We live in a seminary town and have many young friends studying at the local seminary. One thing the seminary and other churches in our area do that I really like is promote basic financial literacy. The most common one I hear of is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
I’m not in any way affiliated with Ramsey, except that when we were newly married one of the smartest things I did was give my husband Ramsey’s book. Ever since, in times of famine and plenty, my husband has always kept me feeling safe by explaining our budget and what’s ahead financially (an emergency fund, retirement planning, paying off the house, etc). We have since routinely handed the book out to newly married or engaged friends. Since money is one of the biggest items couples fight over, we consider it very cheap divorce and squabble insurance.
A young seminary couple dear to us took Ramsey’s class. The husband joked that it makes him focus on money, and that’s uncomfortable. I think that’s common among many individuals, but especially among religious people whose teachings include warnings about the love of money and this world. That has caused many Christians to be poor stewards of the material things God has given us. And simply not knowing about money or growing up with little money around heightens that awkwardness.
I’ll pick on my husband because he won’t mind. His dad is a rural pastor, and his family of eight lived below the federal poverty line during my husband’s entire childhood, yet my husband says he never felt poor. His parents are good and careful stewards. His mom grows veggies and uses margarine instead of butter. Their vacations were road trips to visit family.
Even so, growing up with little money meant my husband didn’t know a thing about it except to spend less than you earn. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t mean much when $30,000 in college debt and many other financial questions stack up. Now that we can handle those things, our thoughts about money turn to larger Christian responsibilities like “How can we help our neighbors?” If we are to take the parable of the talents seriously (and I don’t think it applies just to wealth), responsible Christians will look to multiply what we have, because careful stewardship pleases God and so we can give to others.
That kind of “spreading the wealth” I’m all in favor of, and AEI president Arthur Brooks expands on this in this video: “Why Pastors and Economists Need to Learn from Each Other.”