I wanted to know if, in general, Christians view or think about money differently than people that don’t practice a particular faith (I’ll call them “religiously neutral”). Of course I don’t want to launch into doing any academic, intense research about this, but I did decide to do a little informal research. I searched Google for “Christian personal finance” and then “Personal finance help” (I first did “Personal finance” but only got back news and magazine articles about the topic) to see if there was any interesting differences between what the different types of sites were focusing on. I found 10 sites in each category, skipping sites that didn’t give much information or weren’t what I was looking for. I was interested in blogs and websites that were trying to help people with their finances. Then, I tallied up the times the sites mentioned individual topics in their home pages or about sections, like “debt,” or “saving money.” I figure you could find just about any topic on any site, but the site author is going to put what they either deal with most or care about most on the main page or about section. Here’s what I found:
Although this data is quite informal and possibly would show very different patterns if I had searched for other things, like “Christian investing,” I still find the data to be quite fascinating. Why do Christians focus so much on debt? Are they in debt more than nonbelievers? Could this solely be the influence of Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett, and others? Better yet, should Christians be more focused on getting out of debt? Is it unethical or even immoral to owe someone something and not be doing all you can to repay them right away?
Clearly, there should be noted differences between how Christians view and think about money in comparison to nonbelievers. There is no reason or compulsion for an agnostic to donate 10% of her money to anyone. One would expect and hope that Christians are thinking about giving and tithing more than their non-christian counterparts. Investing could fall into this category, as well. Christians, although they also need to invest well, should have other goals in mind. For someone who is religiously neutral, it may be more reasonable to expect him to want to get rich just to be rich (although I argued in a previous post that no one really does that).
However, I question whether debt should also be in the category of distinctly different from anyone else. Can Christians not live a Christ-centered, fulfilling life while also being okay with carrying some debt (I’m thinking of low interest debt more than consumer debt)? One site I found even suggested that a Christian cannot spiritually grow until he is debt-free. Christ seemed to care more about our attitudes about money than the actual money itself, or its amount. Our money and our hearts can go in two separate directions.