An Open Letter to Dave Ramsey about “20 Things”

There’s been a lot going around the blogosphere about 20 Things The Rich Do Every Day. I believe most of the criticism of “20 Things” is warranted. Instead of rehashing the arguments others have put out, I’m just going to post links to the best writings:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/november/things-broke-people-do.html?start=1
http://benirwin.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/20-things-the-poor-do-every-day/

I  don’t care about exposing the errors of the list of 20; other people have done an excellent job pointing those out (see links above). I feel far more concerned with Dave Ramsey’s response to the criticism. The rest of this blog post is an open letter to Dave Ramsey.

Dear Brother Dave,

I took FPU in the Spring of 2012. I enjoyed it, and I use the principles you laid out to this day. I’ve had a bit of a rough go. But, because we saved and saved when we could, we’re able to ride out the rough patch we’re in at the moment.

In general, I find your resources helpful and engaging. I think your lessons contain far more good than bad. I believe you’re worth hearing and taking seriously, which is why I have to take you to task for your defense of “20 Things”.

You had an opportunity to take the criticism in careful consideration and try to see things from another person’s shoes. But you didn’t. You told the criticizers they’re just wrong and stupid and immature. Let me tell you something: if someone is wrong, stupid, and immature, do one of 2 things. Either set the record straight, or ignore it. Instead, you chose to add fuel to the fire. Your pride got the better of you.

About the people in 3rd world countries… Brother Dave, if you’re listening, please hear me: they are people too, and they deserve your attention no less than a millionaire or me. If you truly have something to teach about money, then there’s no reason for it not to work outside the 1st world.

Brother Dave, you should speak tenderly, with kindness and understanding, being slow to speak and quick to listen when it comes to the poor. You did well to say:

Biblically speaking, poverty is caused and perpetuated primarily by some combination of three things:

1. Personal habits, choices and character;
2. Oppression by people taking advantage of the poor;
3. The myriad of problems encountered if born in a third-world economy.

You’ve addressed #2 by talking about gambling, lotteries, and payday loan stores. In the US, these are small beans in comparison to the biggest one of them all: insufficient wages. Many people work a full-time job, but it’s not enough to take care of the “four walls” (housing, transportation, clothing, and food). And, it’s not because the people don’t work hard enough, in general. It’s because the employer doesn’t pay enough. (I don’t expect you to believe me when I say that. It took a lot of study and sifting through the cruft to figure out exactly how poverty happens in this great nation. There’s no one single factor, but I believe wage suppression is the greatest.)

You followed up the above by saying, “If you believe that our economy and culture in the U.S. are so broken that making better choices does not produce better results, then you have a problem. At that point your liberal ideology has left the Scriptures and your politics have caused you to become a fatalist.” Brother Dave, that is just flat-out false. The Bible is clearly states God will right the wrongs on Judgement Day and not one moment before. Instead, you’re preaching a fallacy:

The just-world phenomenon is a term referring to people’s tendency to believe that the world is just and that people get what they deserve. Because people want to believe that the world is fair, they will look for ways to explain or rationalize away injustice – often by blaming the victim.

Those with this belief tend to think that when bad things happen to people, it is because these individuals are bad people or have done something to deserve their misfortune. Conversely, this belief also leads people to think that when good things happen to people it is because those individuals are good and deserving of their happy fortune.

http://psychology.about.com/od/jindex/f/just-world-phenomenon.htm

In a just world, better choices produce better results. In a just world, you reap what you sow. However, sin and evil reign in this world, for a time, and so better choices may produce better results or worse results.

I could go on and on. However, rather than rake you over the coals, I want to bring your attention to what I believe is the main issue with your teachings: your understanding of Proverbs. You see, a proverb is not a promise. Proverbs is not a collection of God’s promises to His people. Proverbs are observations. Yes, if you make good choices, things will tend to go well with you. Yes, if you invest well, your money will tend to grow. Yes, if you train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will, most likely, not depart from it. That’s the nature of a proverb. It’s an observation of the goodwill and “common grace” of God but not a promise.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I understand you’re busy, and I’m sure this whole situation would be painful for pretty much anybody. I hope and pray you’ll take what I have to say to heart and re-think “20 Things”.

Kaleb Marshall

Now to everybody who isn’t Dave Ramsey: What I said up there about proverbs not being promises goes for Dave Ramsey’s writings too. By and large, Dave Ramsey’s advice is good and sound. Please don’t let this bad apple spoil the whole batch for you. It may not apply to you (it doesn’t apply to me right now), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful and worthwhile for many people. Yes, you have to show care and attention with his writings because of stuff like the just world fallacy. You have to take care with any book you read. There’s more than enough gold to make up for the bits of iron pyrite you find now and again.

What Joel Osteen Does Right

While looking at a different news item, I saw a link to a video for a sermon by Joel Osteen.

I have a lot more bad things to say about Joel Osteen than good. Far and away, my biggest critique of him is that he doesn’t preach the Gospel. He doesn’t preach Jesus Christ crucified for our sins. My second biggest critique is that he believes in the “just world” fallacy. I want to take a moment, though, to pull out a couple of things he does right. I firmly believe that as a whole, we should reject Osteen’s teaching, but there’s one thing he does exceedingly well:

Joel Osteen designs his message to be a constant source of encouragement. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 says “God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” (The Message)

How have you been encouraged in your life? How have you encouraged others? How could you encourage more?

Joel Osteen also tells stories. Lots of stories. The power of narrative is that it connects strongly with people.

How are your storytelling skills? When’s the last time you told a story? How did it connect with people?

Linux Distro Creation, Up Goer 5 Style

I used the Up Goer Five text editor to tell you about creating a Linux distro:

I write computer talk that only computers and other people who talk to computers can understand. I take this talk and make the computer make it shorter and faster. Then only the computer can understand it.

I give away my computer talk for free. People like to use my computer stuff and they tell me what they think I should make better or do different.