Money in Marriage

Money is a frequent source of conflict in marriage. While it can bring great opportunities, marriage can also bring stress and strain if couples don't approach their finances and priorities realistically. Working as partners is crucial to success.

Money is a frequently cited reason for conflict within marriage. It's not uncommon for both husbands and wives to have jobs outside the home—a major change from the norm just a few generations ago when husbands were expected to be the major financial providers.

With the addition of women in the workplace, household incomes have increased dramatically. However, this new windfall of money has not soothed all financial tension. Taxes and other expenses, as well as stress levels, have also soared upward. Families still face financial hardship; arguments over money still plague marriages. In this chapter we will consider some of the typical financial issues couples face and some practical guidelines for relieving stress over financial matters.

Planning children

Estimates for the cost of having, raising and educating a child run into daunting figures. Because God instructs families to provide for their own (1 Timothy 5:8), couples must realize they take on important financial responsibilities when they have children.

Preparation for children is crucial. When children are born out of wedlock, unexpected questions and problems arise. If the parents are teenagers, can they complete their educations? How will they provide for themselves and the child? If they do not have the financial resources required, other family members (often parents and grandparents) or the government will probably be expected to cover their financial and moral irresponsibility.

Of course, sexual responsibility is not just for teenagers. Grown men and women must also consider the results of their actions. If they have children outside of marriage, how will they provide for these children's financial needs and for the happy, stable, father-mother environment every child needs?

God's directive is that sexual relations are proper only within marriage (Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4). When God's command is followed, babies are not born out of wedlock. Thus the financial difficulties that almost always accompany such mistakes are eliminated. (To understand more about the Seventh Commandment, read our booklet The Ten Commandments.)

Finally, even married, mature adults who have completed their education are wise to plan when to have children. Prudent young couples should work and accumulate financial reserves before starting their families. Such an approach reflects personal discipline, foresight and a well-designed financial plan.

Caring for children

A common complaint in two-income households is the difficulty of finding someone to care for the children while both parents are at work. Many couples, instead of handing their children over to strangers, are deciding to care for their own. One parent stays home with the children until they are old enough to be in school before returning to the regular workplace.

When the extra expenses that accompany both parents working outside the home are added up—such as day care, transportation, more meals out, additional clothing, etc.—some families find there is little difference in their household incomes when one of them remains at home to care for their children.

Another solution, though not available for everyone, is for parents to work from home and take care of their children. Largely due to the technological capabilities of the Internet and flexible work hours that have become more common, some parents are finding that they can have offices at home and schedule their work hours in accordance with the needs of their children. Work can be completed online, and one parent can watch the children when the other needs to leave the home for business purposes.

Though some may view the concept of parents caring for their own children as old-fashioned, it is precisely the approach assumed in the Bible. The book of Proverbs, for example, speaks of a father and mother teaching a child important values (Proverbs 1:8; 23:22). One of the simplest and best solutions for children is for their own parents to care for and teach them. Yet with so many single parents, we understand the practical problems some will face.

Sharing resources

For husband and wife to work together financially, both must be willing to share. From the beginning, God's instructions have been that "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Later we read that husbands should love their wives and that wives should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, 25).

There is no room for selfishness in the loving marriage relationship God desires for every couple. Too often, conflicts over money arise within marriages when one mate seeks to gratify his or her personal interests before meeting the needs of the family. Even if basic needs are met, arguments can arise over how additional money should be spent—which is pretty sad considering how many people in the world don't even have additional money to spend, being barely able to survive.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ was approached by a person involved in a dispute over money. "Then one from the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But He said to him, 'Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?' And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses'" (Luke 12:13-15). Rather than settle the dispute, Jesus gave a vital warning for money matters in general.

It is easy for us to give more attention to our personal desires in this life than to think about the spiritual values we should be learning. Jesus went on to illustrate this concept with a parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'

"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).

It is most important for us to be "rich toward God." We must make God's instruction our highest priority. Couples who keep these biblical principles in mind may find it easier to share their physical resources. (See also The Greatest Inheritance.)

Working together in marriage

Societal customs governing which spouse should handle the family finances are in a state of change. In years gone by some cultures placed this responsibility on the husband—a value underscored by the leadership committed to the husband in Scripture (Ephesians 5:23). But, although the husband is to be the leader within marriage, the Bible also makes it clear that wives can contribute great financial wisdom and skills to the family economy (Proverbs 31).

Sometimes the wife has greater financial and budgetary skills, and a wise husband should take note. A wife may be better at maintaining the checking accounts, balancing the checkbook and paying the bills, and in such cases the family may be better off having her handle these responsibilities.

In a loving and respectful marriage both partners should discuss major financial decisions and priorities. And then, according to the biblical model, the husband, while in love giving great weight to his wife's wishes and concerns, should make the final judgment, his wife consenting—as long as the decision is within God's law, of course.

Although couples will have to determine for themselves who handles which financial responsibilities, it is especially important for them to remember God's instruction that they treat each other with love and respect (1 Peter 3:1-7). When these principles are employed, a husband and wife can work as a team to weather financial difficulties.

In summary, couples can reduce conflicts over money by planning when to have children and how to care for them, agreeing how to apportion resources and learning to work together to attain financial goals. For a more in-depth study of God's principles regarding marriage, read the booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.


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