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    Mar 06, 2022

    Class 9: Money

    Series: Marriage

    Category: Core Seminars, Children, Marriage


    Marriage gurus say that the “big three” in conflict are sex, parenting, and money. Why do husbands and wives fight about money?  And how can we learn to make the financial part of our marriage a joy and not a burden?  That’s what we want to think about today as we consider this topic of marriage and money.


    Marriage & Money

    Making Money a Joy and Not a Burden 

    Marriage gurus say that the “big three” in conflict are sex, parenting, and money. Why do husbands and wives fight about money?  And how can we learn to make the financial part of our marriage a joy and not a burden?  That’s what we want to think about today as we consider this topic of marriage and money.

    Money is a Spiritual Issue

    The place to begin is to understand that money is a spiritual issue, not merely a financial one. In a materialistic society, we can sometimes be preoccupied with money and its common concerns. How much do we invest? Can Christians have debt?  If they can, how much is too much?  How can I buy a home?  But we know that money can’t buy happiness, right? 

    What we don’t want to do is to falsely divide our life into two categories: financial management on the one hand, which is filled with wise, practical thinking, but not necessarily anything biblical; and spiritual issues on the other. If we’re Christians, then all of life should fall under the reign of Jesus, including our finances.

    In Matthew 6:24 Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  The term “serve” connotes someone being a slave to someone or something.  A Christian disciple cannot have divided loyalties. Money must not be a believer’s master. That role is only for Christ.  He is to be first in all things, which means our Christian priorities should guide and influence our handling of money.  How you steward your money is fundamentally a spiritual issue.  Your money can be used for sanctified personal and kingdom purposes; or it can be a burden and a hindrance to your relationship with God.

    We are to be responsible to provide for our families, be they families of one or of many. So we will normally engage in some level of planning, investing, and saving in this world.  But the challenge is not put our ultimate hope and security in these things.  As Proverbs says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall.” (11:28).  Paul writes to Timothy, “17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Tim 6:17-19).  Rather than trusting in wealth, which is uncertain, we are to put our hope in God, who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  So once again, your money is a spiritual issue.  If we put our hope in the right place—in God, not in wealth—it affects how we live (vs. 18) and it allows us to lay up treasures in the coming age so that we can take hold of true life (that is, spiritual fellowship with God, verse 19).

    With that in view then, let’s think through how these spiritual priorities affect various aspects of how we handle money in marriage, though the lens of the family budget.


    The Family Budget: A List of Values

    What is a budget? Fundamentally, it’s a list of values. And that’s why it is so useful not primarily as a financial tool but as a spiritual tool, and in marriage, as a communication tool. Money in and of itself is not anything.  Money is a proxy for value.  So when we fight over our money, we fight over what we value. 

    We learn these values from different places (family, church, education, etc.).  If both husband and wife are believers then values will hopefully be similar in many ways.  As Christians, you treasure God and his kingdom more than your own personal happiness.  You want to have a generous spirit.  You desire to steward your resources well. And yet…even if you’re both Christians, you will have learned different financial values because of your differing educations, upbringings, and experiences.

    [Ideally, tell a story similar to the one below from your own marriage.]

    [Story about guy and gal at gas station: I had a friend of mine who told me how he and his wife got into their first fight about money.  On their way back from their honeymoon, the husband pulled into a gas station.  These were the days when they didn’t have pay at the pump, so he went inside to the register to pay for his gas.  His wife came over and dropped a few things on the counter just as he was about to pay.  He says to her, “What are you doing?  We don’t need that stuff?”  And, quite frankly, she was offended by his response.  Well, what’s happening here?  You pull back the curtain, you come to find out that the financial values they learned at gas stations in their upbringings were different.  The wife was daddy’s princess (the only girl in the family) so whenever her daddy pulled over at a gas station, she was allowed to buy anything she wanted and he’d pay for it when he paid for his gas.  The husband grew up in a family of all boys, and whenever they stopped at a gas station, the only thing his mother would let them do is get out of the car to go to the rest room.  They were never allowed to buy anything. Right there you see two family cultures coming into conflict with one another.] 

    There’s three challenges here that most couples encounter early in marriage that I’d like to point out:

    • Your financial values are most likely primarily intuitive, which means you probably couldn’t articulate them very clearly when you were dating and engaged. But these implicit values will become explicit in marriage, as they conflict with each other.
    • Your financial values probably feel more moral to you than they really are. That is, you look at your husband’s purchase of a $200 round of golf and you think not merely “hey—I wouldn’t spend that much” but “it’s wrong to spend that much.” Whereas you might not bat an eye at dropping $200 for a nice dinner for two.
    • Those moral-feeling, primarily intuitive financial values may feel like they’re rooted in standards of right and wrong, but most likely they’re rooted more deeply in your parents’ financial values than you realize, either as unconscious internalization of them or as a very conscious rejection of them. That is, the reason $200 for dinner doesn’t feel immoral but $200 for golf does is that your dad really prioritized nice dates with your mom, and you admire your parents’ marriage.

    So what do you do with these sometimes conflicting, moral-feeling, primarily-intuitive, heavily-influenced-by-your-parents financial values? Well, left unexamined you fight about them. Potentially a lot.

    Or…better idea…you can create a common set of values; a shared value system. And that’s the family budget. In forming a family budget, your intuitive values are examined, questioned, and agreed on.  When a husband and wife work through the details and form a budget together, you’re answering the question, “What do we mutually value?” A family budget is a primary way to give expression to what’s important to the two of you.

    That’s an significant way in which having a family budget—and sticking to it—prevents most conflict about money in a marriage. It takes financial conversations from being reactive and constraint-driven and makes them proactive and opportunity-driven. That is, not “how could you have spent $200 on a game of golf! Don’t you know we can’t afford that!?” But instead, “if we drive to see my parents at Christmas instead of flying, and if you go golfing half as often, we can get our giving up to 10% of our income. How’s that sound?”

    Remember, one of the goals of marriage is to be “one flesh” (Gen 2:24); which we said is synonymous with union, unity, oneness.  One way in which a husband and wife can build oneness in marriage is by building a oneness of understanding.  That is, they want to be on the “same page” in what they value.  This could apply to a number of areas within marriage—parenting, career goals, church involvement, evangelism, and in the case of our lesson today, finances.  To have a budget is to create a mutually agreed upon set of values that guide your saving and spending habits in marriage.  A budget, properly managed, gets you a long way toward unity and oneness in marriage.

    Any questions?


    The Family Budget: Leadership and Operations

    If God were come down and start asking questions about a family’s use of money, who would he come to first?  The husband.  Why?  Because he has primary spiritual leadership in the family, and remember, money is a spiritual issue. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Even though the husband and wife will both give account to God for how they steward everything in their life (including their finances), the husband will give primary account for how they’ve used their money. 

    What then does his leadership normally mean for the family finances?

    • He’s the one to lead the process I described to merge their values. And a family budget is a great tool to make that happen. They’ll work together to do this—but he’s ultimately responsible to make sure that this happens.
    • He leads her in regularly having a time where they reviews their finances and talk about how they’re doing and what adjustments they need to make.
    • He leads in making sure they stick to their budget.
    • He leads in determining if they need to break the budget, and how to do so responsibly.
    • He leads in encouraging the couple to plan for the future, like investment in retirement, children’s college funds, buying a home, and so forth.
    • He acts as the primary provider in the home. If there’s no food on the table or roof over their heads, it’s his responsibility to address that.

    None of this means that a husband must do this by himself. Husband and wife are a team, and it may be that she’s a lot more adept at some of these things than he is, or has more time, or more interest. Depending on what season of life they’re in, some of these things might shift back and forth in the marriage.  But while the responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the family budget can be shared between the husband and wife, the husband has the ultimate responsibility to make sure these things are getting done.

    Imagine my wife was shopping at Target and she saw an amazing sale for a dress she’s wanted to buy for my daughter.  What should be going through her mind in order for her to make the decision to buy it or not?  [LET THE CLASS ANSWER]

    • She should have a general idea of how much we are able to spend in this category. How does she know how much is left in the clothing line?  Because we will regularly review this at home.
    • And if she is not sure, she’s always just a text message or phone call away from contacting me to find out if we’ve got enough money.
    • If we’re operating off of the same page with a family budget, it should help us in situations like this because my wife’s shopping choices will be informed by our mutually agreed upon values that we created in our family budget.

    The Family Budget: Tool or Weapon?

    Too often, money in marriage becomes a weapon rather than a tool to build union. A few examples:

    • A person squirrels money away so that they can spend without telling their spouse. Not for a surprise gift, but simply to keep that part of their life private. That is not pursuing the kind of vulnerability we’ve been talking about. Vulnerability means everything’s in the open.
    • A husband might become highly restrictive in what he allows his wife to do with their money. In some bad marriages, the husband might spend all he wants on himself and consistently deny his wife, not just because he’s stingy, but because he wants to hurt her.
    • A wife berates her husband for disregarding the budget in a purchase he made. Now granted, that wasn’t wise of him to do that. But remember that the budget was a tool to promote union, not division. Now it’s doing the opposite.

    If money isn’t to be a weapon than what should it be?  Let me suggest 6 ways in which your family budget (how you handle your family finances) can be a tool to strengthen your marriage.

    • A tool to build trust in the marriage. One of the ways that couples build trust or loose trust is in how they handle their finances. If your husband or wife can’t resist buying things on-line that do not fit the family budget, what does that do to the relationship?  It hurts it and degrades the trust. Very often one symptom of a struggling marriage is that husband and wife don’t trust each other with their money. This is, by the way, one of many reasons why your finances should be shared in marriage. Joint ownership of a bank account, car, house, and so forth. Money should be “we” and not “me.” That’s how money builds trust.
    • A tool for communication. As I said before, it takes conversations from being reactive and constraint-driven to proactive and opportunity-driven.
    • A tool for bridging value differences. Let’s say that he thinks it’s good stewardship to play a $200 round of golf and she doesn’t. What to do? Well, put together a budget and see if $200 golf games fits in. If both husband and wife feel they’re being good stewards with how much they’re giving and saving, then let him enjoy that good gift of God with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4) and don’t give it another thought. And if they’re not happy with how much they’re giving and saving if he spends money that way, he should cut back on golf and not give it another thought.
    • A tool for working through the unexpected. So often, it’s financial shocks that cause fights about money in marriage. Those could be shocks of difficulty—like having to suddenly replace the furnace. Or shocks of opportunity—like a new job that will do wonders for time together as a family but involves a 20% pay cut. With uncertainty comes stress and with stress comes conflict. But a budget is a plan that shows how you’re going to absorb those shocks. What exactly will we need to do to accommodate that 20% pay cut? How do we feel about the relative value of those adjustments to our budget? A budget helps you see what the path forward is when the unexpected happens, which does wonders for unity in a marriage.


    I’ve said a lot, so let me pause again to see if there are any thoughts on questions.

    • A tool for saving and managing debt.

    Why would anyone want to save?  To save some amount of money is: (1) to prepare for a rainy day when your income is strained, like a spouse losing a job; (2) to prepare for catastrophe if something drastic happens, like a child needs medical treatment that’s not covered by insurance; (3) to one day invest in more long-term assets, like buying a home or a car.  (4) to allow you to prepare for the future by making wise investments, like retirement or college funds.  All of these are about planning for the future.  The fool spends his money right away and meets his immediate desires.  He doesn’t care about the future.  Proverbs 21:20: “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” In contrast, the wise person prepares for the future (Prov 6:6-8). As one author put it, “A lack of planning invites poverty.”[1]

    What happens if you don’t save anything and just live according to what you get (paycheck to paycheck)?  While that is in and of itself isn’t wrong, it potentially puts a strain on family members or church members when something does go wrong in your life.  While family and church friends are certainly willing to help out in bad times, by not saving now, you’re saying you’re willing to spend everything you have on yourself and put the money in your family and church friend’s accounts at risk. Sometimes that’s necessary, but it potentially comes with a significant relational cost. 

    What about debt?  In our debt-prone American culture, we see taking on debt as normal because everyone does it.  Yet the Bible warns us against the dangers of debt.  “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov 22:7).  Debt itself isn’t necessarily a sin, but it trap us. How? By constraining our ability to serve God as we’d wish. A very common way that happens in this church isn’t the debt you take on in marriage but the debt you bring into marriage. Astronomical loans for grad school, for example. So you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars of school loans, a kid comes along, you both feel it would be best for her to quit work to stay home and focus on raising your family but you feel you can’t because of your debt.

    That’s certainly something we need to consider before we get married, which could be a whole class in and of itself. But in marriage, recognize that you’re taking on each other’s debts. Just like the bank account is “we,” so is the debt. And a budget is a critical way to plan a path out of debt.

    • A tool for giving.


    Sixth, a budget helps you consider how to use your money to bless others. A few ideas:

    • Most obviously, a budget helps you give to your church. Christians are told to give to support the teaching they receive (Gal. 6:6), and since a person’s main teaching comes from their local church, their local church should normally be the main recipient of their giving. The Bible never tells Christians how much they should give—it simply says that all you have belongs to Christ, and so all your money should be used for his purposes. I tell people that normally they should be giving at least 10% to their church. 10% since that’s the pattern we see throughout Scripture. Sometimes a person can’t—normally because they have no income. Sometimes a person should be giving more than that because of how God has blessed them financially. So how’s a budget help here? Well, look at how much you’re giving relative to how much you’re spending and saving and ask yourselves, “given what God has given us financially, do we think we’re being good stewards with what we’re giving away?” Paul’s advice to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 16:2 is useful. “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” Give to the extent that in God’s kindness, you’ve prospered. And be deliberate with your giving. That is, think carefully about how much of your income you should give. A budget helps with both of those.
    • Giving to those in need. Some people set money aside in their budget to help those around them who are in financial need. Sometimes that money can be given to the church’s benevolence fund; sometimes its best to just quietly take care of a need you know about on your own.
    • But writing checks (or clicking “give” on a website) is far from the only way we should think about being generous as Christians. Consider how can you use your money to encourage discipleship in your family and in the church. For example, parents: do you put some money away to use to build a better relationship with your kids – money for father-son camping trips, or to buy books to read to your kids, or to take your daughter on date nights?  Couples, do you factor money in your budget so you can do hospitality in your home regularly?  Do you factor in money in your budget so you can meet up with folks for lunch or coffee to build discipling relationships?  Husbands, do you budget money to give your wife flowers, or take her on date nights, or take her away every once in a while?

    As Christians, we freely give because ultimately all of our money doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to God.  So we are just simply giving back to him what he already owns (Psalm 50:10-12).  We freely give because don’t want to invest ultimately in things of this earth, but in heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-20). We freely give because we know the grace given us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  In explaining to the Corinthian church why they should “excel in the grace of giving” (2 Cor 8:7), Paul points to the gospel.  He writes, “though he (Christ) was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). We can excel in the grace of giving when we consider the grace that God has shown to us through Christ. And remember that a marriage thrives on grace. It requires grace. If you are stingy with your money, I’m quite certain that will overflow into stinginess in your marriage, which will strangle your marriage. If you practice generosity with your money, you will learn to be generous in marriage as well.

    A note for the engaged or newly-married

    Try to build that budget around one income, not two.  A classic mistake I’ve seen made over the years is watching couples build their life around a certain lifestyle that’s dependent on two incomes early in marriage; and then if they want to shift later on, like letting the wife stay home when she has a first child, they have to make some painful adjustments. 


    The Heart of the Matter (a Matter of the Heart)

    I quoted Jesus earlier from Matthew 6:21. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I can’t think of a verse that better explains why this topic of money is so important to marriage. In order to love your spouse well, you must love God more than you love your spouse. If you invest your money in God’s promises, your heart will be drawn toward God and you will see the effect in your marriage.

    So whether you’re married or not, are you stewarding your money to train your heart toward selfishness or toward generosity? Marriage hangs in the balance. More importantly, your heart hangs in the balance, which means your soul hangs in the balance. May we not lay up treasure for ourselves, but may we all be rich toward God (Luke 12:21).

    Any last questions?


    [1] Randy Alcorn, Managing God’s Money