Preface: This is part two of two posts regarding oneness in marriage. The first post, What’s Yours is Mine . . . What’s Mine is Yours . . . Two Becoming One, hits on a few things that can be very divisive and hinder the process of two becoming one (which is about far more than just physical intimacy). This post will focus more on finances and how proper management of finances within marriage can build unity while improper management will divide and destroy. As I said before, I am obviously no expert, and I really thought about not writing this post because I feel so unqualified to address this issue. But it has been on my heart for weeks, and usually, if a topic keeps coming back to me over and over it means I need to address it. So here you go. Take it, or if it’s not for you, feel more than free to leave it.
In my previous post I briefly addressed finances and the importance of sharing bank accounts . . . accounts is plural here because we learned early on in our marriage that in some instances, especially if you’re self employed or own a business, it works better and is wiser for you to have multiple separate but shared accounts where you both have full access in order to avoid any confusion . . . that is not the same thing as keeping your money separate, and I was incredibly resistant to even the idea of multiple accounts at first, but thankfully, I was able to see the wisdom in it after talking to people with a bit more experience. Having said that, sharing a bank account(s) is just the beginning of financial unity. Financial unity means that we understand that there is not only a tangible but also a spiritual side to our finances, and no matter what our current jobs/careers are, God is ultimately our provider and our source. And there are a few principles we have put in place to ensure that we are in unity when it comes to finances.
Principle Number One . . . tithing (10% of our income to our home church) and giving (no set amount but however and wherever God is leading us): These are non negotiables in our marriage, and I firmly believe are an integral part of a healthy marriage. Wait? What? What does tithing have to do with marriage? How are those things even related? I know tithing can be touchy subject, and within a marriage it can bring up a lot of conflict if you’re not in agreement on it, but the bible is very clear about the command to tithe. Tithing was established with Abraham (Genesis 14:20) before the law, and it continues to be a command we are to follow in the new testament church whether we’re married or single. But in marriage, I believe that it unifies us in trusting God as our ultimate source and provider no matter what may come.
Yes, there are have been those occasional panicky moments in regards to finances in our marriage. I no longer work outside the home, and Patrick is a self employed, business owner whose income can fluctuate drastically from month to month so we’ve definitely had to learn to be disciplined with putting money aside for the proverbial rainy day. At the very beginning of the pandemic when everything shut down, that included our real estate business. We had a long stretch of time where not much was happening, and in that time we had a choice, we could trust that God would see us through, or we could have a breakdown. Either way not much was going to change and the events of the world were out of our control. But without fail, we are able to always come back to what God has promised us, because we are faithful and obedient (which I’ll admit obedience is not always easy) to tithe and give and seek Him for wisdom with our finances, He will always provide:
“‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the LORD of hosts,'” Malachi 3:8-11
Here’s the thing. Tithing is about money, but it isn’t just about money. At its most basic level, tithing releases the hold and power money has over us. I see people that have more than enough, some would even say they are wealthy, yet they are always struggling and striving to get more, constantly afraid they don’t or won’t have enough. And I see others, who live much more humbly, resting in the fact that God will continue to provide if they are faithful and obedient. Tithing and giving are not just about throwing money at a church or a ministry although they are the means that God has established in order to physically fund ministries on this earth. When we tithe we are giving over to God the control that we think we have, it’s really somewhat of an illusion, over our finances.
Further, I believe that tithing is an essential component to a healthy marriage because it helps us to release control in so many different areas of our lives. If we can trust God with our money, I think it’s much easier to trust Him across the board. It’s not just a smart financial move but an act of obedience that will open the windows of blessing in our marriages and our families in areas far more important and meaningful than just finances.
Principle Number Two . . . making wise choices when it comes to spending, saving, investing, and giving: We do our best to live within our means. I like to shop y’all. I particularly love shopping for shoes and clothes, but sometimes I just have to reign in the shopping because it’s either not within our means or even if it is, it’s excessive. Y’all know what I’m saying, just because I can doesn’t mean I should. At different times in our marriage what is within our means has looked different. In the beginning our means were far more meager and our ability to save wasn’t huge. We just weren’t making enough money to put much, if any, aside. But one of the most important things I was taught and took to heart regarding the use of credit cards, in particular, was don’t run up credit cards on things you do not need and then not pay them off monthly. I understand that at times credit must be used to cover expenses that are insurmountable and unavoidable. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about using credit to buy things that fall solidly into the want rather than need category. Credit cards can be a fantastic servant and a horrible master. Use them as a tool, if you can, but if you can’t, if they control you and are a constant temptation, then cut them up.
When it comes to investing, if I’m totally honest, it can be hard for me. I tend to be the brakes and Patrick the gas when it comes to investment projects. In the not so distant past, I haven’t always reacted in the most Christlike way when he broaches the subject of tackling certain investment projects. This tends to be an area where I let fear get the best of me, and I will sometimes react in a way that is anything but helpful. However, I am learning, albeit slowly, to take a moment, pray, and ask God to guide us and give us wisdom on what to do and how to proceed. I promise it works far better than completely freaking out.
And most importantly, we also continue to seek God on how and where He wants us to give above tithing to our local church. I don’t like to talk a ton about our personal giving, but I’ll say this, there’s a rather cliché saying that “You can not out-give God.” And I can fully attest to that. One of our goals in marriage is to be generous givers above and beyond tithing. And in order to do that we must always act with prudence and wisdom in our spending, saving, and investing.
Principle Number three . . . become financially independent from extended family: If you thought tithing was a touchy subject . . . I sincerely hope this does not come across as offensive. I promise that is not my intention in any way, but I’ve asked God to guide me in what to say, and this is something that I think is vitally important. If we’re not careful this can cause huge marital issues, and so what I’m saying is not said in a way that is judgmental but rather a way that is protective.
I’ll never forget my mom handing over my car payment, insurance, cell phone . . . basically any bills I wasn’t yet covering . . . once I graduated from college. At first I was like, “Hey?! I just walked across that stage!” but the reality is our families (parents and grandparents) had helped us out immensely, financially and otherwise, up to that point, to get set up and ready for married life (we were married just a couple months after my college graduation), and it was time for us to start moving toward a place of independence financially. I’m incredibly thankful that my parents did not continue to pay all my bills but helped me to understand that allowing them to continue to have that role in my life would be damaging to my marriage. I’m so glad they set those boundaries early on. Believe me, our families most definitely did not hang us out to dry and were very much front and center and continued to help us in many ways . . . Patrick was finishing up college and worked for my dad during the first couple years of our marriage. We lived on my parents land in a single wide mobile home that his family lent us the money to purchase, and his parents continued to assist us with a few of the bills that carried over as he finished college. But our ultimate goal was financial independence. So we worked hard, with God’s guidance, to make wise choices in those early years, to save and invest and build our credit, in order to achieve and maintain financial independence within our marriage.
As a married couple, you will have to decide exactly what your financial relationship with your extended family will be and what financial independence means for you. Some families are far more intertwined than others and the sharing of expenses does not necessarily mean there is a lack of independence. Whether you are willing to seek out and accept personal loans from family members (we have when it is mutually beneficial for both sides meaning we pay interest on those loans . . . we see them as a basic business transactions and are always sure to make our payments), financial help (we haven’t since early in our marriage and barring a major catastrophe have no future plans to do this), and even gifts (we graciously accept and are thankful for gifts but definitely do not seek them out or think we are owed them) from your extended families is something you will have to work out and need to discuss. But ultimately, we cover our own expenses and maintain financial independence because we believe that allowing family to provide for us financially or otherwise blurs the boundaries in an unhealthy way. No matter how great the intentions it can swiftly become an area of contention and division within a marriage. If we are allowing our family to cover our expenses and provide for us on a regular basis, then, whether they choose to exercise it or not, they do have every right to have an opinion on our day to day spending habits. And that’s where I’ll leave that. Like I said no judgment. No offense. Just sharing what I’ve learned.
As a married couple you must decide how your financial situation will look, and sometimes that might change day by day, month by month, or year by year. But the one principle I encourage you not to compromise on is that of tithing and giving. I promise, no matter where you are financially, you will only see blessings and benefits in your marriage and family as you are obedient to tithe.
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