GAINESVILLE, Ga., Jan. 24, 2008— -- 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."
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.