Theming in Personal Finance: Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett Work Without Jesus?

A few days ago, I met an employee of a local Christian talk radio station. We had a nice conversation about a variety of things, ranging from the programming on the station he manages, people we both knew, and so on.

At the end of the conversation, this person gave me a pamphlet describing a local business that offers personal finance counseling locally. This business uses a lot of Christian material in the advice they offer – in fact, I could count twelve different direct quotes from scripture in the pamphlet I had in my hand.

When I took the pamphlet, the person I was talking to immediately compared the people at the business to Dave Ramsey and implied that their advice had an additional strength due to it being Biblically based.

This business – and people like Dave Ramsey and Lary Burkett that mix Christianity and personal finance – ties Christian beliefs and strong personal finance ideas together in ways that reinforce each other.

Let’s see if I can spell it out a bit more clearly. You have a person who is in personal finance trouble and they’re also a devout Christian. Their Christian faith attracts them to a person like Ramsey or Burkett, a person who ties some very solid pieces of personal finance to Christian themes. These tactics work, reinforcing to the person not only that the personal finance ideas work, but that their Christian faith is true as well.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing.

In fact, I think a lot of books try similar approaches, tying personal beliefs to personal finance. Your Money or Your Life spends at least some of the pages appealing to community-oriented people and environmentalists. A lot of books focus heavily on women’s issues, mixing some feminism in with the personal finance message.

Here’s the thing, though. The personal finance information provided by these books work without the other material. It’s because of the strength of that personal finance material that it’s able to be coupled sensibly with religious views and secular views, with liberal views and conservative views.

I often look at such material as being something of a candy coating around a bitter pill. To a person who really hasn’t evaluated their personal finances and their future, the things you have to do to find great money success seems really difficult. However, if you can tie the principles to other core values that already exist in your life, the ideas become a lot more palatable.

In fact, as micropublishing begins to take off, the door is open to this type of theming to ever-smaller groups. Personal finance for atheists? Personal finance for liberals? Personal finance for Christian conservatives (well, we already have that to an extent)? Personal finance for Democrats or Tea Party members?

Sure, why not? As long as the personal finance principles are true (and aren’t twisted into an advertisement for buying overpriced gold or other such nonsense), it’s a great idea to tie the core beliefs of someone to good personal finance practices. Why? Good personal finance practices work hand in hand with most human beliefs, and good personal finance practices allow people to be more effective at following those beliefs.

A Christian with good personal finance habits can support a mission. A liberal with good personal finance habits can run for office or financially support candidates they believe in.

Personal finance works. It can support you no matter what your other beliefs are. If you’re finding it difficult, there are almost always powerful ties between your other beliefs and personal finance. Never be afraid to bring them together.

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