Money is like a land mine in marriage — it lies quietly in the field, until one day you step on it a certain way and it explodes. Problems with money fester over time, bringing feelings of distrust and disrespect. These feelings can easily turn into alienation in marriage.
I’d like to give a few quick biblical principles on money in marriage. Not only are these found in the Bible; they’re also found in real life. When I thought about each of these, I remembered a particular face and a historical conflict that I’d had to deal with in counseling. If you get these straight, it will save you all kinds of heartache in your marriage.
It’s Our Money
“I’m the one working hard to earn the money around here, so I get to decide how we spend it.” “You’d think I could get a little respect, considering that I’m the one who makes the money to keep this family going.” Whenever I hear statements like these from a couple, it is a telltale sign that marriage problems are on the way. It doesn’t matter if the husband works and the wife doesn’t, or if they both work– it’s still all “our money.” Neither spouse should say, “It’s my money.”
Agree on Major Expenditures
I’ll never forget what a woman said to me: “He will not give me the freedom to buy a $14 dress pattern, but he will come home with $800 in tires. Somehow that’s OK for him, but it’s not OK for me.” Even though it’s our money, check with your mate before you make a major expenditure.
You don’t want to surprise your mate in the area of money. Always check with your spouse, especially when you’re about to charge a major expenditure. Trust me, if the credit company or the bank surprises your mate with what you did, that’s not a good thing. Independence in the area of money is really a lack of respect, and it causes hurt and pain. Check with your spouse and say, “This is what I’d like to do.” It honors your mate to do that. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when my wife said, “No, you can’t do that.” But she simply likes to know that she’s a valued part of our marriage.
Give Freedom in Small Things
A woman actually told me this: “Whenever I have to buy something, my husband drops me off at the store. I go inside and get the exact figure plus tax to the penny. I come out and tell him the amount. He gives me the exact change to the penny. Then I go back inside and purchase the item.”
Her husband was sitting there at the time and did not feel he was being demeaning to that woman. He felt he was being holy. And I said to him, “No, you’re just dumb. You’re dumb because in seeking to control, you’re treating your wife like a child. So whatever you think you are gaining, you are actually losing the love of your wife. You need to trust her with things.”
Men and women need the freedom to take care of the necessities of life. A woman needs the freedom to run a home. Paul calls a wife the oikosdespotes — literally, “the house despot.” What a word. It means the manager of the home. She needs to have the freedom to spend some money to do her job.
Women Can Have Money
Most younger folks don’t need to hear this, but there are still some people who think women shouldn’t make money. But the woman in Proverbs 31 is an extremely gifted businesswoman. She sells belts to the tradesmen. She considers a field and buys it and plants a vineyard from her earnings. As long as husband and wife are in agreement and it doesn’t interfere with their marriage, it is good for a woman to pursue her dreams.
Decide Who Does the Books
The man does not have to keep track of the money. The wage earner does not have to keep track of the money. In my family, my wife does the books. She does a wonderful job, and I’m happy to let her do it.
Let me give you a bit of guidance on this: if you’re the one who does the books, you must do them well. You can’t mess up the finances. Your spouse needs to know that things are being done right. On the flip side, if your mate does the books, then you, in a sense, have to submit yourself to what works best for them. I have to be willing to accept what works best for my wife as she keeps track of our finances. If she needs me to bring in certain receipts and invoices, then I have to do what she thinks is right. I can’t use my position as a husband to usurp her authority as the person responsible for the books.
Make life easy for the spouse who keeps track of the finances.
The whole essence of debt is that you have what you haven’t earned. You obligate yourself in the future to pay back the other party with interest. The root word of credit is credo, meaning “I believe.” They believe that I will pay them back. And the Bible says that the borrower is the lender’s slave.
Stay out of debt all that you can because when you take on debt, you give up an equal amount of freedom. You simply can’t do some good things because that money is already spoken for. You are obligated to pay back that money.
Make whatever choices you have to make to stay out of debt. If you are in debt, do whatever it takes to get out of debt as soon as possible. Are you and your spouse being distracted by debt? Are you on the same page about what you want to do about it?
Adapted from Better Love Now, Copyright © 2008 by Tommy Nelson. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Published by B&H Publishing Group.