This month, June 2014, marks the five-year anniversary of the end of the period between December 2007 and June 2009 that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) officially dubbed the Great Recession. While we certainly have seen some economic recovery in both corporate profits and the stock market, the feeling on Main Street remains pessimistic. Family relationships are buckling under the strain. But, are economic or relational deficits more responsible?
It is true that stagnation in both unemployment and housing markets continue to heavily weigh on working and middle class America. In fact, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that the majority of American adults (57%) believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession despite what the NBER reports. These economic strains have significantly impacted family life.
Countless couples cite financial problems as a primary reason for their family struggles—especially marital strain. It is difficult to listen to the stories of sorrow that come from many of these couples.
These stories, however, have led me to believe that relational rather than economic deficits are the truer source of our sorrows.
In other words, I believe our Christian homes are experiencing sorrow because of our misplaced faith more than our balance sheets.
How can I suggest that faith, not finances are the culprit? The Apostle Paul states it this way, “…some people craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10, NLT). These sorrows are most evident in our meaningful family relationships. Marriages are disintegrating as couples blame each other for poor decisions and insufficient income. Children’s needs often go neglected as parents struggle with basic family needs. Church and community sustenance become secondary as families conserve household resources.
On the surface, we interpret the problem as a financial one—thinking that if we had more money everything would be resolved. The truth is more complex. The problem, as Paul suggests, is that we have indeed “wandered from the true faith.” This true faith is that God desires our marriages to be bridges to him—modeled after Christ’s relationship with the Church.
True faith models wealth rather than money as God’s design for our marriages—prioritizing equity that is relational over that which is financial. How do you pursue your own wealthy marriage?
Wealthy marriages are a MESS
Wealthy marriages are recession-resistant because they show mutual respect for the God-given gifts of each partner and commit to being shaped by one another. Wealthy marriages anchor on four principles.
- Wealthy marriages espouse mutual goals and pursuits
- Wealthy marriages embrace empowerment
- Wealthy marriages find emotional security in the sacred
- Wealthy marriages prioritize service to others over their own self-centeredness
Stated succinctly, wealthy marriages promote true faith because they are mutual, empowered, sacred, and service-oriented. Taking the first letter of each of these anchoring principles yields M-E-S-S. Herein lies the irony that is vital for couples in the new economy to grasp. Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, our relationships have been a mess. Our relationship “bailout” is only achieved as we walk in obedience to the Lord. Wealthy marriages are messes that have been redeemed through Christ’s death—modeling for us how to redeem one another.
Espouse mutual goals and pursuits
Modern American culture has been steeped in individualism—most rewarding those individual efforts to achieve the American dream. Unfortunately, these personal pursuits often stymie couples’ focus on developing a shared vision that leverages their mutual gifts and desires.
Wealthy marriages are motivated by mutuality, understanding that sharing is the foundation of healthy relationships. They intentionally share the important aspects of their lives because they understand that this is the process that God uses to shape each of them into the vessels that God has purposed them to be.
In sum, wealthy marriages see financial management as a tool for honoring mutuality over materialism.
Financial distress cripples many families. When the pressures of adjusting mortgages and escalating credit card balances impinge upon the marriage, husbands and wives tend to distance from each other. Feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment often foster power imbalances that isolate spouses.
Contrarily, wealthy marriages use times of desperation to draw closer together because they embrace the idea that they are allies empowered to tackle a common foe, financial or otherwise.
Wealthy marriages see financial distress and success as empowering them to resiliently embrace their collective strengths.
Finding emotional security in the sacred
God designed us to crave security—a survival instinct. From the beginning of creation until today, Satan’s strategy has been to distort human perceptions of security in order to separate us from one another and from God. Today, Satan deceives us to entrust our emotional and financial security to temporal measures such as pre-nuptial agreements, separate bank accounts, and bills assigned to one party or the other. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these. But, problems arise when we trust these measures for our security more than we trust our spouses and God.
Wealthy marriages recognize that as living temples every aspect of their marriage is sacred—set apart to worship. Therefore, their security is found in their faith, their obedience to the Lord’s command. Wealthy marriages see their joint resources (including their finances) as sacred treasure to draw mankind to God.
Prioritize service to others over their own self-centeredness
The theme of scripture is the importance of service to others. As Christians we look to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) as a clear representation of the manner in which God calls us to be good stewards. Wealthy marriages model stewardship from a service-orientation, appropriating their resources and life experiences as offerings to others. Their faith comforts them that God will meet their needs as they serve others.
The signs that we are continuing to recover from our economic recession are strong. But, I’m very concerned about whether we are recovering from the relational recession that continues to plague our communities. When left to our sinful devices, our marriages are ill prepared to weather the relational or financial storms.
Our promise, however, is that God empowers us to transform our marital mess into a wealthy marriages as we walk in obedience to God’s edicts. When we do, I am convinced that God will highlight our marriages and family relationships rather than the leading U.S. economic indicators, as the true barometer of wealth in our economy. Wealthy homes become an inheritance that reap transgenerational dividends.