Your Money and Your Mate
May – June 2003
This morning we are going to talk about money–your money and your mate. Why is money such a big deal in marriage? A recent Gallup Poll revealed that 64% of all married couples argue about money. Money is the number one cause of divorce in the United States. So what are we to do about money matters and financial matters in marriage?
We’re in a series, as you know, called, Marriage Map: the Road to Happily Ever After. We have seen that road is a holy road, a sacrificial road, and a persevering road. We have talked about how to rescue your marriage if your marriage is in the ditch. We have looked at sex. Last week, we looked at the “s” word, submission. And every Sunday we have seen that marriage, to sum it up in one sentence, is a life-long commitment to unconditionally love an imperfect person. This morning we are going to look at one of those hot-button issues, and that is the issue of money. And if you’re here, and you’re saying, “This doesn’t apply to me. I’m single. I call my own financial shots,” you are wrong. These principles will apply to you as much as they will apply to people who are married.
If you have your Bibles, open them to Isaiah Chapter 55 (go to Psalms and turn right). Isaiah Chapter 55, Verse 2 talks about the problem we have with money: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” The problem we have in our culture today, both inside of the church and outside the church, is that so many times we spend money on things that do not bring us ultimate satisfaction. Basically, we have this tendency in our society…maybe you’ve heard this phrase before or maybe you’ve used this phrase: “I am simply going to go with the flow.” Have you ever heard that one? “I’m just going to go with the flow,” as if we’re some carefree spirits, unconcerned about this or that. “I’m just going to make money, spend money, charge my credit card up, it doesn’t matter…I’m going to go with the flow.”
Listen, if you’re going with the flow, guess who’s in charge of your life? The flow is, and whoever is controlling the flow, that being pop culture and the marketing gurus, they are controlling your life and your spending habits. And so many times we do go with the flow and spend money, as Isaiah Chapter 55, Verse 2 says, on things that are “not bread,” things that are not necessary, things that do not satisfy. We’re addicted, as a culture, to three words.
The first word that many of us here are addicted to is the word, sale. I mean, it’s like when we see that word, we just start slobbering like Pavlov’s dog. We can’t resist a sale. And we think, “Hey, I’m saving money because I bought it on sale, right?” I’m not against sales; it’s good to buy things on sale, but if you’re addicted to every sales sign you see then you will be in a heap of financial trouble. The other two words that we are addicted to in our spend-spend society are, charge it, right? “I don’t have to pay for it now. I can simply charge it.” And with credit cards having interest rates of around 18%, they are nailing you. You get enslaved to that person at that credit card company.
I remember a friend of mine who was a roommate in grad school, and this credit company was after him, man. They were threatening him. I thought I was going to open the door to my apartment one day and there’s Rocco with the cut off gloves ready to work my friend over. Letters, phone calls from New York every day, and, “We’re going to come get you”…. Finally, he paid off his credit card debt, and what did he get the next day in the mail? Boom! A credit card from the same company.
And so these folks, not all of them but a lot of them, are kind of out to get you into the system of debt. And when you’re addicted to the word sale or the words charge it, you are in a heap of trouble.
Now, let’s apply that to the context of marriage. Marriage, and love, is a strange and mysterious thing, isn’t it? So many times the proverbial saying, “Opposites attract,” is true. So many times you’ll have someone who is a saver be attracted to someone who is a spender. They get married. They merge. They become one, and what are you going to have? You’re going to have major conflict. And what’s fascinating is this: What attracts you to someone in dating is the same thing that repels you once you are married. You ever noticed that, those of you that are married? It’s amazing. Sometimes you have spenders marrying spenders, and those people are also known as bankrupt. Rarely do you have two spendthrifts, savers, marrying one another.
So you see, that is going to breed conflict because people bring into marriage different perspectives on money. And everybody is guilty of a double standard. No one is really a “spender”; it’s always “someone else.” I like what my friend said; his definition of materialism is: “Materialism begins where my income ends.” Think about that. I like that. “You see, I’m not materialistic because I drive a Chevrolet, but you drive a Cadillac, so you’re materialistic.” Or, “Well, you know, I’m not materialistic because I drive a Cadillac, but you drive a Mercedes.” You see how it goes? We always compare ourselves to someone else. So, the bottom line is this: Marriage can be a great source of conflict when it comes to finances. And so God speaks to us and tells us what we must do to get a grip on our finances, whether we’re married or whether we’re single. What do we do?
Romans Chapter 12, Verse 2…like I said, all the answers to life’s problems are found in Romans Chapter 1 through Romans Chapter 16; if you’re ever stranded on a desert island, tell them to email you the book of Romans, and you’ll be all right. Romans Chapter 12, Verse 2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” What do we do to battle the money monster, to get a grip on our finances, to bring balance into our marriages? We have to do as Romans Chapter 12, Verse 2 says; we have to go contra-flow. Instead of going with the flow of our spend-spend-spend-charge-it-charge-it-charge-it-rack-up-the-debt culture. We have got to go contra flow—against the flow of traffic—if we are to have finances and a marriage that are going to really honor and glorify God.
Now, have you ever seen those movies that have the gratuitous car chasing? You know, maybe they throw that in there for guys. They have these long, elaborate car chasings, and it doesn’t matter what it is—it may be a bicycle—when the bicycle falls off the cliff, Boom! It explodes. Go figure. Anyway, in these car chasings recently it’s been kind of en vogue that the bad guy is getting chased by the good guy, you know. Then the bad guy’s going down the freeway, and he jerks it on the median, and all of a sudden he’s going against the grain of traffic—he’s going the wrong way. And he’s somehow dodging all these cars.
Well, that’s what it is going to feel like if you decide today to do things God’s way financially and go contra-flow. You’re going to feel like the stunt guy there in the movie, trying to dodge all these cars in traffic. But, in time, it will be like getting on that lane [the HOV] on I-10—as everybody else is stuck in traffic, as everybody else is stuck in debt, you are coasting along because you are doing things financially God’s way.
So God tells us in his word in Romans Chapter 12, Verse 2: Do not conform, do not allow the world system to squeeze you into its mold. Go contra-flow. Now that’s a great slogan. We could make some t-shirts and maybe put a little fish on it and Christianize it (kidding). Go contra-flow.
But how do you do it? How do you live that out? Let me say this parenthetically: It’s impossible to go totally contra-flow. We are products of our culture, right? Some of the culture is going to rub off on us. You know what? That’s okay. That’s all right. The issue is how much of the culture are we going to imbibe? How much of the culture is going to rub off on you and going to rub off on me? End of parentheses. How do you go contra-flow? You’ve got to start doing four things.
The first thing you have to start doing, especially in the context of marriage, is you’ve got to start talking. Now, I know that sounds crazy, but many times couples do not talk about their financial situation. They don’t talk about their finances. And if they do, it’s not a talk, it is a fight. If you to go to Intercontinental Airport, as you are going in there, you’ll notice those beautiful…I don’t know if they’re statues or they are flags; they’re like these light poles that beam out that they uprooted from the 1990 economic summit. (Bush is in France right now for the current economic summit.) And when you see those flags, let that remind you that you need to have an economic summit with your mate, you need to have a time when you sit down and you actually discuss what is going on in your financial situation.
Here are four things that you need to talk about. First of all, you need to talk about what you own. What do we own? What do we have of value? Second of all, talk about what we owe. What is our current debt situation? Third thing you need to talk about is what we earn. What is our income? And the fourth thing you need to talk about is where it goes. And that is your budget. What we own: value. What we owe: debt. What we earn: income. And where it goes: that is, our budget. Now if you’re single here today, again, don’t say, “This doesn’t apply to me. I’m not really going to worry about finances until I get married.” Or if you’re a single female here: “I’m just going to wait for someone to rescue me, and he’s going to be tall, dark, Christian, and rich.” You know, it doesn’t work that way. Don’t put your financial life on pause and then turn it on once you get married. Learn financial responsibility right now. Learn how to do things God’s way. Start talking—that’s the first way you go contra-flow. Have an economic summit with your mate. Communicate.
The second thing you need to do to go contra-flow is to start giving. Malachi Chapter 3, Verse 10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” If you want to get your finances in order in your marriage or in your life, start doing things God’s way and start tithing—start giving 10% to the Lord, to the storehouse, to his local church. God says, “Test me in this. Test Me. See if I will not pour out blessings in your life if you do this.”
Now, some people take this one verse here and build a whole theology of prosperity. And the dangerous thing about some heresies that are out there in the Christian world today is that there’s a little bit of truth in every heresy—if not, we couldn’t connect with it. So there is some truth and some validity that as we give to God, God will bless us. Sometimes that is blessings materially. Sometimes that is blessings spiritually. But he does promise that.
Many of you have never experienced the joy of giving. Maybe you’ve heard the story about the one dollar bill that was talking to the twenty dollar bill, and the one dollar bill said to the twenty, “Hey, where you been, man? I haven’t seen you around very much.“ And the twenty said, “Well, I’ve been out and about, been to the casinos, and then I went on a cruise, and I went to a couple of islands. Then I came back to the states and went to a couple of baseball games, and then I wound up at the mall and then a car dealership. That’s where I’ve been.” And the twenty said to the one, “Where have you been?” And the one says, “Oh, you know, same old stuff—church, church, church, church, church.” You know it’s like when it comes to giving, we act like it’s our stuff, don’t we? And as Americans, we love our stuff.
That’s why I’m amazed when I travel to third-world countries and meet Christians, or even people in that culture that may not be Christians, and I see how they don’t have such an individualistic, selfish pig kind of concept of our things and me and mine. I’ve been there as a missionary to share Jesus with them, and these people who have absolutely nothing share Jesus with me, as they are so generous with the little or nothing that they have. If we’re going to learn how to heal our finances in our marriage and in our lives, we’ve got to start giving. God says, “Test me.” Start tithing and giving 10% to him. Why does God do that? Does God do that because God needs the money? That’s crazy; of course God doesn’t need the money. But God knows that money, so many times, is an indicator of what is in our heart. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you’re going to go contra-flow, start talking. If you’re going to go contra-flow, number two, start giving—start tithing. God says, “Here, take the Pepsi challenge.” Start. Go for it.
Number three, to go contra-flow, is this: You have to start paying off your debt. Proverbs Chapter 22, Verse 7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” What does that mean? That means if you are in a big amount of debt, then you are enslaved to the person that you are indebted to. You are shackled to them. So many times we just amass this debt in our culture, and it goes up and up and up and up and up, and we ignore it. We want to close our eyes, and we don’t want to deal with it. Why do we have so much debt in our country—not just individually and within families, but corporately? Why? Because we spend more than we actually have. Why is this? It’s because we are filled so many times with envy and lust. What is lust? Lust is: “I want it now. I want something bigger now. I want something better now. I want this now.” And with that kind of attitude, and real sharp sales people, we become impulse buyers. We become enslaved to that. And we amass this debt.
Why does the Bible say no to debt? Check it out. It is because debt, first of all, enslaves us to the person, as I mentioned. Number two, debt obligates a person to an earning pressure. Once you are in debt to someone, you have the pressure to perform and to come through and pay that person off. Three, because debt undermines joy. How much stress and pressure do we have in our lives because we have this debt that we’re trying to chip away at? Next thing, because debt erodes giving opportunities. Many times we don’t have the money to give and bless people because we have this debt amassed.
Also, debt unmasks character flaws. Many times it shows a lack of contentment, a lack of patience, a lack of self-discipline. This all happens when we let debt get out of control. Basically as one pastor said it, the problem is, many of us don’t know how to act our wage. We don’t like to act our wage, do we? You know, we like to pull a Dallas—make 20 grand and act like you make 40 grand; you make 50 grand a year and act like you make 100 grand, right? Bottom line is this: We have to live within our means if we’re to have a financial situation that honors and glorifies God and that will bring peace and joy into our marriage. Basically, don’t try to bling-bling if you don’t have the cha-ching, to put it into rap terms. It doesn’t work. You’re going to be looking cool and styling and profiling for a while, but after a while that debtor, that person that lent to you, is going to come down and have you shackled. You’ve got to start paying off debt.
Number four, this is a tough one. If you’re going to go contra-flow, first thing, what is it? Help me out. Start talking. Number two? Start giving. Three? Start paying off your debt. And number four, start living simply. Start living simply. Richard Foster, who wrote the book The Celebration of Discipline, said this: “Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.”
We need to learn how to live simply so that other people can simply live. Matthew Chapter 6, Verse 33, many of us know this verse but it’s not really a living reality in our lives, says: “But seek first his Kingdom” (God’s Kingdom, his way), “and his righteousness….” And then what? “All these things will be added,” will be given to you, as well. That’s tough. I struggle with that. I struggle with trying to live simply in a world and in a culture that says, “Don’t live simply. You’ve got to have it now. Buy now. Pay later.” This is a struggle isn’t it? It’s a struggle to go contra-flow. It’s a struggle not to keep up with the Joneses and their four-car garage. I’m pretty good at all the Ten Commandments accept that last one. Killer, isn’t it? Don’t Covet. That’s what gets us into so many financial messes. It’s simply the fact that we covet and that we amass stuff. And we clutter, and we don’t simplify and streamline our lives.
We’ve got to learn contentment—learn to be thankful for what God has blessed us with. We need to learn to enjoy the things God has given us. It’s not like money’s bad, right? Most of the time during the 9 to 5, that’s all we live and talk about: money, money, money. But money is neutral. Money is not evil. It’s the love of money. It’s making more and getting more stuff and having more and more and more. It becomes an idol in your life that can start controlling and splitting apart your marriage and causing great strife in your own life.
God tells us that you’ve got to go contra-flow. You’ve got to go against the grain and start living simply. Learn to streamline your life. And that is a day by day, week by week challenge, isn’t it? It is. Why is that? Because we all want to try to create a little bit of heaven on earth, don’t we? That’s it. We want, you know, to be perfectly healthy now. We want to be perfectly beautiful now. We want to be perfectly comfortable now. We want heaven, now, now, now. And so many times, that’s why we’re frustrated—when we get all these things and heaven still doesn’t happen. Just look at the story of Christina Onassis. She was one of the heiresses of Aristotle Onassis. She inherited a billion dollars. Look at her tragic life—a billion dollars, addicted to food, addicted to drugs, four marriages crashed and burned in divorce. She died at the age of 37, I believe. Same thing with the Woolworth heiress; I think she was married and divorced more times than Larry King and died an empty person. I mean, there are a lot of people that have had all the things and all the creature comforts that the world has to offer, but because they don’t understand who God is and how God has shown us how to use finances and things for His glory and for this temporal purpose, they have an empty, empty, miserable life.
We don’t want to go there. God has provided a way out. God has provided a way for us to go contra-flow. Some of you here know that you’ve got to do that. Some of you here today know that if you don’t get a grip on your finances you are going to be way off the road. You’re financial life will be totaled. Many of you here are married and know that you need to have an economic summit with your wife. And maybe you’re at such a point financially that you need to bring in a third party—a financial planner or a counselor—to help you negotiate that deal. You know that you have to go contra flow. You’ve got to make that u-turn and go against the flow of the traffic. The only way I know to do that is to let go of the wheel and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, come in at the center of my life. Lord, you drive my life. Lord Jesus, you drive our marriage. Lord Jesus, you drive our finances, and show me and help me get back on track, so that we can have a marriage and a relationship with our money that truly honors and glorifies you, because that’s what we’re created to do.”
[Ben leads in a closing prayer.]