When Gina and I were first married I paid all the bills. This was stressful and hard for Gina. We didn’t have a lot of money and she couldn’t understand why things were so difficult each month. Before long the strife that bill paying created was a bit much and I resigned to let her manage our finances. Finances are hard and the stress of taking care of them, especially on a shoestring budget, really began to take a toll on Gina. Before long I was back in charge of the checkbook and, in search of peace, Gina just turned a blind eye to where the money was going. We eventually started making a bit more money and went our separate ways financially. I covered the basic bills and what Gina was making just went into her account. And thus we lived in peace.It would be several years before we would even discuss money. I think we could have left it there. I think a lot of couples leave it there. I mean the bills were taken care of. But that wasn’t enough for God. We both began to realize that we had learned to work together in so many other places in our relationship that we couldn’t just ignore our finances. And that is what the Lord was telling us both. There was blessing to be had! There was a promised land for us, if we were willing to cross the river to get to it. We needed to work through this, and we knew it was going to be tough. There are a handful of things that helped us in this process. I am only going to focus on one, the big one, tithing.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT
When Joshua led the Israelites to cross the Jordan River near Jericho, the Ark led the way into the water symbolizing God going before them. Then they were instructed to take one stone per tribe from the riverbed and construct an altar to the Lord.
There are three stones that we lifted as we crossed our river, and used them to build an altar.
Stone #1: We serve God, not money.
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13 NLT. Tithing allows us to demonstrate we serve God before doing anything else with our money.
Stone #2: Tithe comes out first.
We have bills, a mortgage, some credit card debt. We have goals to get out from under a lot of that, but for the time being most of our money is spoken for. “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NLT. That first tithe (or tenth) that comes out before anything else is our only chance to establish God as our master and lord of our money.
Stone #3: We can stop and be reconciled for our financial sins.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matt 5:23-24 NLT. As we tithe, we are able to stop, and wherever our spending was previously, forgive each other, make a new plan and move forward.
Here is the immediate impact these had on our struggle to ‘be married’ in our finances. A lot of friction we encountered as we discussed money was because we would take the things said about the budget personally. We both have failings in our spending and are ashamed. Starting with a tithe-centered discussion on how to manage HIS money moves ‘us’ to a lesser role (where we belong).
Working with your spouse on finances will be difficult – it makes your own weaknesses in this area open to your spouse. It means being vulnerable. View finances as a way to work on your relationship, and for us, that began with tithing.
How do the finances work in your marriage? Do you find it a struggle to work together with your finances? Is tithing a struggle for you?