Questions About Your Personal Finances? Read the Bible

Howard Dayton, a self-described former "greedy" businessman, underwent a transformation before becoming a self-proclaimed guru on how to spend money God's way.

He believes that if people handle money according to scripture, it's possible to have "a greater relationship with Christ." But he navigated a rocky path to arrive at that realization.

Today, his empire includes a radio show, dozens of books and a financial organization.

More than 1,000 radio stations broadcast his program, which reaches about 2 million people each week.

His courses on how to manage personal and business finances, according to the Bible, are taught in tens of thousands of churches in the U.S., and 49 countries around the globe. His Atlanta-based organization, Crown Financial Ministries, is one of the leaders in what's become a cottage industry of evangelical financial advice.

Dayton said on his financial DVD, "Business By The Book," that "the principles you're about to learn have changed my life."

"First, we open and close each class in prayer," Dayton said on the DVD. "And we actually recommend that people pray on their knees as a visual way to honor God."

Financial Advice Straight from the Bible

The Bible may have been written long before the IRS, mortgages or IRAs came into existence, but Dayton said it's still "incredibly practical."

"Obviously, it doesn't deal with home mortgages and Roth IRAs, and that sort of thing. But the basic fundamental principles are there," he said.

One of those principles: Debt is bad. As it says in Proverbs 22:7, "The borrower is the servant to the lender."

Debt is not a sin, according to Dayton, although he notes that it is discouraged in scripture.

"It's not a 'Thou shalt not be in debt, or else,'" Dayton said. "But it's a principle of life that [you] should seek to get out of debt as quickly as you can."

Dayton understands families must take out loans for big ticket items such as a home, but he tells people like Kristen and Jason Pruitt to save aggressively to pay off that debt early.

"Our spending before Crown [Financial Ministries], there was no rhyme or reason," Kristen said. "If we wanted something, we'd go out and get it."

Before they took Dayton's course, the Pruitts said they were in credit card debt and financial disarray. Following Dayton's tough-love, tighten-the-belt advice, made them financially secure enough to adopt three young children ... expanding their family to seven people.

Dayton asked them to keep cash in envelopes meant for specific expenses, such as groceries.

"And when the money's gone, you know we wait for pay day, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!" Kristin said.

Combating Impulse Spending

"I think prayer is part of it. I really do," Dayton said.

He claims to practice what he preaches. Dayton and his wife Bev have paid off their home and cars. They keep one credit card, and pay it off immediately after using it.

But Dayton hasn't always been this way — certainly not when he was an aggressive young deal-maker in the restaurant and real estate businesses.

At one point, he said, money was his God.

"It was my total focus in life," he said. "I literally didn't care about people. I just wanted to make as much money as I could."

Dayton got himself into some serious debt before he found God. That's when he started to comb through the Bible for financial wisdom.

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