This video segment is one of five lessons in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Finances” seminar.
The GCM series are marriage preparation and marriage enrichment level resources. If your marriage needs restoration level care consider one of the other options available at summitchurch.com/counseling, or visit bradhambrick.com/findacounselor for help finding a counselor near you.
If you are interested in the pre-marital mentoring program built around these materials, you can find everything you need at www.bradhambrick.com/gcm.
NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the GCM seminar notebooks. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).
Momentum is a gloriously powerful thing. It can either propel you forward or cause you to crash. If you have made it to this point in the process (not just the seminar), then you have created a lot of possibilities that will either greatly enhance or deter your personal, marital, and spiritual life. But either way, at this point something significant is happening.
While debt is a powerful negative force of slavery (Prov. 22:7), money is a powerful force that can have positive or negative effects. Well-managed money does not necessarily equal a well-managed life. There are plenty of rich people who have intense mid-life crises and accomplish little of eternal significance with their assets. At the same time, there are many in the lower and middle socio-economic classes who live with great peace and impact the world for God in profound ways.
The point is this; a budget is a means to an end. We make a budget for the same reason we buy a plane ticket – to get somewhere. While the destination is usually clearer when you buy a plane ticket, the amount of movement is about the same. The goal of this lesson is to ensure that you experience both aspects of freedom (financial and spiritual) that God intends from implementing the financial wisdom Scripture prescribes.A budget is a means to an end. We make a budget for the same reason we buy a plane ticket – to get somewhere. Click To Tweet
Finding Financial Freedom
In Lesson 4, we discussed having a $1,000 emergency fund. This is important, but far from sufficient. It lacks three key elements: (1) it does not provide for major financial crises; (2) it does not create a marital lifestyle of communication and planning; and (3) it does not provide for the years when one or both of you may want to or need to retire. In this section we will talk about three types of savings that accomplish each of these objectives.
3-6 Months Savings
We set ourselves up to be consistently wise when we do not allow ourselves to be put in unnecessary “rushed” situations. As you put money towards this account, think of it as a form of self-insurance. Once this is in place you will be able to increase your deductibles on other insurances and free up those monies to be used for other purposes. But its main value is the peace of mind it brings that allows for clarity of thought during times of financial turbulence.
This money is not an investment, so it should not be in an account with risk (i.e., stocks or mutual funds). It should also not be in an account that comes with a penalty for removing money. This money is also not being saved “for something” (i.e., a car, vacation, etc.).
This money is meant to end the lifestyle of living paycheck to paycheck and replace it with a mindset that can afford to look at the bigger picture of life. That freedom is well worth the sacrifice and investment of 3-6 months’ worth of family income. This mental and emotional freedom will multiply the opportunities and impact you can have with your standard monthly budget. This “personal insurance” allows you to release many of the legitimate “what if’s” that cloud your judgment and create division in financial decisions.
When your income increases, the first thing that you should do with the extra money is to build out this account to its new level. This will ensure that this “personal insurance” remains current and help you acclimate to the new income before beginning to spend it. There is a strong tendency in marriage to dream separately about a raise before discussing it. This creates conflict and division. Creating this time buffer between the raise and expanding your family budget will circumvent the blessing of a raise from degenerating into a hardship of hurt feelings.
We have said repeatedly that the monthly operating budget was for “normal” expenses. Vacation, daughter’s prom dress like these 2024 cute prom dresses, new sofa, next vehicle, and similar expenses cannot be handled in the monthly operating budget without making this document more complex than will be functional. The remedy is a designated savings account.
At the end of each month you and your spouse should review your budget. If you have planned wisely and lived with self-discipline, there should be a surplus each month. How you manage that surplus is what determines whether you will continue to use your budget. Designated savings is the “reward” of having a budget.
As a couple, you should make a list of the things for which you are saving. There should be practical (i.e., 3-6 months savings, next vehicle, new roof, etc…) and pleasurable (i.e., vacation, item for hobby, etc…) items on this list. Beside each item you should put the amount of money needed to purchase this item or complete this project.
Once you have determined the month’s surplus, you and your spouse get to decide how much to allocate to each item. While it is all in the same account at the bank, on paper you are agreeing about what this money will be put towards. These monthly conversations should do two things.
First, it should help you remain disciplined during the month as you want to put more money towards these items. You are less likely to “nickel and dime” your budget with little desires when there is an established process for ensuring that money allows you to fulfill greater desires.
Second, it should be a romantic time when you mutually invest in one another’s dreams and interest. The practical categories may not be romantic (although they provide security, which it an important foundation for romance), but with the pleasurable items it should be a time when you tangibly show your investment in the things that are important to your spouse. Sacrificing throughout the month in order to be able to invest in one another’s dream is an important part of expressing and protecting your marital oneness.
Once you save the designated amount for a given item something amazing gets to happen. You get to purchase that item or go on that trip without guilt, regret, conflict, or debt and your monthly budget continues with no disruption. You can do or have what you enjoy, and your spouse enjoys your pleasure (and vice versa). In the absence of a budget and designated savings plan that is nearly impossible. God’s plan for finances was not meant merely to give guidance to purchases and make sure you retire comfortably, but to create an environment in which marriage thrives.
It is wise to prepare for the years when you will likely be less able to work at the level you could during the early and middle years of adulthood. It is good, if possible, to allow the years when you have accumulated the most life experience to be most free to share that wisdom with others. Long term savings allows for this freedom.
It goes beyond the scope of this material and the expertise of the author to recommend the best approach to long term savings. That decision should be made in consultation with a trusted investment professional. For the purposes of this study, it is sufficient to say that long-term savings are wise. For a general introduction to this subject consider watching “Of Mice and Mutual Funds” in Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. If you choose to invest your money in cryptocurrencies, you’ll want to find a reputable crypto trading platform like https://immediate.net/de/.
Finding Spiritual Freedom
Most often the connection between finances and identity is portrayed negatively as if the only possible connection is greed and elitism. But the connection is inevitable; how you spend your money is an expression of your identity. In the absence of a financial plan your money blindly reinforces your identity. In this final section, we want to look at how you can use the financial plans laid out in this material to reinforce your identity as a child of God who is “on mission” for His kingdom.
We will look at three virtues that, if we keep them in mind as we manage our finances, will remind us how the gospel can transform our lives through how we manage our finances.
If “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (I Tim 6:10),” then contentment is a root of all kinds of virtues. The problem that the gospel solves is that we are voluntary slaves to our sins. We believed the lie that we could create a satisfying life by pursuing what seemed good to us (Gen 3:6-7, Prov 14:12). This results in the perpetual discontentment.
With this in mind, we can see how that even when our purchases are not sinful in themselves, our sin is often expressing and multiplying itself in our purchases. It is not wrong to buy new clothes, go on vacation, or have a nice meal. But often we purchase these things believing that they can provide the confidence, rest, or satisfaction that only God can provide. We are not violating a commandment, but we may still be replacing God.
The gospel doesn’t forbid these kinds of purchases (that would be legalism). Instead, the gospel re-frames them. The gospel reminds us of how much we have been given in Christ so that we can enjoy the nice things of this world as secondary blessings rather than the “essence of happiness.” This freedom makes earth’s blessings more enjoyable, because we put less pressure upon them. We can savor them instead of trying to root our happiness in them.
Read Philippians 4:10-13. As you read this passage, focus your attention on Paul’s main point – contentment (v. 11). Paul has had a lot of money and very little. Yet he has learned the “secret” of being content in either circumstance (v. 12). That secret is remembering the debt Christ paid on his behalf at Calvary. Paul realizes that he is now merely managing the details of God’s current provision. This gives him the emotional freedom to do anything that God calls him to do (v. 13) and be content to manage whatever circumstance he is in.
Contentment protects foresight from becoming fearful planning or an attempt to control life. When we are content, we can express two types of foresight without trying to “play God.”
- We can prepare for those expenses that we can know are coming (designated savings and long-term savings).
- We can prepare for those expenses that we can’t know are coming (emergency fund and 3-6 months savings).
Foresight is a disposition that emerges from realizing that we are merely a steward of God’s blessings. Owners are the ones who get greedy or are overtaken by fear. Their sense of control blinds them to purposes of money that are larger than their personal enjoyment.
Stewards are driven by the questions, “Why was this entrusted to me? What was the owner’s purpose for this money?” These questions keep the big picture in front of us in a way that counters the now-ism of our personal desires. Personal desire is then allowed to have its place in our life without ruling our life.
Realize, bad financial management most often means we are not asking the right questions. Foresight is mainly about asking better questions. The effect of sin is that we are prone to asking questions that move us away from God’s design (Gen 3:1). As you train your instincts to ask God-centered, long-term questions through a gospel-centered approach to finances, you will find the virtue of foresight increasingly becoming a part of your life.
Generosity prevents contentment from becoming laziness and foresight from becoming self-centeredness. The accumulation of money is not the point of life and cannot satisfy our soul. While it can motivate us for many years, or even decades, we eventually realize dollars are temporary currency in the hands of eternal creatures. We can’t take it with us.
Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12. The book of Ecclesiastes is the journal of a man in pursuit of happiness. He was the son of David, king of Israel, and incredibly gifted, so nothing hindered any of his pursuits. He tried everything this world had to offer to the maximum degrees possible. In this passage, he discusses his enjoyment of money, what it can buy, and the honor it brings. It didn’t satisfy the way he hoped it would. After reading this passage, read Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 to see how he summarized his life’s journey.
Generosity is the result of realizing what will last (human souls), what matters (God’s glory), and managing our lives accordingly. When our deepest joy is rooted in things that last and matter, the futility of life (“vanity” as Ecclesiastes calls it) cannot tempt us to live for the temporal pleasures of sin. Generosity – living “on mission” for God with our finances – makes what sin offers seem pale and lifeless in comparison. Not only is generosity a virtue; it is a protection from temptation.Generosity is the result of realizing what will last (human souls), what matters (God’s glory), and managing our lives accordingly. Click To Tweet
Generosity is not just a financial principle, but a way of life. God calls us to be generous with our time, talents, and influence as well. Our goal is to steward all of our life for the glory of God. Our budget is merely a daily-to-weekly reminder (as we record expenses) and monthly gauge (as we review our forms together) of how we’re doing at leveraging our life for the gospel.
Read Romans 12:1-2. Reflect on what it means to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” in light of this discussion of generosity. It is more than mere obedience. The whole point is that sacrifice should be an act of “worship.” This involves a change in the way you approach life (“transformed by the renewal of your mind”) resulting in a new sense of purpose and source of joy. As you live this way, the will of God becomes increasingly clear and increasingly satisfying.
As you complete the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Finances seminar and wonder what you should take away, there are three key things we would want you to have learned.
First, we want you to have the tools and concepts to effectively manage your marital income. Whether you use the specific forms discussed in this seminar, you should have a clear understanding of what a budget is, what information you need to be able to readily access, and the type of marital conversations you need to regularly have about finances.
Second, we want you to understand how interwoven finances are with marital unity. If finances are the number one reason given for divorce, then they can also be a powerful force for marital unity. More than practical tools and concepts, you should have also gained a picture of how finances present a great opportunity to foster a marital environment of security and mutual commitment.
Third, we want you to have a passion to leverage your entire life for God’s glory. If two lives are going to eternally draw closer, they must be mutually aiming at the eternally satisfying thing. When your hearts share the same treasure, one that is capable of captivating them for a lifetime, then you can rest assured your hearts will stay together for a lifetime.
Questions for Small Group Study or Mentoring Relationship: Lesson 5
When studying this lesson as a small group it is recommended that: (a) each participant read the lesson during the week, (b) watch the 15 minute lesson as a group, and then (c) discuss the following questions:
- Share a time when momentum – physical or towards a goal – served you well. Share are time when momentum pushed you towards something hurtful.
- How does a husband and wife dreaming separately about how to spend money from a raise or bonus set them up for conflict? How is this made more difficult when each is dreaming about a “good thing”?
- How would using a practice like designated savings enrich your marriage by disciplining each of you to invest in things that are important to the other every month?
- How does contentment reframe the “good things” you want to purchase as providing less than ultimate satisfaction? How does this decrease the intensity of disagreements about expenditures?
- How does viewing yourself as a steward of your family finances emotionally free you up to practice better foresight about your family finances?
- In how many ways can generosity be a protection from temptation? Make a list of the ways.
- In light of this lesson, what changes do you need to begin making to experience more of what God intended marriage to be?