Today we are giving the second post on the topic of finances. As always, my comments will be normal and Paul’s will be bolded.
Based on Friday’s situation post you might be waiting for a ground breaking financial strategy that will solve all (ok, most) of your financial conflicts as a couple. Something along the lines of “Stewarding Your Money to the Glory of God,” a plan that would rival even Dave Ramsey’s best efforts : ) But if that was your hope, well, you are out of luck, compadre. Before we tackle the issues surrounding budgets (and we certainly know that there are issues!) we made the choice to focus on something even more basic. Our goal in this post is to challenge couples to take a step back from the budgeting conversation and ask yourselves some principal questions regarding your concept of wealth.
After Liz and I had that first significant financial disagreement, it became clear that we viewed money in different ways. As we examined these viewpoints more closely, we also began to understand our differing responses to a bank account that contained $300. These are some of the things that we learned.
First, husbands and wives enter marriage with divergent concepts regarding finances and financial choices. These concepts are usually either an embracing of or a reaction to past biblical (or non-biblical) financial teaching, previous financial experiences, and your respective family’s financial background.
For me, I was raised in a home where my father worked hard, saved diligently, and spent as needed without much worry. Though my parents often reminded me that it was God who supplied us with our livelihood, I wasn’t able to really grasp the idea of divine provision. From that upbringing I learned a strong work ethic, but a financially based sense of security tagged along. If I worked hard, I expected to have what I needed/wanted. If the money wasn’t forthcoming, or if circumstances reduced my finances, I began to panic. Thus, I entered marriage with a “work hard and you’ll have money and be fine” mindset. It was easier to just assume that we were financially stable because we were diligent and didn’t overspend. I didn’t want to know the details because any hint of “poverty” unnerved me.
My parents had very little money while I was growing up. My dad was a full-time pastor at a small church and I have four siblings. It was common for us to “not have things” because we simply couldn’t afford them. Our needs were always met and my parents always saved as much as possible (and sacrificed greatly for us and the ministry). But the truth is, we learned to be content, or at the very least, I got used to living on a small income. Consequently, I came into marriage with a constant nagging (sometimes fearful), “we’re spending too much” mindset. Unless I could control where every dollar went, I would agonize over our spending. Thus, I didn’t want to think about a budget.
Second, after we had determined and understood our personal ideas about wealth (or lack thereof : ), we could more appropriately move together towards a biblical mindset. But that mindset couldn’t simply be the adoption of one or the other’s methods and views on handling money. We had learn how to compromise on issues that were merely personal preferences based on our respective backgrounds. We had to create goals and beliefs that were solidly based on Scripture (like everyone should) but that had applications unique to our family. This is what we came up with and still try to put into practice.
1. Wealth should never take the place of God. We tend to find in God’s gifts what we should only find in God. In our case, Liz desired security and I desired control, but neither of us realized that wealth had subtlety replaced God in these heart attitudes. For you it might be something different (see below). It is impossible to serve (pursue, trust in, love) two masters (Matt 6:24).
2. We must allocate the resources that God gives us. This means we don’t hoard money, but we save (Prov 13:22), spend (Eccl 5:19) and give (2 Cor 9:6-13) in a way that glorifies God. This also means that we don’t spend resources that God hasn’t given us (i.e. if avoidable we don’t go into debt—Prov 22:7).
3. We must accept that whatever God has given us is given in love and for our good (Jam 1:17). Hard work is done out of faith and love for God, not our of an expectation of financial stability. Like Paul, we should content ourselves with God regardless of our current financial situation (Phil 4:11–13).
With these principles firmly in mind, Liz and I were able to move towards some practical resolutions for our financial conflicts (ah, there’s the post on budgeting). These resolutions didn’t occur overnight (in fact they are still occurring). Old habits and ways of thinking die hard. However, as these conflicts arise, we help each other overcome tendencies toward false control or false security.
Ask yourself what your past has taught you to believe about money. Do you see it as a means for power? Pleasure? Achievement? Security? Self-Worth? Righteousness (God’s blessing)? Once you parse your thinking on the subject, determine how to move from that point towards a more biblical view of your finances. Agree on the foundational principles, then face conflict determined to craft a God-glorifying solution.