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    Apr 05, 2016

    Week 11: Marriage & Money

    Series: Marriage

    Category: Core Seminars, Money, Family, Manhood & Womanhood, Marriage, Giving


    How to Make 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 avoid fighting about money and learn to make the financial part of our marriage a joy and not a burden? That’s a little of what we want to think about today as we consider the topic of marriage and money.

    Money is a Spiritual Issue
    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 we are allowed to have debt, how much is too much? How and when do we buy a home? The more money we have, the more happiness we have, right?

    What we don’t want to do is to falsely divide our life into two categories: (1) financial management, which is filled with wise, practical thinking, but not necessarily anything biblical; and (2) spiritual issues, which are the parts of our life informed by the bible. If we are Christians, then all of our life should fall under the sovereignty of God, including our finances.

    Jesus states in Matthew 6:24, “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 can and should not be a believer’s master. Only God can serve in that role. God 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 our relationship with God. Which one is it for you?

    As husbands & wives (and parents), we are responsible to provide for our family, so we need to have some level of security, planning, investing, and saving in this world. But the challenge is not put our ultimate hope and security in these things. As Proverbs says, “Trust in your money and down you go!” (11:28). Paul writes to Timothy, “17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that 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.” See again how you money is a spiritual issue. If we put our hope in the right place—in God, not in wealth—it effects 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; vs. 19).

    A Family Budget
    What Do You Value?
    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 you are both believers your 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. Yet, even if you are both Christians, you will have learned different financial values because of your differing educations, upbringings, and experiences.

    [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 daddies princes (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. No matter how many hours of premarital counseling we do with newly engaged couples, we can’t unearth everything. These are the kind of lessons you learn throughout your marriage as your different values get brought to the surface and revealed.]

    By the age of 23, you know what a dollar can buy and have a sense of what it is worth spending on and what is not. Here is the rub: Your financial values are primarily intuitive. These implicit values will be made explicit in marriage. As your differing values come into conflict with one another, they create tension in the marital relationship.

    What’s the solution? To create a common set of values; a shared value system. A husband and wife need to operate with a mutually agreed upon set of financial values. How do you get a common value system? By forming a family budget. In forming a family budget, your intuitive values are examined, questioned, and agreed upon. When a husband and wife work through and form a budget together, you answer the question, “What do we mutually value?” Your family budget is a primary way to give expression to what is important to the two of you.

    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 find unity or oneness in marriage is having a oneness of understanding. That is, they want to be on the “same page” and have a mutually agreed upon game-plan. 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, can foster unity and oneness within the marriage. There will not be conflict in marriage over your money if you have either (1) a surplus – so you have more than you need, so there is no worries about spending; (2) similar values –you’ve adopted a common set of values that you are both trying to best to adhere to.

    Leadership and Day-to-Day Operations
    If God were come down and to come to the husband and wife, who would he come to first if he had questions about the budget? The husband. Why? Because the husband has primary spiritual leadership both in the home and in the church. Even though the husband and wife both have to give an account before God for how they handle everything in their life (including their finances), the husband will give an ultimate account for the stewardship of their family finances.

    What then does leadership mean for the family finances?
    • The husband should lead the couple to make a family budget. That means the husband and wife talking together and putting together the budget. But if this is not happening, it is the husband’s ultimate responsibility to make sure it happens.
    • The husband leads the wife in regularly having a time where the couple reviews their finances and talks about how they are doing and what adjustments they need to make.
    • The husband leads in maintaining the budget; which means if it is not getting done, he is ultimately responsible for the receipts being entered and accounts being reconciled.
    • The husband leads in encouraging the couple to plan for the future, like investment in retirement, children’s college funds, buying a home, etc.
    • The husband acts as the primary provider in the home. If there is no food on the table or roof over their heads, it is the husband’s ultimate responsibility to make sure these (and other things) are adequately provided for.
    • What leadership does not mean is that the husband has to do all of this by himself. A husband and wife are a team. While the husband is ultimately responsible for the family finances, they can work together to get many of these things done. If the wife has a background in some of these things or just a general willingness the help with these things, the husband is a fool if he does all of this by himself and he denies his wife the opportunity to help. For example, the wife might have more knowledge about home buying, so she might do the initial “shopping for a home” as they think about it and begin to explore. Or in the case of maintaining the budget, the wife might do the daily entrance of the receipts, while the couple takes the time to review the finances together every month. Depending on what season of life the two of you are at, some of these things might shift back and forth in the marriage. 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 has wanted to buy for my daughter Lydia? 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 are 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.

    A Tool or a Weapon?
    A family budget is not meant to be weapon to get your own way or to hurt your spouse. Some folks are careless with their money but that’s a separate category. What I’m thinking about here are times when a spouse handles money in a way that protects himself/herself or handles money with the deliberate intent to control his/her spouse. Examples:
    • Self-protection – a wife will scroll away money, not just for her shopping habits, but also because she’s not confident that her husband will always be there for her. She’s confident that one day he is going to leave her.
    • Controlling– a husband can deny his wife access to money for her own pleasures or be highly restrictive in what he allows her 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 is stingy, but because he wants to be mean to her.

    If a budget is not meant to be a weapon than what should it be? Let me suggest 4 ways in which your family budget (how you handle your family finances) can be a tool to strengthen your marriage.

    (1) A family budget is a tool to build trust in the marriage. Trust is foundational for any marital relationship. One of the ways that couples build trust or loose trust is by how they handle their finances. What do I mean? 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. I’ve done a lot of premarital counseling over the last 5 years, and the two most immature couples had one thing in common…they didn’t trust each other with their money. Even though we talked about budgets and discussed how they handled their finances, in both cases, one of the spouses held back the fact that they didn’t trust how their spouse handled money, so they didn’t plan to give them access to their bank account after they got married. Why? Because they didn’t trust their spouse. How you handle your money can build trust in the relationship or degrade the trust.

    (2) Your family budget is a tool for communication within the marriage. In maintaining a family budget, the couple needs to regularly communicate with one another about the family finances. And the husband has to lead in making sure that conversation happens on a somewhat regular schedule.

    (3) The family budget is 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 in a bad economy; (2) to prepare for catastrophe if something drastic happens in your life, like a child needs medical treatment that is not properly covered by insurance; (3) to allow yourself 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 things have future elements in it. The fool spends his money right away and meets his immediate desires. He doesn’t care about the future. Proverbs 21:20: “The fool spends whatever he gets.” In contrast, the wise person prepares for the future (Prov 6:6-8; Genesis 41:21-57). As one author put it, “A lack of planning invites poverty” (Randy Alcorn, MGM).

    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 does 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 are saying you are willing to spend everything you have on yourself and put the money in your family and church friend’s accounts at risk. And that’s not a very caring thing to do.

    What about debt? In our debt-prone American culture, we see taking on debt as normal because everyone does it. Yet, the Bible is very clear about its warning about Christians becoming a slave to debt. “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov 22:7). Debt itself doesn’t seem to be a sin. God puts a lot about regulating debt in the Bible, which means at some levels it is okay. And in certain circumstances, God even encourages lending. But we’d want to distinguish between different types of debt—what I’d call good debt or bad debt. Good debt is responsible debt, i.e. when you’ve accumulated debt usually for education or long-term assets (like a vehicle or a home), and it is something that you can responsibly pay off over the course of time. Bad debt is irresponsible debt, like accumulating debt on credit card bills with astronomical interest rates. Or taking on home mortgages or car loans or educational loans for which the family cannot responsibly pay off with their expected income in the years ahead.

    The most common debt problem I run into in premarital counseling that hurts a couples’ ability to save for a home or start having children early in marriage…any guesses what it might be? (Give time for folks to guess.) Astronomical graduate school debt. Here is the scenario I see most often: Single adults do grad school, and get prestigious degrees that cost a lot of money. Am I saying to NOT get a grad school degree? Not at all. But am I asking you to consider how the graduate school debt might affect the future marriage? Absolutely. Once a year, I run into a female who is getting married in her late 20s or early 30s, and she is bringing into the marriage an astronomical amount of debt from some form of graduate school. And in each situation, I’ve seen the husband decide to wait to have children because he wants to tackle the debt while the wife still has a job and before the kids come along. If the wife is in her 30s, that “kills” her because her biological clock is ticking and she wants to get started soon having kids. And no one warned her when she was single that the astronomical grad school debt might affect her future marriage this way.

    (4) The family budget is a tool for discipleship and blessing.

    Fourthly, you want to think about how to use your family finances in way to encourage discipleship and blessing of others.

    How can you use your money to encourage discipleship in your family and in the church? Some examples, 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? Disciplers, do you factor in money in your budget so you can meet up with folks for lunch or other things? Husbands, do you budget money to give your wife flowers, or take her on date nights, or take her away to a bed-n-breakfast?

    What about it being a blessing to others?
    • Some folks like to set aside some money in their annual budget to be able to help others out or encourage others. For example, in seminary, I worked as the church administrator, and I noticed one family who would often anonymously gave financial gifts to families who had great need. They were able to do that because they had factored that in to their budget every year.
    • Some folks set aside some of their money to give to the benevolence fund, which is used to by the elder to assist CHBC members in need. That’s a great thing to support and the elders use this fund often.
    • The most obvious way to bless others is to give to the church or Christian ministry workers (like missionaries). A good starting point in your tithing is to give primarily to your church, and then to give over and above that to other Christian workers. Generally members are encouraged to give at least 10% of your budget. Why 10% and not 2%? Because tithe actually means “a tenth part” (cf. Deut 14:22-23). We don’t want to be legalistic about it; but we also don’t want to be disobedient since that idea of giving your harvest/income to the Lord seems to be well imbedded in the Bible (Deut 12:6; Exod 35:29; Luke 6:28; 2 Cor 8-9; Prov 11:24-25).

    What is ultimately most important is not the 10%, but your disposition towards giving. Of all people, Christians should be marked by a generous and giving spirit. If you are giving because you “have to” give something, your just not getting it. 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 more heavenly treasures (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). Paul uses monetary imagery to portray the greater spiritual reality. Christ’s “richness” describes all that he is because he is God. Christ gave up his life—that is, he became “poor,” so that we might become “rich,” i.e. we might be saved through his death on the cross. We can excel in the grace of giving when we consider all that God has done for us through Christ.

    Obvious question to ask you: Do you excel in the grace of giving because you have to (legalism) or because you want to live sacrificially with your finances?

    In the real world we have to live with all of these categories—giving, saving, debt, spending—at the same time, so how should we prioritize them? I think the biblical priorities would be giving first, saving and paying off debt second, and spending third.

    A Brief Word For Engaged Couples or Newly Married Couples
    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.