There is an old saying that “two can live as cheaply as one.” While idealistic, that statement is not realistic (unless you add the second part, “but only for half as long”). We live in a capitalist culture, so money is necessary to survive. A couple might think they can “live on love,” but Wal-Mart does not take “love” at the checkout counter. Love doesn’t pay the rent or mortgage. And the utility companies couldn’t care less how much you love your spouse; they’re still going to cut off your lights or water if you don’t pay the bill.
Year after year, money is consistently one of the top causes of marital conflict and divorce. Often, other issues can be traced back to money and the stresses associated with it. Skewed financial priorities in marriage can manifest under labels like addictive behaviors (workaholic, gambling, shopaholic, substance abuse, etc.), mid-life crisis, and more. Financial stresses can result in one or both partners acting out in inappropriate ways that range from deceitful behaviors (secret credit cards, hiding money from a spouse, lying about spending) to abusive behaviors, to illicit sexual behaviors. Financial woes are also often attached to medical problems such as anxiety and depression.
Given the power money and wealth can have, it’s no wonder scripture has so much to say about it. But the ironic thing about money is that for all its power, it really doesn’t have any power. You see, money is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. In-and-of-itself, money is neither moral nor immoral. It simply is. Like everything else, it can be used properly and bring a husband and wife closer together and closer to God, or it can be used foolishly and drive a wedge between spouses while becoming an idol that replaces God.
Money is a magnifier. It takes the impulses and tendencies you already have and makes them obvious. If you are greedy, money will make you more so. If you obsess over control, money will reveal that. If you are irresponsible, it will be reflected in how you use your finances. If you are hateful, you will try to bully and manipulate people through money. Money is a mirror into what is already in your heart, and it will be reflected into your marriage.
So how do we magnify and reflect the right things for building a healthy, Christ-centered marriage? Here are a few key principles:
- Never forget money is a spiritual matter. Is Christ glorified in how you use your money?
- You and your spouse have to be on the same page. When you agree on finances, you bring your priorities together, and spiritual priorities are revealed in the physical realities of how you use your finances.
- You and your spouse need equal input. The marriage relationship requires that both spouses be involved in fully knowing how much is coming in, how much is going out, and where the money is going. In marriage you are one, not two living in the same household. The way you use money is a gauge—it is a gauge of your love, respect, and honor for your spouse. Equal input builds up those qualities, while giving you a deeper understanding of what is important to each of you individually and what is important to you together as a couple.
- Budget. If you don’t manage your money, your money will consistently manage you. A budget allows you to be realistic about how much you have and what you honestly can and cannot do with your finances. There are plenty of programs and resources for helping couples prioritize and manage money. For the good of your relationship, find some system that you can both agree on and share in.
- Learn to discern between wants and needs. In an advertising culture that thrives on creating discontentment, it can be easy to label wants as needs. When you learn to discern wants from needs, managing money becomes a much easier task.
- Don’t get caught up in materialism. The more obsessed you become in pursuing “stuff,” the less likely you will be to pursue each other. If you do not find joy and contentment in your marriage without money, you will not find it with money. Money might mask or suppress certain issues, but problems that existed before you have money will resurface after you have money, and often in worse ways.
- Give. The greatest way to free yourself spiritually is by looking beyond yourself to others. When you and your spouse participate together in giving to others, it does something to your own relationship. No matter how much you have, God has given to you generously. Share God’s goodness with others so that they can see him in your own marriage relationship.
- Remember that life happens, so save. People get laid off and fired. Economies tank. Cars break down. Kids go to college. Medical bills happen. Retirement eventually comes. Saving is not an excuse for being stingy or greedy, but it is wise to have some reserves built up (Proverbs 21:20). Our trust is in God who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers (Matthew 6:25-34), but God also gives us the wisdom to not waste what we have, and the commission to take care of our own families’ needs.
What does God want from my marriage?
A Weekend Marriage Enrichment Retreat
Friday-Sunday, March 7-9, 2014
Edgewater at the Aquarium Hotel and Conference Center
Limited to 30 couples
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
Top image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_784689_a-bride-and-groom-on-a-money-background.html'>karenr / 123RF Stock Photo</a>