Stewarding Time & Talents: Creating a Vision for Your Marriage
Below are several areas to consider with your fiancé/spouse within the topic of Priorities and Stewardship of Time and Talents 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
Seeking the kingdom of God.
Seeking the kingdom of God must be your top priority in life. This is done by pursuing things consistent with God’s Word and His righteousness. Putting Him first in your lives allows other things to fall into their proper rank. Loving God and loving people are the two principles that should underlie all you do. (Matt. 6:33, 22:37-40)
You are accountable for how you use your time and talents.
As you seek the kingdom of God, you are accountable to God for your stewardship of your time and talents. (1 Cor. 4:1-2)
Committing your ways to the Lord.
If you commit your ways to the Lord and walk in His ways, He will direct your steps and guide you in the way you should go. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Keeping God in the center of your lives requires sacrifice.
In order to maintain a biblical focus while reaching for your goals and priorities, you must think about the implications and possible sacrifices you will need to make in order to ensure you keep God at the center. (Luke 14:28-30)
The importance of having a vision for the future.
Having a vision and goals allows you to stay focused on your true priorities and be good stewards of the gift of marriage and other gifts you have received. Not having clear direction can lead to living aimlessly and pulling away from God’s priorities for your lives. It is essential to keep an eternal perspective as you set your goals. (Prov. 29:18)
Fulfilling the Great Commission.
As individuals and as couples, you must consider your roles in how you can help fulfill the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:19-20)
Using your spiritual gifts.
You can be faithful stewards by using your God-given spiritual gifts to serve one another. While individual gifts may be different, they are designed to be used together to build the Body of Christ, to edify one another, and to minister the love of Christ to others. (Eph. 4:11-16, 1 Peter 4:10)
Seeking contentment rather than riches.
Individuals and couples vary in wealth, talents, occupations, family situations, etc., but each one has the opportunity to receive God’s amazing, sufficient grace. You must allow contentment rather than striving for money or riches to order your priorities. (1 Tim. 6:6-12)
Working in His kingdom.
You have the privilege of working along with God to build His kingdom. God has designed you to do good works as an expression of your love for Him. (Eph. 2:10)
Why having a vision for your marriage is important.
What is a vision?
A vision is a roadmap or a “picture” of a plan. You have probably heard of organizations that have a mission statement. The purpose of a mission statement is to succinctly state the reason the organization exists, its core values, and what goals it seeks to achieve. A mission statement can help define the “vision.”
What is the purpose of your marriage?
The answer to this question is crucial as you seek to be purposeful in glorifying God in your marriage. Christ-honoring marriages do not happen by accident. Rather, you must have a biblically based idea that serves as a roadmap about where you and your spouse are going in life. This roadmap outlines the goals and the steps along the way that will help you reach those goals. Keep in mind, however, that while you devise goals and plan your ways, it is the Lord who directs your steps (Proverbs 16:9). Over time your plans may change, obstacles may arise, and your goals may shift. However, as long as you are focused on glorifying Him in all things, you can take those changes gracefully.
Where do you want your marriage to go?
The types of goals you and your spouse may develop can vary and stretch over a wide range of topics. For example, one goal may be related to having children and raising a family together. You may have a goal to one day build your own house, own a business, travel to Europe, mentor teenagers, or support a mission organization. Having a dream the two of you share, can help you build and maintain unity and will help guide you as you strive to be good stewards of your time and talents. Each of you will have entered marriage with your own dreams and ideas about the future. As you become one, you join these dreams and ideas and see how you can help each other fulfill them.
Your vision can help safeguard your marriage.
Why did you want to be married? Where would you like your marriage to be in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Forty years? A long-term vision for how you want your marriage to look in the future helps frame-up daily, weekly, and yearly activities and goals which should draw you towards knowing each other more deeply and honoring God. Defining your vision can help you overcome the obstacles and utilize the resources available.
Obstacles: Marriage has tremendous potential to bring God glory and to help two people grow closer and more like Christ. Because of this, Satan tries to sabotage marriages by attempting to distract and discourage couples from their purpose. Money, selfishness, isolation, spiritual stagnation, etc. can all become obstacles in your marriage. Comparison to others is a subtle way Satan can distract couples from what truly matters. When couples become discontent with their material possessions and strive to remedy that discontent by spending more time and energy on increasing wealth, they easily become distracted from their Godly goals and purposes.
Changes that come with normal life stages: Over time, normal changes in your life (the addition of children, increased responsibility at work, additional responsibilities in the church, etc.) can have both positive and negative effects on your marriage. These changes can add richness and meaning to your lives as well as increased stress and demands on your time. While these changes are not necessarily bad in themselves, you must be aware these changes can pull your focus away from your overall mission. You need times of reflection and reevaluation to ensure that you haven’t gotten so caught up by busyness of day-to-day life that you lose sight of your true purpose.
Creating a vision for your marriage.
It’s not about you.
One of the first steps to forming a vision for your marriage is to realize it’s not all about you. Those who enter marriage must put self aside in order to give glory to God by means of becoming one with another person as He intended. Christ, husband, and wife are now in an intimate relationship and all endeavors, decisions, etc. must be for the betterment of that three-fold intimate relationship. Sometimes, difficulty can arise when trying to agree on a common vision. One spouse may see his/her ideas and goals as superior to the others. Or, goals may be developed solely by one spouse without input from the other. The ingredients for staying spiritually vibrant include utilizing the distinctness of the husband and wife, utilizing their union by pursuing agreed-upon goals, and for these goals to be outside of self-centered goals.
The role of sacrifice.
A healthy marriage consists of two complete individuals, joining together and having identities as both individuals and as a couple. This oneness does not entail two “halves” becoming one or one spouse absorbing the other. Rather, as whole individuals they come together to be one in Christ. (1 Cor. 11:11)
However, God doesn’t want you to join together so that you can live out selfish desires. Rather, the joining together of husband and wife is designed to help you learn to be more like Christ and to live in a meaningful, self-sacrificial manner. Consider this quote that addresses marital unity:
“This ‘we,’ however, is not achieved through the absorption of one mate into the other – either the wife into the husband or the husband into the wife. The apostle Paul is clear that each of us is given our own gifts and our own role to play in the kingdom of God. Each of us must be passionately devoted to our own faithful service. A mature marriage looks beyond itself, forfeiting not just the tyranny of individual desires, but also the tyranny of the couple’s comfort.”
In addition to being unified on goals and dreams, you must also escape “the tyranny” of comfort. Sometimes, particularly in the beginning of marriage, it can be easy to become absorbed into your life as a new couple. While this stage is healthy to a point and it is important to bond as a couple, there also needs to be a balance of reaching out to others. The stewardship of your time and talents will shift as you progress through different stages of your marriage relationship. If you are raising children, much of your time and talents are invested in them. There are other stages of your marriage in which you have time and talents to share with others, to use in outreach, and to invest in the lives of others. Prayerful discernment is required to keep your priorities straight.
Who you are matters more than what you do.
As you form your vision, this important truth must be kept in mind. God wants the image of Christ to be formed in you just as Paul desired for the Galatian believers (Galatians 4:19). You must not become so busy doing things (even good things) that you forget to spend time communing with God from your heart. God uses the relationships, experiences, and circumstances of your lives to shape and form you to reflect Him more fully. Relationships in general, and specifically the marriage relationship, can alter the time, energy, and resources that you can put into achieving your goals. Marriage involves serving another person more than serving yourself. It takes time, effort, and even money away from self and self-driven ambitions. While you may be less able to do as much as you could when single, marriage shapes your character and impacts your soul, allowing you to become more Christ-like.
Marriage becomes an essential part of your mission in life, both because of what it allows you to do as well as who it allows you to be. This relationship becomes the core from which other aspects of your life emerge. Becoming more Christ-like in this relationship is fulfilling a fundamental aspect of your purpose in life. Making your marriage as God-glorifying as possible in every area becomes a life-long goal. Loving and respecting your spouse and fulfilling biblical husband/wife roles are ways to accomplish this goal.
Think “big picture.”
Discuss ways in which the two of you want to be involved together in service, ministry, and worship for the Lord. As you and your spouse discuss goals and hopes for the future, encourage one another to consider the possibilities of how God could work through your lives. At times, God lays certain issues or tasks on an individual’s heart that are meant to help you focus on and fulfill your unique purpose for your life on earth. Marriage can help you work toward fulfilling your desires to serve Christ. For example, one spouse may help the other overcome fears or insecurities about becoming involved in a type of service within the church.
Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Another step in forming the vision for your marriage is to identify and discuss your individual strengths and weaknesses in addition to your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. Look for ways that one spouse’s strengths can help the other’s weaknesses. Look for ways that your strengths coincide and prayerfully consider how God could use them. Do you both have weaknesses in some of the same areas? Discuss how you can make accommodations for each other’s weaknesses.
You can see your individual and couple strengths as a gift from God that requires proper stewardship. How will you use them to serve others? Consider specifically how you can use your strengths to serve your local church, family, coworkers, and neighbors.
Day-to-day priorities and stewardship.
Being in agreement on goals and vision allows a couple to be unified and increases intimacy. It also leads to determining your priorities. Once priorities are set, you can then decide how to be good stewards of your time and talents both as individuals and as a couple.
The heart of the matter.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” If you are to glorify God in your lives, you must start by making sure that your hearts are focused on God. Behavioral change, without a corresponding heart change, is futile. When your hearts are focused on God, then all aspects of your lives radiate His likeness (see the diagram below3). You shouldn’t live in a “compartmentalized” fashion in which you live according to biblical principles in some situations and not in others. The Word says to do everything as for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24).
Striving for balance.
Decisions related to stewardship of time require the give-and-take process. Once married, your time is no longer your own – you share it with your spouse. It is important to be purposeful in how you spend your time alone, together, and with others. Strive for a healthy balance.
For instance, spending too much time on leisure activities or hobbies can lead to an unbalanced lifestyle. When leisure activities take precedence over service opportunities or quality time with friends and family, your time allocation needs to be reevaluated. On the other hand, if you keep so busy that you never have time during a typical week to relax or unwind, you will need to create opportunities for some self-care time.
Deciding how to spend your time is similar to setting a budget. You are each allocated a finite amount of time and you must decide how to spend it. Some categories of your time budget allow for more flexibility than others. The impact of the lack of balance in each category varies as well. Taking too much time out of the “sleep” category will eventually catch up with you and cause detrimental effects such as sickness or irritability. Knowing that you have set aside a certain amount of time for the most important items will help keep your time budget balanced. If you make a habit of going to church every Sunday, you can plan on those hours being allocated to church activity. Also, if you know you and your spouse will have a date night alone every other week, you can plan for it and make it happen rather than just waiting for “when you have time.” Time is a commodity that you rarely feel you have enough of, so the “when we have time” opportunities seldom actually occur.
A certain amount of our time will be determined for us (work, sleep, responsibilities, etc.), yet how we steward the remaining portion of our time is essential. Stewardship, priorities, and your goals guide this process. You may have a hobby that you want to pursue or a leisure time activity that you enjoy. Does it fit with the Word and in your “time budget?” Colossians 1:10 can help remind you of your priorities as well, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Dividing your time.
Many people or activities vie for your time. Relationships and the amount of time you can give them all change over time. Together, you and your spouse need to decide what is reasonable. You may need to put limits and boundaries on things that can take away from your marital relationship. Even being involved in many “good” things can be the enemy of the “best” things.
Family: If you live near family, many expectations may be involved in holidays, birthdays, and other family celebrations. Together, you and your spouse can decide on your level of involvement in these activities. If you live far away from family, you and your spouse will need to discuss how to be good stewards of your time while staying in touch with family.
Friends: Friendships do change after marriage. You may find less time to spend with close friends than you did when you were single. Naturally, you may grow closer to other married couples and make new friendships that now include both you and your spouse. At the same time, it is appropriate to maintain old friendships. It takes effort to maintain friendships, but they are essential for support and encouragement. It is not wise to depend on your spouse to meet all your emotional needs. Once again, a balance is essential.
Church: Commitment to a church body is of great importance. Being involved in your church and building relationships in the church can help you grow spiritually in the process of sanctification. Within a healthy church body, support, love, and encouragement can be given and received as needed. The church should be a sanctuary for weary souls and a source of new life.
At the same time, even church-related activities can become cumbersome. You may be involved in a church that has abundant opportunities for service. You may be asked to be on multiple committees or help with various activities. Even good opportunities such as these can get in the way of your marriage. Talk with your spouse, a mentor, or a minister if you need feedback on how to keep the right balance.
Occupation: Your occupation may be a career, a part-time job, or working towards a degree. Often, the goal of this occupation is to provide for yourself and your family and to use the gifts you have been given. This is an admirable goal and one for which you should strive. However, many people can fall into the trap of allowing work to take precedence over relationships and allowing it to fulfill needs (such as security, confidence, etc.) that were meant to be fulfilled elsewhere. Both husbands and wives with an occupation must defend against the pull that allows work to become more important than family. In addition, focus on the eternal prize for which you are striving, rather than on earthly success.
Household duties: Whether you rent or buy, whether you live in a small apartment in a city or a large house in the country, various household duties and the responsibilities that come with having “things” can become larger than life. The more you possess, the more you have to take care of. The materialism of our culture often leads to an overabundance of possessions which then leads to further responsibilities and burdens. In your marriage, guard against the tendency to accumulate, and instead, discern what will allow you to maintain proper stewardship of your time and money.
For further information, including couple questions and exercises, please see the full document.
For Further Information:
Your Time-Starved Marriage: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life
Authors: Dr. Les & Leslie Parrott
This resource gives you tools to feed your time-starved relationship, maximizing the moments you have together. It provides insight on how individuals manage time differently and how these different time management styles can impact your relationship.