I found this through a tweet from my friend Rachel Stone: Dave Ramsey posted a list of things rich people supposedly do while poor people do not. I’ll give you just a sample from the list, along with my thoughts on them. (I could have done this all the way through the list, but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Besides, reading all 20 might turn your stomach as much as it did mine.)
1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. [Ever heard of a food desert, Dave Ramsey? Those on lower incomes have significant barriers to access high nutrition/low calorie food. Wealthier people can jump in the car and drive to get it.]
4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people. [Are you seriously suggesting that poor people don’t listen to audio books on their commute because they’re poor? How about comparing how each wealth group gets to work, assuming the poorer people even have jobs to commute to.]
11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% for poor. [Don’t you dare say what’s on your mind. Only poor people do that!]
Put aside the fact that Ramsey gives no support for the percentages (and I’m tempted to just say that 63% of all percentages are made up on the spot anyway, or just rely on the view of statistics popularized by Mark Twain). What’s really galling is how even if the numbers were valid they’re still worthless. It’s an instance of how statistics without context can be dangerous.
First, how is this list supposed to minister to those most in need? All it really says is that if you have some money, here’s a way to get more of it. Not a single item on the list translates into a reasonably effective action item for those who are truly destitute.
Second, each of these items is hurtful. Hey all you poor people: you wouldn’t be so poor if you just learned to keep your traps shut! (Item 11.) And besides, what does the list’s author even mean by saying what’s “on their mind”?
Third, I can’t imagine Jesus saying a single one of those items even if they were true. Not a single one. Jesus said he came to comfort those in need. He is the doctor who heals the sick. “A bruised reed he will not break.” (Matthew 12:20.)
I used to be neutral about Dave Ramsey’s ministry. A lot of people have said his budgeting workshops and finance books have helped them, but I figured they just weren’t my style.
I’m no longer neutral about his ministry. I’m praying for him to stop this type of hurtful enterprise, and until he does I’m also praying that people will discern for themselves whether he’s a source of sound advice or not.
Because contrary to what the inclusion of that list on his site strongly implies, Jesus did not teach us how to be rich in the things of this world. He taught us to place our hope in him, and enjoy the heavenly riches of his inheritance.
This leads us to a response that is very different from Ramsey’s call to amass wealth while denigrating those who are less well off. As Paul was finishing his letter to the Galatians, he emphasized that they should focus on things above and not pursue worldly pleasures because that only leads to destruction. And how did he tell them to avoid those earthly pleasures? By looking to the good of everyone around us:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:20.)
The sad truth is that when Ramsey posted that list on his blog for his thousands of readers to see he not only did not do good to others, he especially did not do good to the people in the family of believers who look to him for advice.
There’s an easy fix to this, of course. He can delete the list.*
*Mr. Ramsey later deleted his post but left up a link to another article he wrote with five of the twenty “habits” discussed.