Marriage & Money: 10 Biblical Principles of Financial Stewardship
Below are several areas to consider with your fiancé/spouse within the topic of Money Matters in Marriage. The subject matter and Scriptures should serve as a starting point, but it is not meant to be exhaustive.
SCRIPTURAL DIRECTION AND BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
“Leave” your father and mother, “cleave” to your spouse, and be united with regard to your biblical attitudes and practices of managing God’s money.
While your father and mother’s formal and informal training and financial supervision will have an influence on how you view money, in marriage, a husband and wife must come together in developing their own set of biblically based guidelines and principles. (Eph. 5:30-31)
Present your lives to the Lord while preferring one another’s interests ahead of your own in earning, giving, spending, and saving decisions. (Rom. 12:1, 10)
Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the Church and give yourself for her. Don’t allow your career or the love of money to harm your marriage and ensure that you listen to your wife’s input on the financial matters in the home.
Dwelling with your wife “according to knowledge” includes understanding how she views and handles money. Give her honor and respect. (1 Peter 3:7)
Wives, learn to love your husband even if he approaches money differently than you do. Submit to him with a meek spirit, winning his trust by your godly conduct.
Wives, reverence your husband as the head in the decision-making process and submit to your husband as unto the Lord in financial matters. However, this does not mean that wives should not give input into a couple’s financial matters. (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Seek wise counsel.
As financial decisions are faced in marriage, seeking guidance from wise individuals is helpful. Getting another perspective can help you learn from the experiences of others, provide you with education about topics you don’t understand, and give you another point of view that can reveal blind spots you may have. (Prov. 11:14)
Speak the truth in love to edify one another and minister grace through your communication, especially when discussing the bills, budgeting, and determining your financial priorities. (Eph. 4:15-29)
Be content with such things as you have, for life is more important than possessions, and marital love and peace are far better than material wealth. (Luke 12:15)
Being united on money matters.
God’s Word challenges us to consider whether two people can walk together unless they are in agreement (Amos 3:3). One of the more obvious areas is with money matters. The Word also states that getting by with less, financially speaking, is better than having a lot of wealth and fighting all the time. Money matters can be a real source of contention if couples do not understand and apply God’s timeless truth to their financial situations. Couples must be united because money matters are:
- Urgent – his or her debt may already exist and bills may have started before the wedding.
- Vital – earning and spending money is an important life function.
- Ongoing – couples deal with financial stewardship throughout their lives.
- Eternal – they will reap the rewards of their stewardship forever.
Financial roles and responsibilities in marriage.
The following suggestions are designed to help you fulfill your responsibilities as unto the Lord. They are mentioned as part of practicing good stewardship in caring for those things which God has blessed us with and in carrying out our responsibility to others.
Understand and assign the differing financial roles and responsibilities.
Setting family financial goals along with establishing, balancing, and evaluating the budget should be done together. Making major purchases should be done with mutual agreement.
Managing and tracking the family finances and paying bills should be done within a shared marital context. Regardless of who assumes this role, couples should be in agreement regarding bank accounts, investments, priorities, etc.
Discuss the need for being adequate insurance, including, health, life, auto, home and insurance.
Carrying appropriate insurance coverage is prudent and part of Godly stewardship. Failure to do so can put undue hardship on family, creditors, and others. We are instructed in God’s Word to be prepared to pay the bills we owe (Ecc. 5:4-6).
Types of insurance to consider:
Health Insurance: Health insurance is rarely deemed as optional in today’s world of escalating medical costs. Most employers offer group health insurance as part of their benefit package but may charge additional premiums for family members. Other options do exist outside of group policies such as personal insurance policies and healthcare sharing ministries.
Life Insurance: Life insurance to cover existing debt and to provide stability in the event of the loss of the family breadwinner should be a part of any family’s financial planning. Life insurance is not intended to provide a living for the survivors; it serves as a cushion to absorb the many bills that often accompany a death and to pay off any existing debt. Term life insurance is relatively inexpensive, especially for younger couples, and counsel should be sought to determine the appropriate need for coverage. Couples are encouraged to obtain life insurance early in their marriages and certainly before any children are born. Not having adequate life insurance can leave your loved ones in financial hardship.
Miscellaneous Insurances: Other insurances for property, business, vehicles, crops, livestock, etc. are also available, and the need of them should be fully researched and determined for your family. Proper counsel is advised in every situation. In many states it is mandatory to carry liability coverage on vehicles and/or personal property such as real estate.
Discuss the need to make a will.
Even though a newly married young couple may not have a large estate, it is necessary that a will be developed simply for the ease of transition of property in the event that one or both spouses should die. Sometimes people find it difficult to talk about creating a will as it feels morbid or unpleasant. However, having a will is part of being a good steward and ensuring that you are not placing a hardship upon your spouse and family. Wills are drawn up for individuals, not couples, but often a couple’s individual wills are merely a mirror image of one another. Wills are intended to not only determine distribution of assets, but also for the establishment of guardianship for children in the event both parents are taken. Couples should establish a will before any children are born. The death of loved ones is never easy, but it is possible to help make things less difficult for those left behind when an adequate last will and testament has been established.
Potential financial problems in marriage.
Differences in backgrounds.
Money problems frequently occur in marriage because the husband and the wife have different personalities, family backgrounds, and life experiences. Communicating about these differences can help you avoid misunderstandings with your spouse. The extremes of these views are listed below:
- Stewardship examples: good and faithful stewards vs. poor stewards.
- Training: actively taught biblical principles/practices vs. unknowingly taught poor attitudes/examples.
- Lifestyles: living very modestly vs. living extravagantly.
- Family work ethics: extreme overworking vs. slothful, barely working at all.
- Financial status: parents are quite wealthy vs. parents are quite poor.
- Saving practices: idolatrous hoarding vs. no savings at all.
- Borrowing beliefs: always wrong to borrow vs. borrow as much as possible.
- Giving practices: generous, regular, cheerful givers vs. stingy, irregular, resentful non-givers.
- Spending habits: overly cautious vs. impulsive, overspending.
Individual heart issues.
Personal spiritual problems often show up as financial problems and may not be discovered until after marriage:
Selfishness Slothfulness Covetousness
Carelessness Wrong priorities Impulsivity
Worry Fear Envy
Greed Dishonesty Worldly focus
Ten Lessons on Biblical Principles of Financial Stewardship.
The information below has been taken from the lessons in Crown Financial Ministries’ Biblical Financial Study, Small Group Student Manual. As you review them and study the Scripture verses that support them, you will be adopting together a biblical perspective on money and possessions.
Luke 16:11, “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteousness mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
The subject of money is so important to the Lord that He included over 2000 verses in the Bible that relate to our use of money and possessions. The verse above is clearly saying that if we are not faithful in handling “unrighteous mammon [money],” we cannot expect God to commit to us the true riches of His kingdom.
The handling of money and possessions is closely aligned to how we live our spiritual lives. If we handle money in accordance with the scriptural principles of stewardship, we will also grow closer to Christ. This principle is shown clearly in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30).
The master says, “well done” and “enter thou into the joy of thy lord” to the servant who faithfully handled the money that had been entrusted to him. In a later verse, the same servant who had amassed ten talents from five originally given receives yet another from the servant who hid his money. Thus, the handling of money may be an important indicator of our spiritual condition.
In our personal lives, seeking after money (or what money can buy) can become so important to us that it crowds out time we might otherwise devote to the Word or to other religious/church activities. Have the things we own or desire to own become so important to us that we no longer take time for prayer, reading the Word, reflecting on the Word, or working on some local or national church project? If they have, we are serving the wrong master (Matt. 6:24).
If money has become so important to us that we are pushing relentlessly toward acquiring money or what money can buy, we are serving money and not God – we cannot serve both.
God’s Part/Our Part
1 Chronicles 29:11-12, “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”
The Bible makes it very clear that the Lord is the Creator and owner of everything. We need to realize we really don’t “own” our possessions. God has entrusted us with the responsibility of being stewards over His possessions. Recognizing this truth is essential in order to allow Jesus Christ to truly be both Lord of our lives and Lord of our possessions.
God’s part is ownership, and our part is stewardship. A steward is a manager or caretaker of someone else’s possessions. The primary requirement of a steward is faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2). The first step in becoming a faithful steward is giving up our claim to ownership.
Proverbs 22:7, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
The dictionary defines debt as “that which one person is bound to pay to or perform for another.” Debt includes everything we owe as a result of items or services purchased but not fully paid for. Examples are bills that come in the mail, payments on a home mortgage or car loan, and money we borrowed from a bank or relative. Scripture discourages debt but does not call it a sin.
What’s so bad about debt? Debt places the debtor in a position of servitude to another person. The obligation to pay off our debts is a restriction on the freedom to decide what to do with our money. The more we owe in debt, the less freedom we have.
The Biblical Financial Study Small Group Student Manual gives a detailed explanation of ten steps that are necessary for getting out of debt: (1) pray; (2) establish a budget; (3) list everything you own; (4) list everything you owe; (5) establish a debt repayment plan; (6) consider earning additional income; (7) control the use of credit cards; (8) be content with what you have; (9) consider a radical change in lifestyle; and (10) do not give up! Following these steps will take effort and hard work, but the result – a debt-free life – is well worth the effort.
Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
One reason some people have financial problems is that they did not seek counsel from someone who understands God’s perspective of money. The two primary hindrances to getting financial advice are pride and stubbornness. A proud spirit perceives getting help as a sign of weakness, and a stubborn spirit doesn’t want to be told we can’t afford what we have already decided we can’t do without. But God in His Word instructs us to “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest by wise in thy latter end” (Proverbs 19:20).
A very important source of counsel is Scripture (Psalm 119:24). The first question we need to ask is simply, “What does the Bible say about a particular issue?”
Another source of wisdom is the counsel of godly people. Seek out those who have knowledge and experience in a particular area. They might show us how to look at an issue from a different perspective or offer alternatives that we never considered (Proverbs 15:22).
A third source of counsel, and one of the most important, is asking God directly through prayer, meditation, and listening for the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 32:8). Knowing God’s direction in a matter will give us comfort, confidence, and encouragement.
Leviticus 19:11, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.”
No one should be surprised to find out that the Bible contains hundreds of verses about honesty. The Ten Commandments contain several warnings against dishonesty: “Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:15-16). Honest behavior must be a way of life, and not simply a decision that is made when an occasion arises.
God gave us the “golden rule” as a guideline for dealing honestly with other people (Luke 6:31). The Apostle Paul gave us a similar guideline in Philippians 2:4.
Peer pressure is a very strong influence whether for good or bad. We can avoid temptations to be dishonest simply by not keeping company with dishonest people (1 Corinthians 15:33). At times we may not be able to avoid the company of dishonest people, but we certainly should consider honesty when we choose our close friends and business associates.
Consider also what a powerful influence the act of generous giving has on acting honestly. This principle is expressed in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
Acts 20:35, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The following are four important elements that will give much-needed insight and direction in the area of giving.
Our attitude. God told Samuel that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We do not impress God with our giving if it is not done with an attitude of love (1 Corinthians 13:3). The attitude with which we give is more important than the amount. Jesus taught His disciples this lesson when He praised the widow who gave only two mites, which was “all that she had.” Our giving should also be motivated by willingness and not obligation, as Paul advised in 2 Corinthians 9:7.
Our advantage in giving. Many people who are keenly aware of their “return on investment” are unaware that scripture tells us giving results in material blessings returning to the giver (Prov. 11:25, 2 Cor. 9:6). The reason that God causes this to happen is so that the giver will acknowledge God’s material blessings and be encouraged to give more.
How much to give. In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to tithe, or give ten percent. Those who didn’t were condemned for robbing Him (Malachi 3:8-9). In the New Testament, we are instructed to give in proportion to the material blessings we receive. When in doubt about how much to give, we should prayerfully ask God to reveal His will and give us direction. Consider starting with a tithe, and increasing our gifts as our material blessings increase.
How to give. The Apostle Paul gave the Corinthian believers some very practical directions for their giving (1 Corinthians 16:2). If we receive wages on a regular basis, we might consider having a certain amount or percent deducted each pay period and deposited in a special account to be used exclusively for our giving.
Colossians 3:23-24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
Contrary to what some may believe, work was not part of God’s curse on Adam. Right from creation, God assigned duties and responsibilities to Adam as the caretaker of Eden (Genesis 2:15). And when God instructed the Israelites to rest on the seventh day, He reminded them that they were to work on the other six days. In the New Testament, Paul gives this mandate to the Thessalonians: “. . . if any would not [is not willing to] work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Many passages in scripture promote diligence in work and condemn laziness (Prov. 18:9). Employment not only enables us to provide for our families, but it also develops conscientious work habits which help build godly character.
However, we must be careful to avoid the danger of excessive work that upsets the balance of life’s priorities. Spending too much time at our jobs will result in neglect of other areas, such as our relationship with Christ or our family. From the beginning of creation, God’s design is that every seventh day should be a day without work (Exodus 34:21).
Employment is also an opportunity for us to display godliness in carrying out our work-related duties. A godly employee will give respect and honor to superiors and co-workers alike (1 Peter 2:18).
Proverbs 21:5, “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.”
Scripture never condemns money itself, only the misuse of or the wrong attitude toward it. We read in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil. . . .” Jesus taught this lesson clearly when He told His disciples the parable of the “rich fool.” A certain landowner was very wealthy, but his heart was consumed only with laying up earthly treasures for himself (Luke 12:20-21, 34). His investment in earthly treasures was not balanced with sharing or giving to the needy. He was not “rich toward God” because he trusted money and possessions for his security instead of trusting God. Thus, Scripture teaches us not all investment goals are good.
Three examples of acceptable investment goals:
Providing for a family. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Gaining financial independence in order to serve God. If we make wise investments and save for retirement, we will have financial support to volunteer for Christian service when we are no longer dependent on an income.
Operating a business. Wise investments can result in raising sufficient capital for opening a business without sinking heavily in debt.
However, Scripture clearly warns against one unacceptable investment goal: the desire to become rich (1 Timothy 6:9). Those who desire to be wealthy are self-centered; their actions are motivated by a love of money and possessions rather than God. Jesus said that we cannot be a servant to both (Matthew 6:24). We can overcome the desire to get rich by following the advice that Paul gave to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11). Simply stated, we must flee from the temptation and pursue godliness.
Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
God is not opposed to our enjoying a comfortable lifestyle, as long as we adhere to the principles in His Word that give guidance and warn against excess.
Learn contentment. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment [clothes] let us be therewith content.” Paul wrote to the Philippians that contentment is learned (Philippians 4:11). The steps to contentment include “knowing” God’s expectation of us as stewards, “doing” what is expected of us, and “trusting” Him to provide for our needs.
Avoid covetousness. We are guilty of coveting when we desire to have what is owned by someone else. It is expressly prohibited by the tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17). Since coveting stems from an impure desire in the heart, those who are guilty of coveting should ask God for help in removing that desire and purifying their heart.
Refrain from comparisons to others. Some people have fallen into serious financial difficulty in a vain attempt to “keep up with the Joneses.” Paul specifically warned the Corinthians against comparison to human measurements (2 Corinthians 10:12). The only acceptable standard of comparison for our lifestyle is God’s Word.
Live more simply. Take an honest appraisal of our possessions to determine how much time and money they need to maintain. Then honestly determine if the demand has impacted our time in nurturing our relationship with the Lord, family, and friends. Paul promoted a quiet, simple life (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
Live according to God’s definition of “success.” While the world has various definitions of success, God has only one: following His law (Joshua 1:8). A life of service to Jesus Christ and a close relationship with God are far too valuable to exchange for the pursuit of pleasure and possessions.
Resist conforming to the world. The word “conforming” really implies being poured into a mold. Our culture worships an affluent, free-spending, expensive lifestyle. Paul warned the Romans about this danger: “And be not conformed to this world. . .” (Romans 12:2).
Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
The perspective with which we view our money and possessions in this short earthly life is vastly widened and improved when we seriously consider eternity. Paul recognized this when he warned the Corinthians about the philosophy of the Epicureans (1 Corinthians 15:32-33). Many who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior are deceived into thinking that death is the end and they should “get all they can, while they can.” On the other hand, believers in Christ recognize our earthly life is short and eternal life is long. God has given us sufficient time and grace in our earthly life to prepare for eternal life.
Eternity, then, provides a valuable lens through which we can handle our resources wisely. Scripture reminds us we are aliens, strangers, and pilgrims as we travel through this world (Hebrews 13:14). As travelers, we are hindered in our journey by the accumulation of excess material possessions; we need only enough to provide for ourselves and our families, to serve God, and to facilitate the journey to our destination.
Finally, here are two principles from Scripture that will give us a godly perspective on our possessions:
• Everything will be left behind. (Psalm 49:16-17)
• Everything will be destroyed. (2 Peter 3:10)
When we understand and accept the temporary nature of possessions, we become free to pursue the biblical steps that lead to faithful stewardship. Study the many passages in God’s Word that give direction in handling money and possessions and seek to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
For further information, including couple questions and exercises, please see the full document.
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For Further Information:
Embrace Your Money Type To Find Financial Unity (Focus on the Family)
This resource provides understanding and insight into how you and your spouse may be wired differently when it comes to managing money. The author uses seven different money types, associated with biblical characters, to bring awareness to your unique approach to money and how you can resolve financial conflict with others.
The Treasure Principle
Author: Randy Alcorn
This 93-page easy-read book explains the secrets of joyful giving.
Money and Marriage God’s Way
Author: Howard Dayton
This 221-page book offers practical, biblical principles applied to common financial problems encountered in marriage whether you are engaged, newly married, or empty nesters. It addresses a number of subjects very relevant to walking as a Christian in today’s world. It is also a good supplement to the premarital materials we have available.