A Dangerous Combination
While there are many reasons why marriages fail, disagreements over money are either the number one “cause,” or those disagreements make other problems worse. Often disagreements over money make reconciliation much harder. Money is not evil, but the love of money truly is the root of many kinds of evil, 1 Timothy 6:10, especially in marriage and relationships. How can you avoid the risk of this root of evil harming your marriage? How can you insulate your heart from the negative influence of money? Read on.
Money does not have to be the cause of divorce and heartache. Be different and try these ideas:
Make money a mandatory topic
For a non-Biblical source, try USA Today and it’s article, Many marriages today are ‘til debt do us part from May 8, 2006. The comment “if love is the tie that binds couples together, money is often the wrench that pries them apart” is a solid truth. According to a poll done by USA Today for the article, nearly two-thirds of the married couples who responded to the poll admitted they talked little or not at all before the wedding about how to combine their finances. That was a tragic mistake.
For a Biblical source, check out Proverbs 18:21 about the power of speech. 1 Peter 3:7 tells husbands to be considerate to their wives. Being considerate necessarily includes communication, both speaking and listening. Both husbands and wives share in those responsibilities; speaking AND Listening.
If you don’t communicate, it’s hard to avoid disputes. Lack of communication creates unseen landmines of unmet expectations and unspoken likes and dislikes.
The solution is simple. Don’t just say that money is a topic you are free to talk about, make it a date night topic once every month. Make an agenda of financial topics to regularly discuss, including:
Income over the last three months;
Expenses over the last three months;
Savings over the last three months;
Income expected for the next three months;
Expenses expected for the next three months;
Retirement savings, including 401(k), Roth or traditional IRAs, and after-tax savings and investments;
Savings for specific purposes, i.e., emergency fund, college education, travel plans, retirement, etc.;
Unusual expenses during the last three months; and
What both of you can do better, without finger-pointing and blame.
No, that doesn’t sound like a fun date night. But it is a lot better than meeting with the lawyers and the family law judge.
Another way to make communication mandatory is by doing a cash flow analysis and budget. Look at all of your expenses for the previous year, or even better, two. Track your actual expenses monthly and then compare the expenses to income. Use your check book(s) register and your credit card statements. It isn’t possible to do a cash flow analysis and develop a budget without communication, a lot of communication!
You have to discuss what has been spent (without any harsh words, Ephesians 4:29-30), and develop a plan for how to control expenses, maximize savings, and give generously. Always think stewardship – are you being a good manager of the resources God has entrusted to you.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Everyone has at least one weakness. Identify whether you are a spender or a saver or where on the spectrum between the two you are. For a good illustration of the differences, read God & Money by Greg Baumer and John Cortines. One was a spender and the other was a saver and they do a good job of openly sharing how they grew from their extremes to becoming servants.
Use your strengths to your advantage. Let the one of you who is more of a saver set the spending goals. Let the one who is more of a spender plan the date night outs. Working out the differences will take more communication. Try the time-tested Biblical advice of being quick to listen and slow to speak (and even slower to become angry).
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
Be patient. Disciplined finances take time, and so does effective communication. One of the goals about which you must communicate is next.
Get out of debt and stay out of debt
Having debt is a financial disaster looking for a time and a place to happen in your marriage relationship. Avoid debt. If you start with debt, such as student loan debt, get it paid off as quickly as possible. That will necessarily mean some sacrifice until it is gone. Consider that sacrifice an offering to the Lord. See Romans 12:1.
You need to do this because being in debt is a form of bondage. You are under the control of the lender and are at the lender’s mercy. Proverbs 22:7. Set yourself free by becoming debt free. There is a reason people hold a mortgage or promissory note burning party when the debt is paid in full. It is a celebration of freedom.
No one stands alone well. There is strength in many advisers or counselors. Proverbs 13:10 and Proverbs 15:22. Solomon was right when he wrote:
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
You cannot know everything, but wisdom and experience come from blending together the collective wisdom of a diverse group of loving but honest people.
Having a qualified financial adviser does have a cost, but it is a cost well worth it. For help in selecting a qualified financial adviser, see or give us a call at 813-264-8713.
Hit the pause button before you spend
In 1899 an economist coined a phrase that a century later fits modern American society better than perhaps any other. Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen first used the phrase “conspicuous consumption” in his book “The Theory of the Leisure Class.” He was writing about consumers who were buying expensive items not out of need but instead to display status, wealth, and income. He viewed such a society as one characterized by wasted time and money. He had no idea how right he was!
Rather than spend for status, the safer and more Biblical approach is to live beneath your means. That does not mean a person should give everything away and live in poverty, but the danger of wealth and its deceitfulness is well-illustrated in the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:1-23. The third soil is especially frightening to believers with money in our current spend and display environment today.
22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
At the heart of living beneath your means is the concept that spending isn’t necessarily a good thing. Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need whatever it is you are about to buy.
Here again, communication should occur. Ask and share ideas on what is best, what is necessary and whether God would agree. Apply this same process to the things you already have. Is your closet filled with what you need or with what you want? Could someone in real need be blessed by those clothes you have that you don’t wear and don’t even fit into anymore?
Stop, look and listen was the warning on railroad crossing signs. It should be a warning on every credit and debit card and on your wallet.
God made you unique. There is no one else quite like you. So why would you copy the appearances and behaviors of others? Pastor Ken Whitten, the Senior Pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, correctly asks why people would want to spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t even like. That is a good question in our world where peer pressure is strong and the call for acceptance demands a significant degree of conformity.
Even more importantly, God made you as a custom model with unique features, abilities, talents and thoughts.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are each God’s handicraft, workmanship, or work of art, depending upon the translation of the Greek word poema (from which we get the word “poem”).
Our families and strong marriages are the heart of our society. There are no guarantees, but taking these few Biblical steps may help save your relationship, strengthen your family, and both prevent new wounds and heal old ones.
Money may be a great servant but it is also a bad master. Keep Jesus as Lord over you and your money. If you would like more information or some help, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.