FPU Revisited

Dear Reader,

I did a preliminary review of Financial Peace University recently, giving my initial thoughts having read most of the book and been through a couple of the lectures. This week I finished the book so I want to add a few additional thoughts. My initial reaction to FPU was fairly negative, but I did want to say that the last chapter of the book is the best one. It is on giving and discusses things like tithing, paying our pastors well, and additional charitable giving. This is a good chapter. I particularly liked the practical advice he gave on how his family gives (a substantial sum to a few well-chosen charities rather than spreading themselves too thin).

But while this chapter does a little to redeem the whole enterprise in my head, it is also hard not to think it is too little too late. Dave Ramsey mentions giving earlier on in his book and his course. He says that it should be one of the first items in our budgets. But he really does not emphasize it to the degree I think it should be. I don’t know quite how it would work but I would love to see a version fo the book where this chapter comes first and thereby sets the tone for the whole book.

Even at the end of the book, the whole thing still smacks of the prosperity gospel which says that God’s desire is to prosper you (as th world defines it) if you are faithful. Ramsey practically promises that if you are faithful and giving with small sums of money that God will bless you with larger ones. I believe he has seen this happen in many cases. But I don’t think it is something we can promise.

Which brings me back to what was and is my biggest criticism of FPU: it seems to ignore a whole branch of the Bible and of Christian history which says that God works in and through our hard times and which calls for self-sacrifice. You see I believe God’s ultimate goal for each of His children is not worldly prosperity or financial security but sanctification. And that sad truth is that with our hard hearts holiness is usually won through the hardest circumstances. God may call us to poverty. He may call us to work our fingers to the bone and never to see much progress. He may call us to give up a well-paying job to go preach in Timbuktu. Some He calls to give up everything to follow Him. Some He doesn’t. But my point is that Ramsey seems to only see half the equation.

So despite liking this last chapter, I am still basically where I started, thinking that this book and system probably help a lot of people who are in the right place to need it, but that it is a very one-sided take on the Christian experience. And whenever we emphasize one side of the truth over and against another we end up going stray.

Nebby

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I’m going through FPU now with my DH, who is the local Dave Ramsey affiliate (DH is a CFP and investment advisor). In the videos we watch in class, Dave points out more than once that its not prosperity that he’s preaching, but faithful obedience in the area of finances so that God may bless you in whatever way he sees fit. I think he is very passionate about helping people grasp the basics of finances and there are millions who have been through the class. Probably only thousands that stuck with it 🙂
    On the other hand, I see where you are coming from, and haven’t finished the book or class yet myself. The class should work for anybody, but it is aimed at Christians, those who already have a good foundation. I think if a non-Christian took the class and it was their first exposure to gospel, that they may find it more prosperity preaching, like you say.

    Reply

    • Thanks for laking the time to comment. I realize I am in a minority here and lots of people love Dave Ramsey, I do believe he helps people financially too. Some of my objections are concrete; they have to do with specific financial things and they mostly come from my husband the economist, But the bulk of my problem with FPU is subjective. It is about my perception of his attitiude (patronizing) and his tone. It is not so much that I think what he says is wrong as thta it seems all weighted toward one side and whenever we emphasize oen aspect of Christianity over anad against another we begin to go astray. In the most recent lecture I listend to, he kept saying “live like no one else now (meaning save) so you can live like no one else later (meaning you will be well-off).” I do see his goal as very money-focused and I also think he presents a picture of “if you do this, you will get that” and there is not a lot of talk about prayer or what God may have planned for your life. But it could well be that we are listening to the same talks and just hearing different things. He does, I believe, have secular counterparts to FPU which he has made to be used by companies and the like. If I compare it to something like Charlotte Mason’s approach to education, I would say that though some people claim to be secular CMers, one cannot truly be CM without some faith in God because such things are at the heart of her philosophy. I do not feel the same way about FPU. I think the biblical/faith bits are tangential, not central, to it.

      Reply

      • I agree that he does feel patronizing. My husband hassn’t follow his principles for us personally, but we are practicing it during this course. With all DH’s training in investments and finances, Dave Ramsey’s method is super-simplified but the practicality and simplicity of it is what makes it successful.

        Reply

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