So apparently rich people are all nutrition experts and fitness gurus . . . while the poor, God bless ’em, are lazy couch potatoes who spend their days munching salty chips in front of reality TV shows.
I got home from work a few days ago and discovered Dave Ramsey’s article 20 Things the Rich do that the Poor Don’t, reposted from Tom Corley. I also noticed a little bit of backlash going on around the web about poor. Good summary here, a great response by Rachel Held Evans and a heartwarming article by Caryn Rivadeneria called Things Broke People Do.
Poor people can make fun of themselves (thank you Jeff Foxworthy), or insult themselves, but rich people can get into serious trouble for trying.
“People are poor for a lot of reasons, and choice is certainly a factor, but categorically blaming poverty on lack of faith or lack of initiative is not only uninformed, it’s unbiblical”. Rachel Held Evans, What Dave Ramsey Gets Wrong About Poverty
Rachel is right. And there is a growing number of people, including myself and my family, who have become downwardly mobile to the point of voluntary poverty in order to make a difference among the global poor from the inside out. We live mostly in the first world but we live in solidarity with the one billion people on the planet who struggle like we do to make a living. We could go back anytime to our middle class existence – me as a Christian pastor and my wife as a Registered Nurse, but we would rather be missionaries who live incarnationally among the poor and are part of the solution for one of our world’s greatest challenges. There is a wonderful blessing that we have the privilege of taking from “Brother Poverty” and a theology that arises from it. But more about that another time.
Back to Dave Ramsey’s posting. Actually, we read it out aloud and our kids thought it was funny also. We are still chuckling over it.
1. Aerobic Exercise.
When I discovered Ramsey’s article, I had just completed a typical day working in the vineyard for minimum wage. I had I spent the whole day lifting taunt wires which I believe, and my aching back agrees, is serious aerobic exercise. And not only this but my pedometer told me I had walked a total of 17.5 kilometres, or 11 miles that day. My body was aching and even if I could afford to go to a gym to walk on a treadmill, I would rather sit on my ass and rest. Now my rich friends exercise at the gym but they get to do it every second day, giving their body time to recuperate. Me? I am back into it the next day and every day.
2. Junk Food.
Ok I do like a packet of potato chips but I usually only do this on Sunday afternoons with a beer and some sour cream to dip it into. Junk food is a bit too expensive for our budget so we limit it and celebrate it when those times come around. Coke or other fizzy soft drink is something we have only on Fridays with our movie. We call it “Fizzy Friday’s”. Although since our daughters brewed their own ginger beer a few weeks ago, we have not actually bought any. I do eat chocolate and like the occasion cookie/biscuit at work because it gives me energy for my labor intensive work. However, since we cannot afford to go to restaurants, our food is home-cooked and preservative-free. I bet it’s healthier than what my rich friends eat.
Apparently, the poor gamble and the rich speculate. One impoverishes families and the other crashes economies. I don’t do either. My pay check last week, due to 2 days of rain, was about US$200. I cannot afford to buy lottery tickets but I also choose not to because gambling creates a false mental future, which in turn generates an element of dissatisfaction with the present. And the Bible tells us that “contentment with godliness is great gain.” Contentment rules, and this is also why I avoid books by Christian financial advisors from the USA.
95% of Christian financial advisors who get paid large amounts to speak at megachurches do NOT mention that tithing has often been considered a heresy. The other 5% mentioned it once and were never invited back. Tallskinnykiwi
4. Rising early.
Ramsey’s list says that the wealthy get up 3 hours before work. I start work at 7:30am. Should I really get up at 4:30am? What will I gain? I am no genius but I think it is possible that the rich get up earlier because they live in exclusive gated communities which are far away from where they work and they have a long commute, giving them time to listen to audio books in their BMW’s. I walk to work because I live in a van down by the river, or more accuratey, a truck parked by the river, next to my vinegard. Yes, we SQUAT. Which is pretty common practise for other migrant workers in the orchards and vineyards around the world.
As it stands, I get up at 6am. Call me lazy if you like.
Unlike my comrades working retail, I am allowed to wear earphones so both my wife and I have listened to audio books while we work. We are very lucky. In the last month, she has listened to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Hugo’s Les Miserables, and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. In the last month, I took audio courses in Spanish, German, French, Czech and Chinese. I also listened to Anna Karinina which, btw, is a very LOOOOONG book; something that you don’t realize when you cannot see the physical version. Interestingly, both Anna Karinina and Les Miserables are about people who discover that happiness is not to be found in riches and actually adopt, as in the case of Tolstoys character Constanine Dmitrich Levin, a downwardly mobile lifestyle that embraces the joy of poverty and manual labor in the fields. Hmmmmm.
6. To do lists
Actually, I just deleted this. If it works for you, keep doing it.
7. Reality TV
I have no idea about reality TV shows. We have many episodes of Dr Who on our computer and a lot of movies, but we have not had a TV for 5 years. Our awesome flat screen TV was purchased for our kids with a Christmas gift from their grandmother in Portland, Oregon. But one day someone in church told us about a need for a flat screen TV in Burundi at a micro-credit bank called the HOPE FUND. At our children’s request, our dear TV was shipped to Africa. We do not miss it.
27% pull statistics out of their ass” Rucky, Democratic Underground
8. Speaking our Minds
Ramsay’s numbers say that 69% of the poor speak their minds and only 6% of the wealthy. Well . . . . it depends on HOW they speak their mind. Bloggers are generally wealthier than non-bloggers. But Christian book writers and publishers? I tend to think they are wealthy rather than poor. I might be wrong. But when you go to the next Christian booksellers convention, see many old trucks with gun racks are parked outside. I bet there are not many.
63% of rich people who recommend poor people read audio books are getting rich by selling audio books to poor people. Tallskinnykiwi
“79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.” Number 12, 20 Things the Rich do Every Day
This is ludicrous. Poor people don’t live in gated communities. Poor people don’t have security systems installed to keep people away. Poor people don’t join exclusive clubs. And if you study mission history you will notice that most people group movements towards God happen among the poor, precisely because they network. Except the poor never use that word. For them, socialising and being friends is just part of their struggle and their joy.
10. Teaching our Kids
Apparently, “only 1% of the poor teach success habits to their children”. I don’t know about that but we poor teach survival skills to our children: how to defend themselves, how to live on less money, how to cook, how to hunt, how to speak in other languages, how to make and mend their clothes. Essentially, how to be independent, resilient, and able to thrive in any culture that God calls them into. We don’t use the ‘success’ language. Jesus is the model. We want our kids to fulfil their calling, to walk their path, to carry their cross, to find what God has for them and to lean into it.
“Train a child in the way he should go.” (Prov. 22.6) Who knows what way they should go? It might be the way of a yuppie but then, it might just NOT!
My concern is not that Dave Ramsey does not understand the plight of the poor, but that Dave Ramsey does not understand the call to the poor.
What do you think?
Previous posts on poverty: