I recently thumbed through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book a bit while I was at Kinko’s printing off a large document. I didn’t read a ton, and there are many helpful things in there, to be sure. Further, Dave Ramsey has a very good ministry and is doing a great service.
But here’s something that doesn’t resonate with me. Quite often he would exhort people to save money and avoid debt by appealing to the fact that millionaires are frugal and avoid debt. “Millionaires don’t drive new cars — that’s how they became millionaires.”
The problem is that I don’t want to be a millionaire. That whole concept feels empty to me — “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else then.” I’m just not interested in that. I don’t want to make financially conservative decisions in order to build my own wealth.
What I’m interested in is helping people, seeking to do good, seeking to share, and being “hazardously liberal,” to use a phrase from John Piper, in serving others. Frugality put in the service of generosity — that’s a decent aim.
I’m sure Dave Ramsey would agree. When he refers to millionaires, he isn’t advocating that we should want to be one, but probably appealing to the fact that many people do. He’s not saying it’s good; he’s just acknowledging a desire many in society have, and appealing to it without approving it.
Still, I think it would be better to make clear that the aim in frugality (which I’m not convinced is a biblical virtue) is to serve others. That’s not only a more exciting life; it also keeps us from the trap of superficial frugality where we sacrifice the good of others in the name of financially conservative efficiency.