“Start children off on the right path. And even when they are old, they will not turn away from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
I have a great deal of respect for much of Dave Ramsey’s teaching. To encourage families to avoid insurmountable debt is a good thing. Burdensome debt places strain on marriages and financial stress damages the individual’s health.
My appreciation for Ramsey ends when he goes too far.
That is, of course, my opinion. An “Ask Ramsey” column appeared in our local newspaper recently. A mother wrote that her family had three children enrolled in a Christian school. She said that tuition payments were a challenge for them and that they were beginning to dip into their savings account to make tuition payments.
Ramsey replied with three points. One of his foundational principles is that savings are to be maintained at almost any cost. Private school tuition was expensive and not worth the cost. His own children were products of a public school and were good and moral individuals. Children should not be protected from the world in which they live by being put in bubbles.
My personal critique of Ramsey’s view is admittedly filtered through my own bias. I believe that God’s instructions for nurturing children are best carried out through Christian homes and schools.
Dave Ramsey seems to elevate financial balance sheets as one of the highest biblical standards. Certainly financial stewardship and the use of God’s resources is a great value for believers. But Scripture does not elevate finances above obedience and faithfulness, especially in the training and teaching of children. Put another way, God is more interested in telling the children so that the next generation will know than he is in the health of our personal bank accounts.
In my own family situation, my wife and I chose to save in advance so that we would have the resources to pay our tuition bills. When the paycheck arrived, we first wrote our church offering check and then the school tuition check. We believed that God will provide enough for us to live on. He never failed. More often than not, we didn’t have plenty. But we had enough.
I am glad that the Ramseys raised good and moral children. By God’s grace, my wife and I did, too. But we wanted our children to be more than good and moral adults: we wanted them to be rooted in God’s Word, to have a strong biblical foundation, and to understand that faith and life could never be separated. We wanted them to be equipped so that they could pass along the same beliefs and principles to our grandchildren. Christian schools and teachers were our invaluable partners.
Ramsey’s last point to this parent is the most troubling. Christian schools are not isolation booths; they are incubators. Christian schools are not intended to protect; they are designed to prepare. At least that is the goal of schools that I serve as part of Christian Schools International.
Yes, there is a certain element of protection for younger children in Christian schools. We want school to be safe, nurturing places. Christian schools do have clear beliefs and practices shared by home, school, and church. But as Jesus did with his disciples, children are taught on the rock solid foundation of Word and faith, and only after being well prepared and equipped are they sent out.
To label Christian schools as “kids in a fortified bubble” is a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of kingdom-advancing, disciples-making schools. I am ok with the idea of ‘prepared in a bubble to burst out of it to make a difference in the world’. But Ramsey implies that Christian schools are bubble-places for a bubble-life. Nothing is more inaccurate for the Christian schools that I serve.
So, Dave Ramsey, stick to advice about financial stewardship. You are good at it. But please stay away from suggesting that debt-free, financial goals supersede the biblical call to parents to train up their children in God’s ways. We will be faithful and obedient, even if it means dipping into our savings.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services