Money matters in your marriage

 My mother never made more than $15,000 in a single year but she always managed to give or loan her children money, even into our late teens, early twenties, and for two of my siblings, even now. 

Year end and year out, one of the leading causes of divorce in America is financial problems. Many statistics tell us that, for every 10 marriages that end in divorce, money matters factor significantly in 4 of them. From yet another angle, in a wobbly economy, almost 1 out of every 4 couples stay together mainly because of financial dependency. One or both would “walk” but will not because of money constraints.

The commitment that ideally should typify a marriage is often rendered null and void because money takes precedence. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Greed is a sin, and many, desirous of money, compromise and even abandon their faith as they pursue the temporary rewards the world offers.

It’s interesting but it seems as though the more money we “make,” the more we spend and the more we need. Why is that? Well, what seems true doesn’t necessarily prove to be true.

My mother never made more than $15,000 in a single year but she always managed to give or loan her children money, even into our late teens, early twenties, and for two of my siblings, even now. (Now’s that a whole other blog!)

The bottom line is this: successful money management has less to do with how much we make, and more to do with how well we manage what we have.

Healthy marriages almost always include healthy finances. Faulty finances can create an unwanted parade of never-ending stress.

As Vanessa and I have matured over 27 years of marriage, we have learned to recognize that managing money is at heart a spiritual issue. Did you know that Jesus spoke more about money that He did about any other topic? Many of the teachings of Jesus cautioned, challenged, and course-corrected on our attitude toward God. Eleven of His 39 parables featured money as a primary storytelling device.

The late financial guru Larry Burkett said it so well: “You can tell more about the spiritual lives of a couple by looking at their checkbook than by anything else.”

As Christians, we know that everything we have comes from God, and our income, resources, and assets are entrusted from Him to us FOR HIS PURPOSES and TO HIS GLORY. When we can grasp that truth, it can make a great difference in prioritizing our spending habits. True financial success is not a matter of a huge surplus in our checking accounts; it is following God’s plan for our finances. We need to honor Him in our spending and our spending habits.

How are you doing with regard to yours and your family’s finances? Are you challenged in this area? If you are, there is no shame to it. Today, an astounding 77% of Americans (about 3 out of 4) are anxious about their personal finances, and 58% (nearly 6 out of 10) feel that their personal finances are controlling their life.

Every family is different, and couples have the prerogative to do things in a way that works for them, but here are a few suggestions that have worked well for us. We have learned through trial and error, through committing our finances first to God, and through transparent communications with each other, that it is possible and advisable to operate with oneness in our finances.

1. Give to the work of God and give cheerfully
For years I thought it was counterintuitive to give a percentage of our income to the church, but I’m thankful for a patient and encouraging wife and for a patient God whose Spirit gently moved me into a right frame of mind. Vanessa and I give cheerfully of our finances, grateful for all that God has done for us and eager to support His Kingdom Agenda through giving to the church and to people and causes for which the Spirit has moved us. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Many people use the tithe as a starting point for giving. What I would say is that you be fully persuaded in your own mind but recognize that law of sowing and reaping. We have chosen to sow bountifully.

2. Set aside funds for regular savings.
Discipline is such an important part of reaching spiritual maturity. Contingencies happen to all of us so work to set aside money for the unexpected – and the inevitable expenses that will come your way. Even if it’s $25 a check, start somewhere. That $25 a check adds up to $650 in a year if you’re paid every two weeks. Could you use $650? I sure could! Set aside money for vacations, education, medical expenses, even retirement.

As much as you can, work toward creating a nest egg so you don’t have to borrow and subject yourself to outrageous interest rates and lengthy, costly payback terms. A rule of thumb is do not plan your saving after you plan your spending. Save to help yourself down the line, and to help others.

3. Spend on your needs first, not your wants.
We need to learn to live within our means and be content in whatever state we are in. Setting a budget is a very useful tool, and there are also so many financial programs accessible to you online. If you have never had a budget, take 2-3 months and track your spending. Then take an objective look at your spending habits with your spouse, or if you’re single, with someone who isn’t afraid to be objective and who will tell you the truth. You might be surprised at how much wasteful spending you engage in. Afterward, cut out those habits that are hurting you financially. Commit to a plan and work it – and give it time to yield results. You can do it!

If you are a couple, please communicate the good, bad, and ugly of your finances with one another. Typically, one person handles the bills, etc., but it’s imperative that both of you are aware of your dollars and sense. Both of you need to be aware of potential pitfalls and setbacks, and hold one another accountable. Financial problems often start because one spouse is not aware of the situation.

Everything we have ultimately belongs to God and we should endeavor to use our finances wisely for the purposes and glory of God.

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