Dave Ramsey has urged pastors to refrain from preaching sermons about tithing "to broke people" — unless they first address debt and budgeting from the pulpit.
During a recent interview, the CEO of Ramsey Solutions and author of Financial Peace University, said that he regularly tells pastors to stop stressing the importance of tithing to congregants who aren't good stewards of their money.
"Unless," he clarified, "you've done two sermons on ... debt — one on getting out of debt and one on getting on a budget."
"That's the ratio for me instead of just tithe, tithe, tithe," he said. But when pastors fail to address debt and setting a budget, he said, the reaction to a sermon about tithing is often "yeah right, I've got a light bill. That's a great spiritual concept. Maybe someday I'll get around to that.'"
Getting out of debt leads to giving, the financial expert said, "Because if you're out of debt and on a budget and you love Jesus, I think tithing is a natural thing that occurs."
Still, Ramsey detailed his "incredible love of pastors," describing most of them as "underappreciated" and "underpaid," adding that pastors "could take that same skill set in the marketplace in most cases and make more money."
In an address delivered at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June, Ramsey told pastors: "When you stand up in front of your congregation, you're looking at a large number of people who do not have the ability to handle their money."
"Quit preaching tithe lessons to broke people," he said. "Let's teach them how to get on a budget. ... The natural byproduct of a Jesus lover when they have money is giving."
During the session, Ramsey offered Financial Peace University to pastors at the SBC for free, saying, "We want you to go through the class as our gift to say thank you for who you are and how you serve the Kingdom of God."
The best-selling author said his life was changed when a Christian businessman pointed him to Jesus after he lost everything he owned due to poor money management.
"I met Jesus on the way up," he shared. "I got to know Him on the way down. With a brand-new baby and a toddler and a marriage hanging on by a thread, we finally hit bottom at 28 years old. We were bankrupt. I remember standing in the shower with it so hot I could barely stand it, and I would stand there and cry because I didn't know what to do. I was so scared I couldn't breathe."
After embracing Christianity, Ramsey said he decided to handle his finances differently, contending that "When the Word of God intersects your life, it changes the trajectory of your life permanently."
According to statistics, only around 10-12 percent of all Christians actually tithe, or give one-tenth of their income to the Church.
In an op-ed for CP, Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, encouraged believers to tithe regardless of their financial situation: "Remember that giving is not a tax or a legal requirement to please God, but a voluntary act of worship. It is a tangible way to express our love to God," he explained. "Give, even if you can only afford $1. As you give, ask God to multiply it for His Kingdom."
"At the same time, I recommend that you begin to save so you can establish an emergency savings account," he added. "It is important to give first, then save next, even if it is a very small amount in each category! By working on these goals simultaneously, you will begin to make important changes in the way you manage your income."
"When the offering plate comes your way, thank God for all He's given you and that your heart's desire is to give more to Him," Bentley said. "Don't worry that your gift is small. It's between you and God!'