wedding-ring-390771_1920By Dr. Harold Sala

Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.  Luke 12:13

“It’s all about money!”  Wrong, says Dave Ramsey, who attacks the issue with a kind of religious fervor.  He says, “Only 20% is about money: the rest is about relationships and old-fashioned values.”  He found out the hard way. A former financial success with lots of money, Dave married, then lost his money and filed for bankruptcy.  In the process his marriage got rocky as well. (“Couples and Money,” Money, March 1999, p.130).

Dave and his wife went back to some very simple basics–budgeting, performing plastic surgery on their credit cards, and going back to the system his grandmother used–envelopes marked for categories such as gasoline, groceries, housing, and so forth. And what happened? The big change in how they handled money was overshadowed only by how they treated each other and dealt with their disagreements. “In the first month,” says another husband who tried the same experiment, “we talked more about money than we had during the first three years of our marriage.”

Opposites attract. The reality is that we often marry to complete ourselves. The person who struggles with money admires the thrift of another, but when you try to live with differing values, it takes far more than separate values to make peace out of disharmony.

Money, or more specifically how it is handled, plays a prominent part in at least 85% of all broken homes. It isn’t what you have or don’t have; it’s what you do with what you have. Who holds the purse strings? Who decides? Long ago Amos asked a simple but extremely fundamental question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). And if that applies to anything, it applies to how you handle your money, written in large bold, red letters.

When you marry, you make a commitment to the other person, pledging your fidelity. You affirm before God and the witnesses that you are going to be there in good times, bad times, through sickness and through health. That commitment applies to how you handle your money just as much as to how you handle temptation.

It’s not about money; it’s about relationships.

When couples start cheating on their money commitments, a marriage unravels as certainly as if they cheat sexually.  She hides money which is intended for groceries; he refuses to tell her what the bonus is. She inherits money from her parents but wants to put it in a separate bank account.  And, of course, blended marriages bring a host of other issues–retirement benefits, what belongs to the children, who pays for what?

Commitment is the first key to solving money problems–the iron-clad kind that refuses to cheat, that agrees to talk over purchases before you buy, not when you bring them home.

Following that comes communication, which means you first agree on what is important when it comes to your money, and then, whatever it may be, you stick with your end of the bargain.

Learning to live within your budget is vital if your marriage is to succeed. This also means learning to be strong enough to say, “I can’t afford it.  I don’t care if our neighbors have one; we’re not going to go into debt to buy one.”  As long as you live under the bondage of credit card debt, you mortgage your future and your happiness.

One of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament deals with the stewardship of your possessions. Today there are lots of resources which help you get a grip on debt, ones which are clearly outlined in the Bible–which, incidentally are the same ones financial counselors are preaching today, whether or not they know it.

It’s not about money; it’s about relationships.

Resource reading: Mark 12:13-17