The Atlantic has recently published two stories that touch on Christianity and money. The first, “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?” by Hanna Rosin, covers the prosperity gospel. Here’s a snapshot from the piece that touches on Joel Osteen:
Your Best Life Now, which has fueled a TV show that Osteen claims is now seen in 200 million homes worldwide, opens with a story of a man on vacation in Hawaii. He was “a good man who had achieved a modest measure of success, but he was coasting along, thinking that he’d already reached his limits.” While sightseeing, he and his wife admired a gorgeous house on a hill. “I can’t even imagine living in a place like that,” he said. For this bit of self-deprecation and modesty, Osteen pities the man: “His own thoughts and attitudes,” he writes, “were condemning him to mediocrity,” or what is known in the gospel as the “defeated life.”
Ramsey has made a convert out of a secular journalist with one of the pricey M.B.A.s he likes to poke fun at. I have never felt as serenely in control of my finances as I have during these months of knowing that every single dollar is where it is supposed to be: either in the bank, or on a well-chaperoned date with our envelope organizer. The process has been surprisingly painless but, even more surprisingly, pleasant.
Of course, both my fiancé and I have already acquired our expensive educations and a pair of decent cars. We don’t have any kids, we don’t own a home, and it won’t hurt us to rent a few extra years until we have paid off the last of our student loans and can afford a 20 percent down payment on a house. It is easier for us to be weird than for most of our peers.
The way we handle and approach money is not insignificant, whether to ourselves, our culture, and most importantly, our God. Non-Christians are watching us to see how we handle money. Are we greedy? Materialistic? Wise? Generous? These matters will not settle how people think about the Christ we proclaim, but they certainly factor in. What’s more, they ultimately show how we think about Christ and what kind of Savior we consider Him to be.
I might say in closing that those seeking a wise financial path, one that leads out of debt, fear, and poverty, could do little better than to consult Dave Ramsey’s ministry. He’s got the whole man-of-the-people thing going on, but younger types shouldn’t ignore him for that reason. He’s wise, and his principles are biblical.