever known have the financial background or knowledge to apply those Scriptures in a detailed, specific and skillful way to our contemporary society.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

Furthermore, very few pastors that I have ever known have the financial background or knowledge to apply those Scriptures in a detailed, specific and skillful way to our contemporary society.

Then they're incompetent at life. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Paul wrote:

As noted above, the Bible is filled with references to money in both testaments, so you are not fully discipling people Biblically if your church has no plan to talk about it. 

No doubt. But, it's certainly not a priority. Evangelism and discipleship is the priority. Within the discipleship rubric, preaching or teaching a series about money management is far, far down the list for me. I'm actually considering a series on a proper view of marriage and sex, using Song of Solomon. It'll be a ways down the road, but I may well do something, in some venue. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

It depends on what context you're referring to. You wrote:

As noted above, the Bible is filled with references to money in both testaments, so you are not fully discipling people Biblically if your church has no plan to talk about it. Furthermore, very few pastors that I have ever known have the financial background or knowledge to apply those Scriptures in a detailed, specific and skillful way to our contemporary society.

Here is my more detailed response:

  1. If you're referring to a preaching series, then a pastor is incompetent if he can't preach a passage in which there is a discussion about debt. 
  2. If you're referring to a discipleship context, then a pastor is incompetent if he cannot teach a young couple about how to make a budget and follow it. 

I grow weary about whining from pastors about how they're not qualified for certain things. I have no sympathy. Find another job. This incessant mania for specialization is a bad one. I'm not qualified to talk about infidelity; let me refer you to a counselor! I'm not qualified to talk about budgeting; let me refer you to a specialist! I'm not qualified to talk about evangelism; let me refer you to a specialist! 

It gets old after a while. So, I stand by my contention that a pastor who doesn't feel he can talk about debt principles and household budgets is incompetent at life, and fails a pastoral test of managing his own house well. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Jesus and Paul did not discuss households budgets, and explain principles for debt-free living! If you have a passage, I'm ready to hear it! 

I am well aware my comments make me seem like an angry curmudgeon. If we were chatting in person, my comments would come across as good-natured pushback. Let's be frank here about the "I'm not qualified to talk about budgets!" angle; do we really have to be such wimps?

Why is a pastor not qualified to advice a young couple how to make and follow a household budget? Why is he not capable of helping them understand whether they should buy a home? These are not difficult things to talk about! Either that, or I'm a genius; and that isn't the case - my wife can confirm this. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Tyler, with all due respect, I can think of a handful of pastors I have known in my life (and I have known A LOT of pastors!) to whom I would go for advice about a mortgage. Most of them were also attorneys.

You're in a hole buddy... stop digging!

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

TylerR's picture

Editor

Paul, I'm not talking about technical advice. I'm talking about the general, average stuff a pastor deals with. This typically revolves around household budgets or general "what if" questions (e.g. "should we buy a house?"). I once had a guy ask me if he should take out a student loan because his job didn't pay enough to make ends meet, and a student loan had lower interest than a conventional loan. I told him that was a bad idea. He did it anyway.

Why would a pastor not feel competent to teach what the Bible says about money? That sounds ridiculous, to me. Perhaps we're talking past each other.

This conversation, and many others, reinforces my opinion that I'm a very strange pastor. I generally don't understand other pastors, and they seem like they live in a different world than I do. I am a pastor, so it's not that there's a disconnect for me between theory and reality. It's just that I'm forced to believe I operate completely differently than many of the people who comment on SI.

I know of no possible world where it would be acceptable for (1) someone to take a job, then (2) complain about how he feels he's not qualified to perform an aspect of that job, and (3) expect to elicit sympathy. My mind is always blown when I see this kind of thing. Did you not expect to have to handle sexual infidelity, young couples who can't budget, and "gay Christianity" during your pastorate? Is this really a shocking surprise? And you claim you're not qualified to deal with this? Why did you take the job? 

I had a meeting today, at work, with the Chief Deputy Commissioner of my agency, all the Deputy Commissioners, and several other members of the Manager's Council Steering Committee. I'm the Chair of the Manager's Council; so I run the inter-divisional managerial meetings and act as the manager liaison to the Deputy Commissioners. As we discussed one topic, someone suggested that some managers don't feel empowered to collaborate with their peers across divisions on certain issues. The Chief Deputy asked me what I thought about that. I replied, "I have no sympathy for a manager who is unable or unwilling to collaborate with a peer to get something done. That tells me something is either wrong with the divisional climate or that particular manager." 

The truth hurts, sometimes.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joeb's picture

Paul I have known a lot of Pastors and very few were Attorneys to. Also what Tyler is talking about is basic budgeting.       You can’t tell me a Pastor can’t help someone or a couple with that.  You can buy a budget book in a Christian Book Store or any other Book Store   

Bert Perry's picture

Haven't met any pastors who were also attorneys, but those are the two groups I'd counsel with last regarding mortgages.  Attorneys maybe about the legalities, but I've known too many law students who couldn't balance a checkbook, let alone calculate the impact of a mortgage.  :^)

(OK, professional athletes and actors would rank even lower, to be fair....and of course politicians)

Seriously, though, I would concur with Tyler that pastors ought to be among the first people one should think of when it comes to financial advice, and I would concur with him that there is a degree of "wimpiness" among those who would be unwilling to take on some role--again, one of the key principles of financial stewardship is "thou shalt not covet".  Budgeting is merely a tool to measure the degree to which you are, or are not, covetous.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You have to follow the links two steps backward from the link above, but you'll eventually find this story originated from a Baptist Press piece. I don't have a problem with Ramsey per se; I know very little about him. I am intrigued by the kind of church culture he's used to seeing, because I don't recognize it:

Ramsey acknowledges his advice can sometimes generate criticism and its share of "hate mail." He said one piece of advice not everyone agrees with is when he urges pastors to stop preaching about tithing to "broke people."

I don't think tithing is a NT requirement, so I don't preach on it. 

"Unless," he explained in his interview with BP, "you've done two sermons on ... debt -- one on getting out of debt and one on getting on a budget."

As I mentioned earlier, I don't appreciate his comments about what I ought to preach about. 

"That's the ratio for me instead of just tithe, tithe, tithe," he said.

What responsible pastors preach incessant sermons about tithing? Where does the NT command tithing? Where does it specify an amount? 

Without those initial sermons on debt and setting a budget, he said, the reaction to a sermon about tithing is often "yeah right, I've got a light bill. That's a great spiritual concept. Maybe someday I'll get around to that.'"

The NT doesn't spend any time discussing budgets or the implications of a balanced checkbook. Of course, these are logical and prudent skills to have and acquire, but it isn't a didactic part of any single passage in the NT. This doesn't mean it's unimportant, but it does indicate it wasn't important enough to any NT writer to mention. This should help us weigh teaching priorities. 

Is it prudent to have a class about debt for the congregation? Maybe. This is fundamentally about what your vision is for the local church. I don't see the local church as a local community hub for activities. I see it as a vehicle to carry out the Great Commission in a corporate fashion, and grow in our knowledge of the Lord. Classes about finances and other life skills are fine, but they're not anywhere near to being a core function of a local church.

"Christians and non-Christians face the same grim reality: The leading cause of divorce in marriage is financial trouble," he said in an email interview. "Therefore, we believe as the church we must do all we can to equip our people and the people in our region on how to deal with their financial struggles."

I dispute that. I believe this is likely a false statistic meant to scare up business and drive a brand. Let's not forget this; Ramsey makes his own money by convincing Christians they need his services. He has a financial incentive in drumming up business, and he does this by convincing people they need his services. There's nothing wrong with that, but it should make you a bit wary when you endure his pitch.

Finances are quite important, but I don't believe they're "the leading cause of divorce." I'd much rather see these issues (e.g. budgeting, basic finances, etc.) tackled as part of the informal relationships that exist between church members who know each other.

I recently helped a man at our church with his resume, because he didn't know how to write one. He's 37, and is recovering from a drug addiction that wasted the last 15 years of his life. I knew he needed help with his resume because I try my best to talk to my people and know their problems. I didn't need to host a "Resume Writing" class; there are secular organizations who do a better job than I could do. What I can do is try to know my people, lead the congregation to know each other, and empower them to help each other out. 

Getting out of debt, Ramsey emphasized, is the key to giving. "Because if you're out of debt and on a budget and you love Jesus, I think tithing is a natural thing that occurs."

It's then no longer "a beg," he told BP. "It's not 'I'm trying to get blood out of a rock.'"

I am very, very uncomfortable with this constant assumption that pastors always preach about tithing. I suspect Ramsey is framing things this way, in this interview with an SBC publication, to drum up business for himself with SBC churches. Please, don't be so naive as to dismiss this hypothesis out of hand!

"And so I want the financial peace classes to be an attraction to someone like I was -- a reason for them to come over to the church to go to class to get out of debt but, oh by the way, Jesus is there."

Hey, if you have the personnel and resources to host a class and turn it into an evangelistic vehicle, go for it. Many churches don't. For reasons I outlined, above, this is more of an elective idea, not a core function of the local church. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joeb's picture

Tyler the church I attend has the same perspective.  I think your argument is excellent.  

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