My Take on Christian Themes in Personal Finance Books

Several months ago, I wrote that I had misgivings about reviewing books on The Simple Dollar if they had a strong religious theme running through the book. My biggest concern was that I tend to write for a secular audience and when I delve into a book that is heavily threaded with the themes of a particular religion, I run the risk of pushing away people who aren’t interested in swallowing their personal finance advice with the sugar of religious theming.

My conclusion at the time was simple: I’m quite willing to review books with Christian overtones, but in the review, I’d make the theme clear but focus on the advice without the religious aspects.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read several personal finance books with very strong religious overtones. These books attempt in various ways to tie good personal finance behavior – frugality, good investing choices, and so on – to a Christian faith.

Some of these books were awful. Rather than focusing on actual useful advice for readers, the books focused on finding a Biblical verse that backed up every single point and perspective. While that might be a worthwhile read on its own, it becomes a real problem when the writer doesn’t actually apply any theological rigor to the book and uses conflicting and competing quotes in different parts of the book to make different points. Not only did the book not leave behind strong personal finance advice, it also led to confusion about the faith aspects as well.

Other books were much, much better. Instead of focusing on finding a theological backing for each point, the writer would instead focus on the finances and, on occasion, use a very pointed Biblical or theological reference to illustrate a specific point.

I love it when books do this well. If an author can actually illustrate a point with strong examples and references from a variety of authoritative sources, it makes the book stronger. Points don’t appear to be made out of thin air – they actually have weight and reverence.

From my perspective, Christian themes are acceptable – and even welcomed – when they support a personal finance argument that makes sense on its own. They can provide a call to authority that can really resonate with believers – and that can often be enough to encourage people to apply some serious change to their life.

On the other hand, if you attempt to make a personal finance argument using Christianity as the sole backbone, you’re likely to fail. Why? Money does not operate by the same rules that many aspects of life do. You can’t simply apply the rules of common sense and good moral judgment to financial issues and expect immediate success.

In order to succeed with money, we have to know how it works. We can’t just simply blindly apply the rules that work in every other aspect of our life and expect things to work. Instead, we have to learn how it works and find ways to make personal finance success match well with our own beliefs.

In the end, if you want to succeed financially, you need to play (at least to an extent) by the rules of money. All of the faith-based ideas and positive thinking in the world can’t directly turn a nickel into a dime. They can be incredibly positive tools and can put your heart and mind in the right place, but if you walk into the money game without knowing the rules of how that game works, you’re going to run into a lot of trouble, no matter what your intentions.

So, how do I feel about Christian themes in personal finance books? I welcome them – but only if they recognize that Christianity is a powerful guidance to help people navigate the game of money. Money has its own rules – the best we can hope for is to know how to play the game in a way that’s in line with our own beliefs.

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89 thoughts on “My Take on Christian Themes in Personal Finance Books

  1. BirdDog says:

    Are there any of these books that you personally recommend?

  2. Mike says:

    As a nonChristian, I personally skip over any finance book with Christian themes. Of course, I’d be supportive of any writer endeavoring to promote prudent financial principles–whether via a religious method or otherwise.

  3. plonkee says:

    I think that the problem with Christian themed anything is that they assume that all readers are Christian and that Christianity is self-evident. I understand that’s marketing to a specific audience, but in return I expect an understanding that the audience won’t include me.

  4. PChan says:

    @Mike–ITA. I’m not a Christian anymore, and tend to skip those books myself (though I do like Dave Ramsey because he does advocate prudent financial principles and the elimination of debt).

    There’s a saying in Japan: “The gods only laugh when you ask them for money.”

  5. Matt says:

    I am a Christian, and I like prudent financial principles. There are some nuances to this issue… Primarily, I am thinking that you have to keep in mind that faith changes our understanding of what success is.

    But, I also think that there are a lot of terrible books out there. You have to be really selective, and even more so when the book is about Christianity.

    The Treasure Principle by by Randy Alcorn is really good, but it’s not about prudent financial principles. It’s more about generosity.

  6. Eric says:

    Agree with plonkee.

  7. Kelly says:

    I’ll be honest, I barf as soon as I feel any religion coming into a PF book. It’s just not worth my time to read between the lines. Maybe, like “plonkee” said: “they assume that all readers are christian and that christianity is self evident” and that rather offends me, and thus turns off my brain. FYI, Trent, you can review those books if you want, any maybe I’ll still get good ideas from the reviews, but I will still never read the book myself. Way too many other good books for me to read instead.

  8. Ryan Vaught says:

    I read Become a Millionare God’s Way, and thought it was a good book. Basic idea was that you are not able to follow the ways of the bible, if you aren’t financially sound. If you can’t provide food for your family, you aren’t going to be able to do a good job following the bible. Generally a good book, with good logic. Another point is that you can’t be generous, if you dont have anything to give.

    Many christian books rely too much on emotional decision making, which has less relevance in personal finance, saving and investment, so they make a lousy case for folks like us whom use logic to make decisions.

  9. Michael says:

    The question isn’t whether Christians can apply different rules to the money game, it’s whether they should play the money game. Haven’t you read Dante’s Inferno?

  10. liv says:

    i didn’t even think about religion when thinking about finance. i didn’t know they were really hand-in-hand.

    i like to just think about finance for my own personal values whether they’re tied to religion or not.

  11. John says:

    Re: Kelly

    Simply because a book has religious overtones doesn’t necessarily make it bad. The Chronicles of Narnia are chock full of relgious-ness yet they are great books. Ignoring a book simply because it has religious aspects in it may be shutting the door on some of the non-religious points that you might never thought of.

  12. Ian P. says:

    Trent, in the past you have reviewed books with Christian themes and gave a proper “warning”. I think that’s sufficient. In the case of Dave Ramsey for instance, I think that he’s worth reading regardless of your beliefs. If somebody skips Dave Ramsey’s books because of a fear of Christian themes then they are going themselves a disservice.

  13. I HATE the kind of books that do the proof-texting you were talking about, Trent. Writers who do that have such a poor hermeneutic..they are forever ripping verses out of context in a desperate attempt to make the Bible support such things as clipping coupons(which it might in principle, but which it doesn’t specifically).

  14. Austin says:

    I looked up the definition of religion that would fit this context and I found this:

    “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.”

    This made me realize that in a general sense everyone is religious. For example, some people follow the religion of Christianity or money or self or etc. We all place our life’s faith into something. The major difference seems to be what is at the core of a person’s beliefs.

    I would think that most authors do not write a book with the intention of excluding people, but they also understand that they cannot deny or betray their core beliefs. Otherwise, the author would not be presenting an authentic message.

    I think an insightful examination of this idea can be found in “Religion and Literature” which was written by TS Eliot.

  15. Sarah says:

    As an agnostic, I think it’s highly appropriate that Christians (or members of any other faith) seek guidance from their religion on how to handle their money. However, if I’m going to read the book, I’ll need more. I’ll also need for the book not to make insulting assumptions about nonbelievers–and, to be frank, I’ll need it not to partake of the “hater’s Christianity” that I see waaaay too often in religious personal finance blogs (not in your posts, Trent). That said, I believe there are probably several Christian personal finance books which an agnostic could read and benefit from (if she didn’t get the information somewhere else first).

  16. Jolene says:

    Wow, it amazed me to hear such harsh things about Christianity. I find it funny how many people feel that the two are seperate, religion and finances. I consier myself a recovering Catholic. I am not trying to stand on a soapbox and preach, but remember this country that we love and live in, the United States of America was founded on Christianity. If you don’t believe, I pray that God’s voice calling to you will someday be more evident, but please don’t think that everything in our lives was not given to us by God. The good, the difficult, the seemingly impossible and the miraculous all have God in the mix somewhere.

  17. kim says:

    There is such a range out there. I personally love Dave Ramsay. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I think his advice is sound. It’s a great philosophy for anyone.
    My church recently decided to “help” the parishioners with their finances by offering a financial education course/bible study. I eagerly signed up as was immediately horrified. The class discouraged saving for retirement. It basically stated that all money is God’s money and that the primary use of money should be used for the church. No need to save because the Lord provides to the faithful.
    I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It’s these extreme viewpoints that give the rest of the very good Christian books an extremeist veneer.

  18. Vicki says:

    The Bible is full of good advice regarding investing, giving and being a good steward of your money. Also, Christians such as Mary Hunt and Dave Ramsey have helped more people to get on their financial feet than any high-priced financial advisers .My friends who supposedly invested wisely on the advice of professionals are now terrified for their retirement because they have lost so much money in this market. On the other hand, those who plodded along living frugally, saving , giving to others & trusting in God to provide aren’t stressing.
    Keep up the good work Trent & all of you on the journey to financial stability.

  19. Unfortunately, the only way to decide if a book is worth reading is to read it. Or maybe that is actually fortunate in that you might learn, support, understand, confirm, or deny a thought or idea in the process.

  20. twinmama says:

    No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

    Luke 16:13

  21. jack says:

    Kim: Ugh. I really hope you spoke up about that. Loudly.

  22. typome says:

    I tend to stay away from personal finance books with religious comments. I understand that it’s the author’s choice to do so and that that’s his/her life and faith, but it becomes a turn off to me. And I’m not anti-God or anything, but it’s still a turn off. If the book was about Personal Finance from a Christian’s Point of View, then I could read it, but to just insert it in any old pf book is a bit in your face, especially to non-Christians.

  23. Andrew says:

    As a Christian, I have not personally read any christian finance books but I can see that there can be a big problem if the book comes from a prosperity gospel perspective, aka Health and Wealth, you end up with the Millionaire God’s Way type trash. This approach is that if you have good faith, God rewards you with more and you will succeed in life and all is good. Its definitely not in line with the Christian faith.

    I believe that everything I have is a gift from God, including my finances. I am called to be a good steward of these things as an act of worship to God. Being a good steward means being responsible financially and also being generous with the gifts he has given to me. Finding a balance in that depends on where you are at in life. This could take the form of tithe, donation, helping a friends, etc. Its all about the how you heart approaches the topic of money. Is it yours to hoard and make more of it and all about you? Or do you want to serve God through your personal handling of his gift to you.

  24. Jillian says:

    I think as Trent is rightly pointing out here, it’s easy to tar all these books with the same brush, when some of them perhaps deserve a little attention. There are good and bad Christian finance writers, just as there are good and bad journalists, movie producers and science fiction novelists.

    I suppose there are people who wouldn’t read a book just because it’s Christian, but personally I find it quite rewarding to get different viewpoints on topics that interest me. You don’t learn anything if you only ever listen to people who agree with you. Don’t be so eager to take offence over trivial matters – often the most precious grains of wisdom are hidden in the least likely places!

  25. for pete's sake says:

    It seems odd to flag a book review because it may have Christian overtones, which would lead me to believe that one would also flag other books as humanistic, agnostic, and so on.

    Can’t the text, and the reviewer’s comments, stand for themselves?

    Besides, I’d hate to think that any approach to finances would leave God out of the equation, since many passages of scripture talk quite specifically about financial prudence and the consequences if one is haphazard about them.

  26. guinness416 says:

    What are some of the good ones then? I’m not opposed to reading christian money books (although as Irish and catholic I find american-style protestantism plenty weird and alienating at times) but the ones I’ve seen and paged through seem very, well, low end. Child-level language, big typeface, poorly edited, that type of stuff.

  27. Marsha says:

    What a range of interesting responses! I guess I think there’s a crossover between PF and faith because one’s core personal values and beliefs are involved in both. I also agree that linking the two in a obvious way can be done well or very poorly.

    FWIW, when I recommended a book to you (Trent) yesterday, I did not intend to be asking you to review it for your blog – it was just a personal FYI to you. I hope I did not offend.

  28. katy says:

    Good topic! I’m Jewish and I have read many personal finance books, several that you’ve recommended. I love Dave Ramsey’s money messages -I avoid his religious slant. We are simply old and new testament – so we get along fine.

    When reading any book – take what you need and leave the rest.

  29. Trent, a great post on a sticky subject. I can tell you put a great deal of thought into your article. Your awareness is off the chart. Nice job.

  30. Susan Page says:

    I could probably take a spiritually-directed book on personal finance, but I doubt I would read a Christian-specific one. There are so many different interpretations of Christianity–orthodox to evangelical to New Thought–that I can’t really see how any one book could purport to represent the “Christian” view of PF.

  31. justin says:

    1Sa 2:7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
    Pro 10:4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
    Pro 10:15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.
    Pro 13:7 There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
    Pro 14:20 The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.
    Pro 21:17 He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
    Pro 22:2 The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
    Pro 22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
    Pro 22:16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
    Pro 23:4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
    Pro 28:6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
    Pro 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
    Pro 28:20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.
    Pro 28:22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.
    Ecc 5:12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
    Jer 9:23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
    Mat 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Mat 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
    1Ti 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    Jas 1:11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
    Jas 5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
    Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
    Act 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
    Pro 14:21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
    Pro 17:5 Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
    Pro 19:1 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
    Pro 19:22 The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.
    Pro 28:15 As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
    Pro 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

  32. angie says:

    I find it odd that you consider yourself a Christian yet you write for a secular audience. Why do you feel you have to separate the two. Your writings, by nature, are generally filled with your personal opinions; however, you tend to approach this topic with great fear of how others are going to take you. There should be no fear in what you believe in.

    God has asked us to be good stewards of what we have been given here on earth. We cannot ignore that when we take finances into account. There is no seperation of God in any aspect of life.

    Maybe your tolerable book review could change someone’s life and eventually lead them to Christ all through a PF book that had a little Jesus in the mix.

  33. Michael G.R. says:

    Please keep the financial advice free from bronze-age superstition. Thanks.

  34. Lenore says:

    As an atheist, I don’t mind if you review a Christian book occasionally as long as you also present Buddhist, Wiccan, Islamic, Shinto, New Age, Animist, Jewish, Native American, Druidic, Taoist, Gaian, Scientologist, Voodoo and other mythological and philosophical perspectives ad infinitum whenever relevant. Quote anything from Shakespeare to African Proverbs to Karl Marx or Confucius if it’s useful financial advice. Wisdom takes many forms on this planet, so the wisest policy is listening to many voices, always attuned for the ring of truth. If this blog became an evangelical platform or chronic metaphysical bore, I’d be the first to stop reading. As it is, I’ll close with Joyous Solstice, Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, Festive Kwanzaa and Blessed New Year greetings to your diverse readership.

  35. Suzie says:

    I probably wouldn’t read a Christian PF book, but I’d be interested to read a review. I think you just need a little statement saying that it’s Christian-based monetary advice, just so we know.

    I also think it’d be awesome, as Lenore mentioned, to explore loads of religions’ perspectives on practical money issues. It’d make for a great series of posts!

  36. Suzanne Urban says:

    Thank you for your post. I find I too skip blogs, books etc. with a heavily religious tone. Why? even though I grew up with the Christian faith. I was raised not to jam my belief system down other people’s throats. It was considered bad form-like buying someone perfume for a gift-sort of indicating that they smell.

    I believe, one’s beliefs are personal as personal as one’s relationship with God or the universe or whomever they perceive as their maker.

    I also feel that those who select to indulge their books with their particular brand of Christian faith-appear to me at least-to need the support of others in order to back up what they believe.

    Believing is seeing you don’t need a back up team.

  37. Roxanne says:

    I would have serious concerns about any book I looked to for advice whose premise was religion. I have to trust that there is a valid connection in the first place, and in this case, I don’t.

    I can read Jesus for some pithy wisdom, but I also read that It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for the rich man to inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is motivation to grow my wealth?

    Christianity was developed and promoted for the little guy who was never going to be rich, or even necessarily comfortable. It is a faith tailored to the masses. Work hard, feed your family, give money to the church, wait for the Second Coming to cure your woes: these are the lessons of Christianity. It’s not a faith designed to help us climb the ladder of personal wealth; it’s a faith designed to help the poor feel okay about being, staying and dying poor.

    And, if the issue is whether Christian-themed PF books will be reviewed here, why not? A simple disclaimer is sufficient, and I’ll move along to other books.

  38. plonkee says:

    It’s in the post that the endless lists of Bible quotes doesn’t really make a coherent argument. Presumably, therefore, Justin (#20) is trying to be funny? He should keep the day job I reckon.

  39. I tend to like Christian finance books–and not because I share their theological assumptions.

    Rather, it’s because of the emphasis on stewardship–that what we have is not “ours.” I think that has relevance to how we use our money, our time, and our environment.

    See my new blog: frugalscholar.blogspot.com

  40. E.D. Gordon says:

    Thanks for keeping a clear head and an open mind in an increasingly unreasonably divided culture. Keeping this site useful, personable and free of glurge will certainly keep my interest.

  41. B says:

    Trent – what’s up with the posting times? they still say 8 am and 2pm but they are coming hours late?

  42. Backing up everything with a scripture can get annoying if that’s not something you appreciate, but I would say that most of the proverbs and many of the other verses can be taken out of the context of the Bible, seen as a “Chinese proverb”.

    Plenty of wisdom there.

  43. justin says:

    I think its funny that Trent and others think that the Bible has nothing to do with personal finance. Its a fact, that Jesus talked more about money than heaven and hell combined. A true Christian shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the Bible. Its the only book in the world that has no errors. (the KJV)

    Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. More than 25,000 sites showing some connection with the Old Testament period have been located in Bible lands. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, former professor of Semitic philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, said, “After forty-five years of scholarly research in Biblical textual studies and in language study. I have come now to the conviction that no man knows enough to assail the truthfulness of the Old Testament. Where there is sufficient documentary evidence to make an investigation, the statements of the Bible, in the original text, have stood the test.” Furthermore, the noted Dr. J.O. Kinnaman said, “of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts found by other archaeologists, not one has ever been discovered that contradicts or denies one word, phrase, clause, or sentence of the bible, but always confirms and verifies the facts of the Biblical record.” If one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then he must discard almost all literature of antiquity.

  44. Kim says:

    Comment #19 just proves the point that the biblical mumbojumbo is irrelevant to personal finance.

  45. Crono says:

    Where are all of the bible verses that say it’s OK to stone your children if they misbehave? Or perhaps the bed time story about unequal rights for gays etc etc. How do all of those tie into personal finance I wonder?

    The point is, the bible is pure rubbish and anyone that tries to draw parallels between that and anything that makes sense like personal fiance has to rethink their initial agenda.

  46. Troy says:

    Sorry Trent, but you are way off.

    Money doesn’t have its own set of rules, and it isn’t complicated.

    It is basic accounting. basic math. addition and subtraction. That is it.

    Money is simple. People are complex.

    Common sense and moral judement CERTAINLY apply to money behavior. That is what is lacking.

  47. margo says:

    @justin

    The KJV is not the original Bible, nor is it the exact translation of the original Bible. So are you saying that the Bible in its original Greek and Hebrew form was incorrect?

  48. almost there says:

    @#26,Justin, please try your arguements to convert people to the greatest story ever “sold” elsewhere. There are hundreds of books that refute the old stories of make believe, and religion in general. Not saying that there are not pearls of wisdom in the Bible but even Aesop’s Fables has wisdom. For christmas do yourself a favor and read the 2005 NYT Bestseller “Misquoting Jesus” on the errors in the bible written by a 30+ year christion bible scholar. Here’s to you, wishing for your eventual end of faith.

  49. justin says:

    thywordistrue.com

  50. margo says:

    Hilarious.

  51. justin says:

    Isa 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

  52. Mule Skinner says:

    Modern personal finance is a religion in itself. Reconciling that with one or another among the many varieties of Christian interpretation must be daunting. Perhaps someone should figure out which religion is most efficiently correlated with financial security — maybe Shinto, or Borneo animism — and write a book based on that.

  53. justin says:

    Exo 15:4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

    Remember the story of Moses crossing the red sea? God destroyed pharaoh’s army in the red sea. And divers find chariot wheels at the bottem of the red sea. Just a fairy tale???

    The Bible has never been proven to be historically wrong. Archeology always backs it up.

    I dare anyone to show me any mistakes in the King James Bible. There are none.

    Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the WORD WAS GOD.

    This means that Jesus Christ is the literally the word of God (the bible) Is you think the bible is a fairy tell, you are saying God doesn’t exist.

    psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

  54. Re 34 – You can’t argue with that kind of logic.

  55. Hope D says:

    I’ll take wisdom where I can find it. Being a Christian though, I need the advise in PF books to line up with my values. If not, I will chuck them as fast as an atheist would the Bible. I do not believe being a Christian makes you an expert on PF. But there are great PF experts that are Christian’s (Dave Ramsey, the late Larry Burkett).

  56. justin says:

    There once was a time when we never existed. But now that we exist, there will never be a time that we cease to exist. Everyone in the world will either go to heaven or hell when they die. The only way not to go to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

    Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

    Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    If I am wrong, that we must be saved to not go to hell, I have nothing to loose.

    If you are wrong, that the bible is just a bunch of fairy tales and we don’t need Jesus in our hearts. You have everything to loose.

  57. Tim says:

    Hi Trent,

    I just wanted to say I’ve always felt that your website has been open to everyone, and you seem to accept everyone as they are – and I think that’s fantastic!

    I hope you and your family have a great holiday, and wish you continued success with The Simple Dollar — and write about what you want to — people will keep coming back for more!

  58. Vicki says:

    Trent,
    It seems by the many anti-Christian comments that resulted from your post that you have struck a nerve.Are these the same people who preach tolerance & open-mindedness from their atheistic pulpits? I think so.
    Folks, let’s try to learn from each other. As a Christian, I will explore any book on personal finance & learn what I can.You should not be afraid of exploring the financial principles that the Bible or any other Christian book espouses. Don’t put yourself in a box & miss out on acquiring more knowledge.
    Good luck to all in becoming more financially responsible.

  59. liv says:

    “people who insist on sharing their religion with you rarely want you to share yours with them” – i’m not sure who said this but it sounds pretty relevant from these posts.

  60. Savvy Frugality says:

    To be clear, the Bible doesn’t state that money is bad, but the LOVE of money is bad. Money is a means to an end. If money is used properly, it’s not half bad, especially when we “share the wealth” with those less fortunate and do good works with our money.

    Personally, I have liked the materials and web site of Crown Financial Services. They have an awesome budgeting calculator, and a “Roadmap to Wealth” that is pretty useful in helping people get their finances in order. You don’t need to be a Christian to use the materials.

    Trent, you are right. I have always been troubled by the “prosperity ministries” that I have seen popping up in recent years, and with the state of today’s economy I can see how some might try to capitalize on it to grow these ministries, for all the wrong reasons.

  61. While, I am a Christian I’ve never read any personal finance material with ‘Christian overtones’, and I’m wondering how that plays out now.

    I don’t see how you would throw that all together; is it something like ‘And God said don’t lose money on crappy investments.” ?

    If it’s anything like those televangelists that tell little old people to plant ‘faith seeds’ then it seems like a crock to me. They talk to them like this is a magical investment, and just because they give money to this organization they will get four fold back for it.

    My Christian finance advice is that God wants you to prosper, but he expects you to learn how to do something. You’re grown now – figure it out.

  62. reulte says:

    I think Justin is a very good reason why Christians and Christian books alienate their audience. Justin, Jesus may have talked more about money, but you certainly don’t and it’s very aggravating to read (ok – I usually skip them) your long, posted, pasted quotes.

    Angie (#21) — I don’t find Trent’s hesitation fear-based, rather I find in it consideration for the diversity of his audience. And Angie — no matter how much you want it to be so, the world is full of non-Christians who are non-Christian by informed choice.

    Having said that, this non-Christian will admit to enjoy well-written Christian/religious-themed literature and non-fiction (including pf).

  63. Shevy says:

    Okay, I don’t usually get into religious discussions in comments and I actually own an Xtian PF book that talks extensively about tithing, how to set up your budget, etc. even though I’m an Observant Jew. I don’t agree with all of it, especially where it suggests that you leave your money to the church and tell your kids they’re on their own, but a lot of the advice is quite reasonable. I just ignore the scriptural references that don’t belong to my religion.

    However, Justin is waving a large red flag in insisting that the KJV version of his bible is without error.

    I’ll stick with pointing out a really basic error in translation. In the KJV the 23rd Psalm ends with the line “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the L-rd forever.”

    Except that the actual phrase in the original Hebrew is “auroch yamim” (transliterated). Auroch=long and yamim=days. So it really means “I will dwell in the house of the L-rd for long days” i.e. a long time. The Hebrew phrase that is normally translated as “forever” or “forever and ever” is “l’olam vaed”. It may seem like a harmless substitution, but for folks who believe that every word in Scripture is specific and is there for a reason, it is a subtle but significant change in the meaning of the verse.

    If Justin wishes to truly understand and appreciate his scriptures I would suggest that he study Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and then read them in the original form.

  64. Lola says:

    “If you think the bible is a fairy tell, you are saying God doesn’t exist”.
    Ok then, Justin: the bible is a fairy tale.
    Live with the fact that not everybody thinks like you.
    http://www.escrevalolaescreva.blogspot.com

  65. fran says:

    I feel like sound financial advice shouldn’t need religious references. If I wanted to read a religious book, I’d be in that section of the bookstore, not the finance section.

    Also, I’m curious how you feel about financial advice based on Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Athiest, or any other belief (or non-belief) system.

  66. Mule Skinner says:

    Looks like the responses break in to two parts: those who want the Christian perspective, and those who don’t. So, make sure to indicate which kind of book is being reviewed, and we can all make our choices.

    Be aware also that in addition to Christians and those who are culturally Christian but not committed, there are also numerous other religions persuasions. Muslims come to mind because they are not supposed to pay or collect interest. This would make for a very different set of concerns. The United States is more and more diverse not only in race and country of origin, and gender orthodoxy, but also in terms of religion.

  67. mbhunter says:

    I have many things to say about this post. Here are a few of them:

    1) There’s a difference between writing for a secular audience and writing to appeal to a secular audience. Christian writers can write for a secular audience without necessarily appealing to them.

    2) It could well be true that some of the p.f. books with religious themes you’ve read were awful, but I’ll bet there are plenty without religious themes that were awful, too.

    3) You say, “From my perspective, Christian themes are acceptable – and even welcomed – when they support a personal finance argument that makes sense on its own.” This is spoken from a secular worldview. A biblical worldview would place the Christian (biblical) theme as the foundation, and the personal finance theme would be accepted or not as to how well it supports what the Bible says about the matter.

    4) You say, “On the other hand, if you attempt to make a personal finance argument using Christianity as the sole backbone, you’re likely to fail.” Larry Burkett, if he were alive today, would likely take issue with that statement. First, you may fail, but according to whom? Second, it’s not enough to use Christianity merely as support for an argument. There has to be a change of heart and a Christian walk for this advice to bear fruit.

    5) You say, “You can’t simply apply the rules of common sense and good moral judgment to financial issues and expect immediate success … All of the faith-based ideas and positive thinking in the world can’t directly turn a nickel into a dime.” Of course not, but what _can_ you apply to financial issues with immediate success? This is not a failing of common sense and good moral (I guess you imply Christian) judgment. It’s just reinforcing the statement that if you work to get yourself into financial trouble, you’ll need to work to get yourself out.

  68. Jens says:

    Dear Trent
    While I really enjoy your posts, I would unsubscribe quickly, if you mixed any religion with personal finance. If mixed it would become a religius blog rather than a PF one.

  69. Glblguy says:

    Well, I had made a bunch of notes in an editor as I read through the article and comments, but mbhunter pretty much said everything I wanted to say.

    One point that does bother me though Trent. Your wrote: “On the other hand, if you attempt to make a personal finance argument using Christianity as the sole backbone, you’re likely to fail. Why? Money does not operate by the same rules that many aspects of life do. You can’t simply apply the rules of common sense and good moral judgment to financial issues and expect immediate success.”

    As you should know, to a Christian the Bible is the Word of God, written by God through the hand of men. Thus any financial advice that is backed up by scripture is thus backed up by God’s word. No other backbone is needed. The book of Psalms is chock full of personal finance advice and given it’s included in the Bible, I’d say your argument of “you can’t apply the rules of common sense and good moral judgment” is just plain wrong.

    Trent, don’t sacrifice your beliefs or faith for fear of your reader’s reaction. Peter did this and couldn’t live with himself.

    @Plonkee – You said: “I think that the problem with Christian themed anything is that they assume that all readers are Christian and that Christianity is self-evident.”

    If the book took a chapter or two to explain Christianity, would that make you more inclined to read it? I’m guessing not, and most likely would make you close it even quicker. Christian books are for an intended audience, and if you want to understand Christianity got to the source and read the Bible.

  70. ChristianPF says:

    @MBH
    well put, I agree with GLBL, I couldn’t have said it better.

  71. Battra92 says:

    I like to point to John Wesley’s Trilateral sermon when it comes to personal finance. It’s probably the simplest and best advice I’ve ever heard.

    Earn all you can (through honest, industrious work of course)

    Save all you can: Jesus tells us to live simply and to not worry much about earthly possessions, fine foods, extravagant living etc.

    Give all you can: Charity is a big part of the Christian faith and we should help whenever possible.

  72. DivaJean says:

    I gave up on reading Christian PF books or blogs long ago.

    I once got into a a heated discussion about whether it was right to give clothing, food, and/or money to a beggar on the street.

    All the “Christians” on the hater blog believed that doing anything was a waste of my money- be it buying a homeless person a meal, giving food or directing them to a soup kitchen, directing them to free clothing (or giving them clothes myself), or giving money.

    That said it all to me.

  73. Glblguy says:

    @DivaJean – That’s sad. We don’t all think that way. I recently bought dinner for a guy who was asking me for money for food. Did he really need it? I don’t know, but I slept with a clean conscience that evening.

  74. Peter says:

    I think a lot of people tend to skip or gloss over advice when it comes from a biblical viewpoint because they think its “religious” or “preachy” when in fact the Bible and Christian themed finance books do have a lot of good common sense things to teach about money. I think it’s that person’s loss to completely skip over the genre – they could learn a thing or two.

    Are there Christian finance books that are badly written, or aren’t very good? Of course. Are there badly written non-Christian finance books? Absolutely!

    I also think that its a bit simplistic to say that “Christian themes are acceptable – and even welcomed – when they support a personal finance argument that makes sense on its own.”

    I don’t think that everything we do with our money needs to make 100% financial sense. For example – giving. Our Christian faith says that we should give to the poor and those less fortunate than us. Does this make sense financially? Not really – we’re giving our hard earned money away! Does it make sense when squared with our faith? Yes. (I’m sure non-Christians could make a case for giving as well).

    Even with those few things that may not seem to make personal finance sense, most of the verses I read about money in the Bible DO make a ton of sense. Some of the major themes about money in the bible include how borrowing money can weigh you down, how making a financial plan can aid you in being successful, the necessity of having integrity in your financial dealings and how money can’t buy you happiness and contentment. Those things just make sense regardless of your faith!

    Here’s a great post on one of the Christian Finance blogs listing out verses in the bible about money. You’ll find that most of them are just good common sense, even if you aren’t a Christian!

    @DivaJean – i’m sorry if some folks were saying it wasn’t right to give aid to those on the streets. I don’t think most Christians think that way. I do believe in helping encourage people to do well on their own as well – but giving them a helping hand when they’re down is to be commended.

  75. J says:

    I used to be involved in youth group when I was a youth. Most people in the group were pretty cool, but there were those who were quite obnoxious about being “Christian”, ramming their view of faith right down your throat and trying to brainwash you, then using guilt and fear to try and make you do what they want. At the end of the day, it was considerably more about their power over you than anything else.

    It’s really sad, because there are tremendous lessons that Christianty teaches that get absolutely destroyed by overzealous evangelical people.

    And the same can be said for atheist/agnostic folks, too — it would be nice if everyone could quietly co-exist with other people’s faith choices.

  76. Bonnie says:

    Well said, J. The best comment on here so far. I am a semi-practicing Catholic and I NEVER ram any of my beliefs down anyone’s throat, but I do get very annoyed when atheist/agnostic friends and acquaintances show zero tolerance and actively make fun of people who believe in God. Totally unnecessary.

  77. Peter says:

    I don’t believe Christians should “ram their views” down people’s throat either. In the end you can’t force someone to come to a decision of faith, and you’re only hurting the situation by approaching it that way I think. It really speaks to your own issues if you approach it from a “I’m better than you” stance.

    I also don’t think that people should be afraid of sharing their faith and what it has done for them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and especially when you have a relationship with someone, it can be better received – as opposed to just going up to random people and telling them how sinful they are. That hardly ever works well, understandably.

  78. Jenn B says:

    A lot of the lessons taught by Christianity are shared by other faiths (for example, Hinduism – my faith) such as principles involve sharing wealth and saving and investing wisely rather than spending wastefully.

  79. Jenn B says:

    No errors, huh, Justin? I won’t get into arguments about Biblical inaccuracies right now, but may I point out that KJV is probably the most inaccurate of any of them, being written largely to appease King James? Get your facts straight before you try to become a missionary.

  80. plonkee says:

    @GLBL
    As it happens, I’m fairly well educated on Christianty, and I’ve actually read the bible :) . I don’t know if you’ve ever read an Islamic PF book, or even article, but the same thing tends to happen – I think all belief systems probably have similar effects on writers within them but it doesn’t make them appeal to me.

    @GLBL and mbhunter:
    I’m not sure whether or not this was Trent’s point, but if a personal finance book doesn’t stand up once you remove the Bible references, then it’s probably not a very helpful book. Whether it can be a true book is neither here nor there – I also require helpfulness in my pf books.

  81. mbhunter says:

    Plonkee said, “… if a personal finance book doesn’t stand up once you remove the Bible references, then it’s probably not a very helpful book.”

    OK, let’s try that. Pick up your favorite personal finance book and a Sharpie. Now, black out all of the references to the wisdom of thrift, the wisdom of saving, the wisdom of giving to charity, the wisdom of budgeting, the wisdom of investing, the wisdom of investing in the right things, the wisdom of maintaining your property, the wisdom of learning from your mistakes, the danger of going into debt, the danger of wanting to keep up with the Joneses, the danger of lending money to someone, the wisdom of hard work, the perils of divorce, the perils of lawsuits, and the wisdom of seeking counsel from various sources.

    How much of your favorite personal finance book can you read now? If there’s much of it left, it probably isn’t very good, is it?

    “But wait,” you protest. “I just wanted to remove the references to scripture in the book, not the ideas.” The Bible probably predates your favorite personal finance book by about 1900 years (unless your favorite personal finance book is the Qur’an, in which case it’s only a few hundred years) and you want to cite it without reference? Isn’t that plagiarism?

  82. plonkee says:

    @mbhunter:
    As you correctly guess, when I said “Bible references” I meant specific verses. I have no problem with information that is also contained in the Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, etc being in a personal finance book.

    Any appeals that rely strictly on using the Tao Te Ching as an authoritative source will not appeal to me. Books that use a quote from the Tao, and explain how that quote illustrates good financial practice are fine.

    Many good personal finance bloggers follow this approach at time (commonly substituting the Bible for the Tao) are helpful. Lists of quotes a la Justin may or may not be true, but they are not helpful.

  83. Glblguy says:

    @plonkee – I agree, scripture “dumped” while good intended, isn’t helpful. But using it to back up a point or as a basis for further discussion is a very powerful tool. Yes, I know you are very educated and my comment was more for the general “atheist” audience, not yourself. You are well versed and knowledgeable. I would say you are the exception.

  84. Nick says:

    I’m atheist, but I think you could tie some of the fundamental personal finance topics in with Christianity without much hassle. The same goes for everyday life, with religious people and not religious. Much of the fundamentals and morals are the same, don’t steal, don’t kill, etc.

  85. Michael says:

    Looks like one thing all religions have in common is that everyone’s competing to win the false humility award. Justin’s the best poster in these comments because at least he’s not lying.

  86. Jim says:

    Personally I think its just fine if you want to review books with a Christian slant as long as the religious aspect of the book is noted in the review.

  87. Thank you so much for your post! With the economy the way it is right now with all the layoffs and more to come; government spending and deficit out of control; the continued housing slump; one wonders where to turn for help. It sure is nice to know that there are debt management companies out there that can help folks avoid bankruptcy and still keep their heads above water. Thanks so much for the taking the time to post this information

  88. Tona says:

    I just wanted to say that I love this site

  89. Jason says:

    Dave Ramsey always says “The only way to have financial peace is to walk daily with the prince of peace”. What a steaming pant load. If that were true then Christians would all be well off and non-christians would not be. Make more than you spend! It doesn’t take an invisible man in the sky to do math for you and I wish people would stop telling others that they need help being independent!

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