Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Marriage and Finances

QUESTION:

When facing financial ruins in economic times like these, do you stay or go?

A.

ANSWER:

A:

Wow! What a terrifying hit! It is like getting hammered between a dump truck and a run-a-way train!

The quick answer is, “stay.” However, let’s look at this potential train wreck from three angles: the context of divorce, what should happen, what probably will happen, and some steps for recovery. 

Context of divorce

An enormous problem is that we live in a culture of easy no-fault divorce, and a massive cultural shift in values about marriage and family – at least in America. Researchers dispute the statistics, but estimate that somewhere in the 20’s up to 50 percent of all marriages are dissolved. 

One major problem deals with when and what is counted and compared. For example, should one look at the statistics over 10, 20, years – or a lifetime? Another factor deals with how old the couple is at the time of marriage. Indeed, teen marriages have more trouble surviving. 

It is hard to pin down the exact causes, but I did find a good list online created by a group of lawyers. It includes poor communication, financial problems, a lack of commitment to the marriage, a dramatic change in priorities, addiction, and the sure killer – infidelity. 

Financial problems ranked as number two, which brings us back to our topic. Should divorce be the solution to financial misery? No, and here is why.

Should we divorce over money?

God’s perfect design for marriage is monogamy for life with two legitimate exceptions: adultery and desertion (Matthew 19:3-9; 1 Corinthians 7:15). Some scholars suggest other exemptions, and others insist on no exemptions. Some marriages become so toxic, it is probably best to end them.

There is a huge advantage by staying in a marriage during difficult times. Solomon taught, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10). 

Financial problems can strengthen a marriage through mutual encouragement and support. It is also true that with two looking for work, the chances are dramatically better for finding that elusive job. 

Still etched deeply in my mind is a memory of stark desperation I once faced. About 11 years ago, my wife and I had sunk to $5,000 separating us from homelessness. No job was in sight. But, Esmie and I persevered with much prayer and mutual support. Doggedly we pursued any job. Eventually, God established us with a degree of financial stability. 

That experience toughened our marriage. We gained confidence that we could survive and beat any hard times that might visit us. But, sadly, a financial crisis does not always generate a happy ending. 

Sometimes divorce happens

Sometimes we fail God’s ideal, and marriages fracture. Financial collapse may be the final pressure that unravels an already shaky marriage. Furthermore, we are fallen people living in a fallen world. That is why Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives” (Matthew 19:8). 

During financial crisis, emotions run high, discouragement, blaming, and fear runs rampant. Faith is forgotten. When the irrational rules, clear thinking evaporates. 

‘Surely,” they think, “if the other person were just gone, then happiness (and money) will return.”

However, divorce can spawn nasty circumstances. It may worsen financial problems, and harm the couple, family, and friendships. For example, God said, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). One reason is seen in His reprimand, “him who covers his garment with wrong.”

The “garment” is a symbol of protection. Consequently, in that culture, divorce left the wife abandoned without means of livelihood. Actually, the husbands were leaving their Hebrew wives to marry the Gentile women of the region who had better connections to wealth and economic gain. 

Malachi was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, and you can read more of the context in Ezra 9, 10; Nehemiah 13:23-27. 

Divorce can negatively impact the lives of children, and corrupt the relationship with former in-laws. Friends choose sides. Tension erupts at family events such as weddings, funerals, and reunions. Child support and alimony prolong ill feelings. The lawyers become richer. New boy/girlfriends, spouses, and stepchildren complicate matters.

Divorce, in itself, does not solve money problems. So…where does the fix start? 

Steps for recovery

The first stepping-stone is to establish your marriage in true love, which has three parts: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Psychologists sometimes call this consummate love. When the relationship is right, then effective problem solving follows.

The Song of Solomon illustrates the passionate part of love. Romantic, physical passion is all over the pages. 

The Greek verb, “phileo” describes the tender intimacy, affection or friendship part of love (e.g. John 11:3). 

The Greek word, “agape,” identifies the critical pillar of commitment (e.g. John 11:5). Agape seeks the genuine welfare of the object loved. It is faithful, and sticks around for the long haul. It never gives up in the fierce face of failure. 

This mix of passion, intimacy, and commitment glues our marriages together. Don’t split when money problems clobber you. Prayerfully tend to your relationship, then pool your creative resources, and focus on productive solutions. 

  • Get counseling. 
  • Learn money management skills. 
  • Don’t give up hope. 
  • Deliberately factor God and His purposes into the equation. 
  • Pray often. 
  • Create a plan, and put it to work. 
  • Encourage your spouse when they are down, and they will do the same for you when you are down.
  • Be that winning team that refuses defeat. Never give up. Live one day at a time. Most of all, cultivate your relationship with God. Keep it intimate, honest, humble, and mixed with faith. 

Forgiveness

Finally, if you do make a mistake, remember that grace and forgiveness is available through Christ. Sometimes Christians think that divorce is the unforgivable sin. It is not. Negative and unintended or unforeseen consequences will follow, but our Lord Jesus Christ guarantees forgiveness and restoration. 

At times, when Christians divorce they become so guilt ridden and discouraged they lose the confidence they once had in Christ. They may be denied places of ministry, and resign themselves to live a sort of second class Christianity. 

If this is your case, don’t despair. You may have given up on God, but He has not given up on you. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are born again, and are still His child. He still loves you, and is bringing you into conformance to the image of Christ (e.g. Romans 8:28-39). He still wants to use you in His service, and will grant you opportunity and supply you with the resources to accomplish His will for your life.

I do not encourage you to plunge into the turmoil of divorce. Don’t misunderstand me. I do desire, however, to alert you to the grace, love, forgiveness, and restoration abundantly available through Jesus Christ to all His children for whatever situation they may find themselves. 

I leave you with these words by the Apostle John, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteousness to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

I changed my mind: let me leave you with this ironclad promise and principle, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

All the best to you,

Dr. Newman

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