Many Christians have been greatly helped by Dave Ramsey and his teaching on how to get out of debt, and I’m very grateful for the impact he has had. However, sometimes sincere Christian people can turn the weirdest things into a new super-law, and I’ve seen this come from an over-application of his principles. For example, somewhere he says that Christmas is not an emergency. Come on! Are you kidding me? Of course it is!
This is what I mean. In a zeal to get out of debt, to get the emergency fund set up, and to get the savings account up to the equivalent of several months’ salary, some folks have ceased to see what money is for. It really can start controlling their lives, this program of not spending. Sometimes they end up short-changing their kids (or themselves) and adopt a poverty-stricken persona, and constantly refer to the fact that they have no money. But the truth is, they do have money, but they are shoveling most of it into the debt payback and the savings account. They elevate thrift-shopping and driving a beater car into a virtue, right up there with humility and patience. And there is a dangerous self-righteousness that can set in. But God did not list saving for college in the list of virtues. And just to be clear, I’m all for savings and all for getting out of debt. Three cheers! The thing that concerns me is when sweet Christian people get all worked up about saving every nickel and think they are being godly.
The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. But there are subtle ways to love money that we might not notice right off the bat. For example, deciding that you can’t get the kids new toys or new clothes, you can’t afford a car, you can’t afford to fly out to see your nephew’s wedding, and you probably can’t even afford a Christmas tree because it will get you off the financial plan is what I would call bogus.
Money is a tool. It is to be used to bestow on our loved ones, particularly our children. The principle of getting out of debt and having an emergency fund does not trump all other principles. Christmas is an emergency! Get a thousand bucks out of your savings and whoop it up with your kids. God sent His Son to us, to save us from the horrible plight we were in. He lavishes us with His generosity, His kindness, His love and mercy.
So, of course, if you have no money to spend at Christmas (and I’ve been there myself), then you must get creative and hit the thrift stores by all means. But if you really do have the money, but it is earmarked for your emergency fund, then get into it. I remember hearing about a man who went to his church for help because he was in a financial crisis. When one of the Christian gentlemen went to help him, he found out that the man actually had lots of money, but he didn’t want to take a penalty for cashing in his cd early. It is pretty bad when Christian people pretend they have no money, leading others to think they are suitable objects for their charity, when in fact, they have plenty of money. They just don’t want to use it; they want someone else to pay their way. This is frugality gone amok.
So please keep working to get out of debt. Work on that savings account. But don’t get stingy and greedy about it, and don’t start thinking that you are being super-righteous for doing so. The Bible says to “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth” (Ecc. 11:1-2). You don’t know the future. How many more Christmases will you be here? Make a dent in this one!