Dave Ramsey is in hot water. Ever since the financial guru posted a list of 20 things the rich do that the poor don’t, he’s been inundated with negative e-mails, tweets and blog posts.
Her-meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women, wrote no less than three negative articles in response. Both Rachel Marie Stone and Marlena Graves attacked the idea that people are poor simply because they haven’t cultivated the right habits. In both Third World Countries and rural Appalachia, these women have witnessed people work dawn to dusk only to eke out the most meager existences. Many don’t have the time nor energy to develop the habits posted to Ramsey’s site, like daily reading and exercise or preparing healthy meals.
Yet, perhaps the most scathing response to Ramsey came from blogger and author Rachel Held Evans who stated that Ramsey’s views are “neither informed nor biblical.” She further accused him of confusing correlation with causation – and of preaching a “particular brand of prosperity gospel.” Yes, Proverbs teaches that success is a common return for fruitful labor, she writes. But, nowhere does the Bible guarantee that good habits lead to wealth.
The points Evans and other Ramsey detractors make are valid. And, I wish Ramsey would have included some sort of disclaimer at the beginning of his post listing the habits of the rich.
That being said, I think the tone and volume of criticism being leveled at Ramsey is unwarranted. Ramsey conceded in a response that personal choices are not the only cause of economic hardship; social injustice and Third World environments also contribute. But, Ramsey rightly notes, that “the only variable . . . you can personally control is YOU!” And, quite frankly, his organization wouldn’t exist if changing that one variable – personal choices and habits – didn’t make a huge difference in peoples’ economic situation. And, it’s entirely biblical, when addressing issues like poverty, to look first to the individual to solve the problem. Only after exhausting all possible personal solutions does the Bible advocate looking to other sources for help.
Of course, taking personal responsibility is not popular today. But, it is extremely effective.