For Richer or Poorer

On our wedding day we committed to love each other through the difficult times and the not so difficult times. Handling money and the stress that comes with it, is part of what we committed to; it might also be known as “For Richer or Poorer”. Money, the presence of or the lack of, can be a great strain on a marriage. We have experienced both abundance and drought in our finances over the years. Early on in our marriage we were blessed with 2 great careers and stable, increasing finances. But the devil can still wreak havoc on a marriage with excess finances. We found that while we might have been able to afford a lot of things due to our increasing finances, we also found that we were more focused on chasing the next raise and promotion instead of making time to spend together. The late nights and early mornings at the office, along with the mega commutes left us feeling like roommates instead of companions and lovers.   All of this neglect contributed to our mounting marital problems. (1 Timothy 6:10; Ecclesiastes 5:10) Day after day, our choices to work longer hours cut into our couple time; I was more guilty of this than my husband. My priorities were work, God, work, God, and more work; and when children entered the picture it become even more difficult. Looking back, I am not sure when I thought I would spend time with my husband? There was no room for him due to my exploding career. The more praise I received at work, the more I strived to be better and better at work. (1 Timothy 6:17-19; Matthew 6:26) Soon, I was faced with a choice. Make time for my marriage or loose it. There is nothing wrong with a successful career and having the ability to provide for our family; but I learned the hard way that I was the one that set my priorities. If I wanted my marriage to succeed I could not neglect it.  Wanting my marriage to succeed, I left a job I loved for a job that would give me more time at home and more time to devote to my sinking marriage. This was a very difficult decision, not just because it came with less money, but mostly because I was leaving a job that I truly enjoyed for a job that didn’t seem to be me at all. But I guess I decided I wanted God’s promise for my marriage more than I wanted the joy of my job (more on this in a later post).

Later on in our marriage our finances swung the other way, to “poorer”, due to long-term illness and significant medical bills, many not covered by insurance. These mounting medical bills depleted our savings, and I lost the ability to contribute financially to our household because of my illness. Faced with a monthly financial short fall, we had to make some very difficult choices about where our money was going. Not having enough money each month increases the stress in a marriage and if husband and wife are disagreeing on how to make ends meet (what are the priorities), it can increase the stress even more.

So which is better – Richer or Poorer? Of course money has the ability to create so many options for us as a couple and as a family, but does the absence of money mean that we are doomed to have an unhappy marriage? I would like to propose neither “richer or poorer” is better for our marriage. It is how we approach finances that makes all the difference. Whose money is it? How do we spend or save what we have? And who decides where the money goes?

So whose money is it? The answer might surprise you; it’s God’s money! (Hebrews 13:5) God supplies the aptitude and skill we use to be successful in our jobs, and God supplies us with the health we need to be able to preform our job. It is God’s money and he trusts us, as a couple, to be good stewards of it.

Being good stewards of God’s money requires that we (husband and wife) combine and share all of our income and assets. At the time of our wedding vows, the two of us become one. (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; Eph 5:31) The intent of Christian marriage is for man and woman to stop functioning as individuals and to start functioning as one being, or one unit. Being one unit means that our finances having once been separate should now become one unit. There is a growing trend for married couples to have separate finances and separate assets. As a Servant Spouse I beg you to not follow this trend. Separate accounts & taking turns paying for things is not what God intended for a married couple that is truly one in the Lord. If you’re approaching your finances from a MINE and YOURS mentality, I would highly recommend that you pray about changing that. It should never matter who makes more or less, it should only matter that the money is ours (supplied by God) to be good stewards of. Separate finances create a division and goes against the “two become one” which is the foundation of a good Christian marriage. Sure, it might be easier to have more than one checking account for budgeting purposes and that is not only acceptable, it might be necessary to avoid overdrafts and staying within budget. For example, if your budget for groceries is $500 and one spouse does most of the grocery shopping, it might make since to have a separate account for the groceries that is managed mostly by one person. But it is the attitude behind the account that is important. Is it separate for budgetary purposes and the money is still OUR money and the expenses are still OUR expenses. Or is it separate because this is YOUR money and that is MINE.

The approach to finances that is dangerous is the approach where the husband and wife each have a separate account where they receive their monthly income, and then both husband and wife contribute a set amount to the “house” account to cover expenses. What is left in the husbands account is his and what is left in the wife’s account is hers. Usually in this approach only the husband has access to his account and only the wife has access to her account; with both having access to the house account.   This approach is very dangerous. From the beginning the spouse’s are saying “I love everything about you but I do not trust you with my finances. I don’t want to be responsible for you financially; I do not see our finances as a two become one thing.” This is a lack of commitment. Do you recognize what this approach is good for? This approach is good for roommates. Approaching our finances, as roommates when we are husband and wife is like “giving the finger” to your marriage, even if that is not your intent. Ok, so maybe “giving the finger” is a little bit strong, maybe it would be better said: approaching our finances as roommates when we are husband and wife weakens the foundation of a Christian marriage.

Having an OURS approach to finances means that no matter how many accounts you have for budgetary purposes, the money is OURS and the decisions around the money are OURS. Both spouses have access to all accounts when needed.

We have always viewed the finances as an OURS approach. When we married, my husband had college loans. Upon our union I took on his debt, along with him, and we paid them off together with OUR money. It was no longer just his responsibility; it was now OUR responsibility. Where we found difficulty was in our priorities. My husband wanted to save everything and saw no need to plant flowers and beautify our home. I wanted to save, but I also enjoyed gardening and wanted to beautify the home we were building together. At the beginning, if I purchased $20 worth of plants for the front yard it would create a huge fight about priorities because my husband just could not see the value in the plants. We could have decided at that moment to have separate finances and do the “house” account approach but instead we got creative. We decided that each month we would each receive a small amount of money that we could spend on things that were important to us and our spouse would agree to not question the validity of the purchase. This small amount of money over the years has ranged between $50 and $200 per month, depending on our over all family budget and income. Everything else we talk through and agree to before purchasing.

What if one of us is a compulsive spender and more than once has over-drafted the bank account due to excessive purchases? Even when we are an OUR money couple there might be situations where there needs to be limits on how much access one of us has to money. Maybe one of us is suffering with a gambling addiction or any other type of addiction that abuses money or maybe one of us is suffering with mental illness and manic spending episodes. In these situations it may be appropriate to limit the access one has to bank accounts so that the family finances can be protected and the spouse can be protected from themselves and their uncontrollable spending. In this situation even though the access might be temporarily limited, the attitude is still that it is OUR money. If this is an issue in your home we welcome you to send us a private comment (http://servantspouse.com/?page_id=60) and we would be happy to mentor you on how to respectfully accomplish this while not weakening the foundation of your Christian marriage and your OUR approach to finances.

Suggested Actions:

No matter which OURS approach you choose, there can be many “right” approaches, here are a few General Money Guidelines you might want to consider to strengthen your foundation as husband and wife to be ready for “richer or poorer”:

  1. Share the finances as OURS (husband and wife, together being stewards of God’s $) instead of the YOURS and MINE approach
  1. Support your spouse in pursuing God’s will for their career. If your spouse’s desired work results in less income, do your part so that one day they can do what God calls them to instead of what your debt or life style requires of them.
  • Be respectful of your spouse and their contribution to your finances. How we spent money affects our spouse and the pressure on them to make more $. The pressure to make more can drive them to work more and spend less time with the family, even if that is not our intent.
  • Support your wife in being a stay at home mom (if that is her desire). There is no job more important that caring for your children. Should you wife want to stop working or work part time to care for your children, put a plan in place to make that happen. You might not be able to accomplish it immediately, but over time you can make changes to accommodate such a great thing.
  • If both spouse’s work, be respectful of each other. Do not belittle your spouse or their career if they make less money.
  1. Make decisions about finances in a way that honors God and your spouse – It took my stubborn, ego driven head a while to realize that no matter the state of our finances, there were still 3 people in our marriage. It was God that blessed us with the gifts we used to earn income so we needed to include God in the decisions we made to spend and give our blessings.
  • Tithing is an important way to honor God. (Malachi 3:10; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Mark 12:41-44) Giving to God first is one way we include him in our finances. How much you give to God (church and other charitable causes) should be taken to prayer and given joyfully from your heart. (Matthew 6:21) If you are not giving to God first, you might want to pray about doing so.
  1. Choose your Spouse and Family over your Career – Instead of chasing the next promotion or praise at work, chase a life with your family that honors God and makes time for your spouse.
  • I also realized that no matter the state of our finances, I needed to choose my spouse and our relationship above financial success. Sometimes we might need to pass on a promotion or live in a smaller house in order to balance the finances instead of making a choice that keeps our marriage on the back burner.
  • Recognize that your career, while rewarding, will not get you into heaven, but your relationship with your spouse will!

 

Suggested Prayer (by Melissa B):

“Yahweh, God almighty, you created us for work and to serve one another. May the work we do bring honor to you and help build your kingdom. Help us to focus on your plan for our lives instead of chasing our careers and monetary rewards. Help us instead chase a loving relationship with each other and a happy, thriving family. Protect us from the temptations of this world and the evil one that entices us to seek fame and glory. Help us instead to seek honor, humility and your praise. Your loving servant. Amen!”

 

Scripture References in Blog (in the order they are referenced):

1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10 “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”

Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Mark 10:8 “and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”

1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week [Sunday] each of you should set aside whatever he can afford,”

Mark 12:41-44 “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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