By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
It’s been said that money is one of the leading topics for tension and arguments among married couples. But as long as you and your spouse are on the same page and working toward the same goal, it can be a topic that draws the two of you closer together and gives you a stronger mission for your marriage.
Scripture commands us to be of the same mind, maintain love, unite in spirit, and intend on one purpose (Philippians 2:2). While that instruction is for the body of Christ, in general, it serves as an excellent guideline for married couples when it comes to their finances. When you and your spouse can be of the same mind (concerning monetary priorities), maintain the same love (by showing grace toward one another), united in spirit (with your communication and motives), and intent on one purpose (the mission and goals you’ve established), you can not only move forward financially, but also bring your finances under the umbrella of God’s blessing, and lessen a huge potential for tension and strife in your marriage.
After 33 years of marriage to a pastor – most of that time at a small church, while being a self-employed writer and speaker (that means small income and no 401K) – we have not only stayed out of debt, maintained excellent credit, and nearly paid off our current mortgage, but we’ve seen God bless, financially, at every turn. It was never about how much money we had, but how much we honored and trusted God with what He gave us. God’s Word says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and put Me to the test now in this,” says the LORD of armies, “if I do not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Malachi 3:10 NASB).
My family has seen that “test” proven over and over again. God provides for those who honor Him with their finances, even though it doesn’t appear to add up on paper (or an Excel sheet).
Regardless of your current financial situation, there is always hope (for your marriage and finances) when you start talking to one another and addressing what God says matters most. Here are five conversations my husband and I would recommend you have with your spouse concerning finances:
1. What are our long-term goals?
Having a long-term financial goal as a couple is crucial so you both know where you’re heading and can start a strategy to get there. Whether you’re swimming in debt or just have very little money in the first place, it’s beneficial to have a long-term goal of where you’d like to be in 10-20 years. Even if you have no money concerns right now, having a long-term plan will ensure that you wisely manage what you have so you don’t end up with regrets down the road.
Begin the conversation by asking each other about your dreams: “Where have you always wanted to live? At what age would you like to retire? Should we travel during our retirement years or stay close to home? When would be the time to downsize?” Maybe you dream of selling your home and moving to a state where it’s more affordable to live in (that’s the dream of nearly every California couple I know). Or maybe you often think of downsizing to ease financial pressures but haven’t yet addressed the topic. Talk about what it would take for any of those possibilities to become a reality.
After sharing your dreams with one another, comprise your long-term goal(s) for both of you to have something to look forward to. Once you know where you ultimately want to be in a decade or two, you can start working toward it. It’s been said, “If you don’t aim at something, you’ll miss it every time.”
2. What are our short-term financial goals?
Once you have one or two long-term goals, break them into bite-size pieces, so your dream is more manageable and more likely to happen. Short-term goals establish the strategy that ultimately makes your long-term goal a reality.
Ask each other where you’d like to be a year from now or even five years from now. Do you want to be rid of some debts? Start with paying off the smaller debts to consolidate your payments and start attacking the larger ones. Would you like to have a savings account or a bigger one? Talk about how you can start saving as little as $25 a week by giving up some unnecessary items or eliminating a daily coffee run or weekly lunch purchases. Set your short-term goals with one another and talk about how you will lovingly hold each other accountable and keep track of your progress. Don’t forget to reward yourselves as you accomplish a short-term goal. Incentive is everything. Mutual cooperation is, too.
3. How are we honoring God with our finances?
This is a huge question because it affects all the other questions in many ways. Principles are clear throughout Scripture that if you honor God with the first of what you have, He will honor you as well. You may think you don’t have enough money to tithe (which means giving a tenth of your income), but my husband and I have discovered we can’t afford NOT to tithe because we so need God’s blessing to make our budget work from month to month. While tithing is an Old Testament command established for the Israelites under the Mosaic Law, you can bring the principle forward into the New Covenant in which we live as a starting point for honoring God with what you have. Or, you can—as a pastor friend of ours says — start giving in a way that moves your heart.
As we consider everything we have as actually owned by God and we are just stewards of our Master’s possessions, God maintains a generous heart toward us. Scripture says, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38 NASB).
Give generously and by faith that God will honor it, and He will generously bless, financially and otherwise. Scripture also tells us to give according to how our hearts convict us: “Each one must do just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). To give cheerfully is to give with great anticipation of how He will come through for us – and others -- because we gave.
4. Where is the bulk of our money going right now?
Take a glance through your checkbook or your online accounts. Notice where most of your money is being spent, which will indicate where your heart is. It’s a good way of looking at the priorities that you are setting and the example you are showing your children or grandchildren or others close to you. Is God most important? Is family more important than work? Is stuff or status a factor? (Are an expensive home and high-priced cars and how they make you come across to others more significant than staying within what you can afford or living more simply in order to pay off debt?) It’s worth a look – and a healthy discussion. It will also help you stay within your long-term and short-term goals and ensure that you’re honoring God with the money He has given you.
5. How and where can we give so that others’ lives are impacted?
Any of us can quickly become selfish when our money is all about us. But we can experience much joy and learn to be far more selfless when we give to help the needs of others, to help answer others’ prayers, be the conduit through which God provides for others, and so on.
In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I became convicted about passively dropping a check in the church offering plate on Sundays and letting someone else give that money to someone in need. So, we began to seek opportunities for what we call “active” or intentional giving in addition to a regular tithe to our local church. There are many different ways to give actively. Just like a financial portfolio has diversified funds, you might want to think in terms of diversified giving when it comes to the kingdom of God. Discuss as a couple how you can:
- give to your local church
- give to feed and educate a child through Compassion International or another Christian organization
- give gas cards or groceries to your neighbor who just lost their job
- give toward a college student’s education at a Christian university, blessing both the student and their parents
Active giving is putting money in the hands of others even if you don’t get a year-end tax deduction for it. It involves opening your eyes to the needs around you, opening your ears to what God might be whispering to you, being obedient by giving, and then watching what God does with it. It is an adventure – and a blessing. And it’s especially exciting to see the results when no one but God knows that the money came from you.
For more on drawing closer to one another through various topics and conversations, see Hugh and Cindi McMenamin’s book, When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and When Couples Walk Together:31 Days to a Closer Connection, which she co-authored with her husband of 35 years. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.