This is the second in a series of posts excerpted from my new book, Preparing Your Heart for Marriage, a devotional for engaged couples. The second half of the book goes through every phrase of the traditional marriage vows so that when couples exchange their vows on their wedding day, they’ll have thought through, prayed through, and talked through all that they are saying. This week’s post is based on the promise to love each other for richer or poorer.
Money, Money, Money
“For richer, for poorer…”
Did you know that Jesus talked about money more than he talked about heaven and hell combined? Close to 800 scriptures discuss money. About one-fourth of Jesus’ parables are about money, and one out of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke discuss money.
Here’s the real shocker, one that people can hardly believe: Jesus actually talked about money more than he talked about love.
Why do you think this might be true?
Money carries a spiritual weight that can lift you up or hold you down. It will bless you as a couple or it can become a deep divide.
Every one of us has a unique relationship with money that rarely gets discussed and that usually remains unconscious. Our feelings about money are visceral, deep-seated in the core of our being, and many of us don’t even recognize the way these feelings motivate us. Some of us deeply fear losing our money, and we react with panic and anger if it is threatened. Others of us are driven by greed to always have a little bit more, and we will sacrifice some of our most intimate relationships to make more time and energy available to procure more money. I have seen some literally sacrifice their health and peace of mind to bring “just a little bit more” into what already looks like an abundant pile of resources. For still others of us, we’re driven by a simple selfishness that insists “what’s mine is mine” and are robbed of the tremendous joy found in giving. A few blessed souls have found that generosity with money brings great freedom.
The Bible does speak favorably of sensible saving (Genesis 41; Proverbs 21:20; Ecc. 11:12) but even more about generous giving (Deut. 15:10; Psalm 112:5; Prov. 22:9; Mal. 3:10; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). It seems to suggest that financial planning is a wise thing to do (Prov. 27:23-27) and exalts hard work over laziness (2 Thess. 3:10; Prov. 24:33-34). It also suggests that wanting to leave an inheritance behind is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 13:22). All these together suggest that managing your money in a God-honoring way will bless you and nurture your marriage, while ignoring Scriptural truths about handling money may bring much misery, frustration, and pain into your life and marriage. Not thinking about the best ways to manage your money will likely lead you to the default position of mishandling your money.
You and your future spouse will be combining your financial assets, so to become one you’re going to have to talk about your relationship with money. Even if you keep your money separate (though I hope you don’t), how you save and spend your money will impact each other. Take an honest look into your own soul to discover just how you feel about money, in a way you may never have thought about it before.
What gives you the most joy: a certain level of savings? Knowing that you’ve given away a certain amount? Seeing others smile when you meet a need? Getting to buy something you’ve wanted to buy for a very long time?
What gives you the most security? A certain credit score and a consistently growing retirement account? A secure job? Knowledge that your heavenly father has promised to provide all your needs?
When working with premarital couples, I usually find that their giving is rather haphazard. They often give primarily on the spur of the moment, without a plan, when someone presents a dramatic need. If they had a close relative die of cancer, it is likely that they give a yearly donation to a cancer foundation of some kind. Others will say they take advantage of a charity their employer will match. Still others like to simply claim that they “tithe” with their time, and therefore don’t really worry about how much money they give away.
As a Christian couple, you need to give, generously and often. Sometimes, it should hurt. At the end of the year, when you add up all that you gave for tax purposes, it’s okay to lose your breath for a second and think, “But we could have bought x, y, or z with that,” and then remind yourself, “Yet giving it to God’s work was the best thing we could have done.”
Where you give your money reflects your heart. It’s understandable that you would want to contribute to research to stop the spread of a disease that has afflicted a loved one; it’s a good thing to want to support a local symphony or library. Yet Christians are told to seek first (primarily, above all other good things) “the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We should be all about living for and celebrating the spread of Christ’s kingdom. That’s why my wife and I like to focus on works that glorify Jesus and spread his word. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever give to “civic” charities or medical pursuits. We do and we have. But it does mean that we want to invest most of what we give to work where God is the hero, and where God is specifically exalted.
If you’ve never studied this issue, consider listening to Andy Stanley’s three-part sermon series entitled “Crazy Like Us.” http://northpoint.org/messages/crazy-like-us/.
The reason I call evaluating your relationship with money “spiritual preparation” is that if you learn the lessons Andy talks about (there are three sermons; they would make for three great date night discussions), money will be a positive force for good in your marriage rather than something that rips you apart.
The spiritual secret is this: generosity blesses the generous even more than it blesses those the generous people give to.
Since money troubles are a major factor in marital break-ups, it’s a wise investment at this stage of your relationship for you and your future spouse to spend a few hours examining your hearts and the Scriptures, and making a plan to be wise stewards of the resources God brings your way. Let your upcoming wedding be the launching pad for a new relationship with money.
If money was important enough for Jesus to talk about so much, it should be important enough for you to search out his teachings on the subject and discover just why he emphasized our relationship with money.
Heavenly Father, let our upcoming union call us to a thoughtful awareness about our relationship with money. Help us to understand our fears and motivations and beliefs about money, and give us hearts that honor you and your truth when it comes to how we should handle, save, and give our money. In Jesus’ name, amen.