9. Money Trap
When we did have time alone, it seemed as though
we spent it arguing about trivialities.
The purpose for being at Dallas Theological Seminary was to prepare me to serve the Lord in whatever way He directed. I did not know how that would be as yet, but I wanted to be ready, so I poured myself into my studies. Every spare moment was spent on homework, papers and studying for exams. And since Mary was no longer working, except for a few baby-sitting jobs, I went to work every day after school and all day Saturday in order to support my family.
Time to spend with Mary was not very plentiful. And when we did have time alone, it seemed as though we spent it arguing about trivialities rather than enjoying one another's company.
We both remember good times with Steve and good times with our friends, but those arguments still linger in our minds. As we recall, many of them revolved around money. One part-time salary did not go very far, and Mary complained incessantly that we did not have enough to make ends meet. She was an outstanding manager, always finding the best buys and seldom wasting a penny. But in her mind that meant I should never spend anything on myself, not even for a bottle of pop to drink with my lunch at work. She would expect an accounting of everything, and would scold me if I had not lived up to her expectations. She felt as though I did not appreciate her efforts to balance the budget.
She remembers it like this:
"I did not only begrudge Richard the privilege of spending money on himself, but I was just as tough on myself. I figure that during the school year Richard brought home about $28 a week, and even in the early fifties that was not very much money. Eleven dollars of it went for rent each week, and at least $3 was given to the Lord's work. The remaining $14 had to cover food, gas, car repairs, medical bills, insurance, school fees. books, telephone and miscellaneous expenses. That didn't leave any to spend for personal wants. Maybe you can understand now why every dime was so very important to me.
"We were both agreed that the Lord's money would always come off the top, that we would pay our regular bills next, and that we would live on what was left. God honored that commitment. He kept extra expenses such as doctor's bills to a minimum, He enabled us to meet all of our obligations, He provided sales at just the right time, and He faithfully supplied all of our needs. When we finished our four years at Dallas Seminary we owed no one anything.
"As I look back on it now, I realize that it was wise and glorifying to the Lord for me to be careful with our money and not to spend it foolishly. It was prudent for us to learn to do without things we did not really need. But it was foolish and sinful for me to be anxious, upset and critical about it. We could have avoided many unpleasant arguments if I had believed God's promise to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:13), and taken the lack of money as a challenge to see how God would provide."
As I think back to my attitude during those struggles, I felt that I was trying to provide for my family and to cooperate with Mary to the best of my ability, so her accusations that I didn't appreciate her efforts to stretch the money were difficult for me to accept. But I was thankful to God for a wife who was frugal, and who refused to spend money without consulting both the Lord and me about it. She maintains those traits to this day, and I continue to be grateful for them.
We both find as a result of our counseling ministries that free and careless spenders bring a great deal of stress to a marriage relationship. Some complain about their spouses spending too freely, but think nothing of buying luxuries for themselves without talking to either the Lord or their mates about it. If we want to enjoy harmony in our marriages, we will need to agree with each other about how we should use our money, and both of us must live by the same rules. We will need to recognize that God supplies our money and that it all belongs to Him. He wants us to pray together, plan together, and agree on how He wants us to spend it.
We frequently observe differing priorities between husbands and wives in the way money should be spent. One spouse wants to save, the other wants to buy a new car or go on an expensive vacation. One wants to limit spending to necessities, the other wants to spend lavishly on luxuries. One wants to give to the Lord's work, the other finds excuses to keep from giving. We can only surmount obstacles such as these as we seek God's will together, communicate with one another with an open mind and a pliable spirit, prayerfully consider one another's opinions and willingly put the other person's welfare before our own.
Once we agree on how the money should be spent, we must both abide by the decision. Budgets may be helpful for some, but there will always be situations where exceptions must be made by mutual consent. The important thing is to live within our income and to be content with what God has allowed us to have.
We have also encountered marriages in which the husband has insisted that providing material things is the proof of his love. So he spends hours making the money to give his family possessions, while withholding from them his time, his love, his attention, or his interest in the activities that interest them. He cannot understand or accept the reality that his family wants him more than they want his money. If he refuses to listen to them and continues on the course he has chosen, the time will come when they despise him for it, when they really do want nothing from him but his paycheck. And by then it will be too late to salvage his relationship with either his wife or his children.
I never thought for a moment that money could replace my time with my family, but we were still caught in that money trap--worrying about how we would pay our bills, doubting that God would meet our needs, and squabbling over what we should or should not buy. It would continue after graduation and into my first pastorate where I earned less than $4000 per year. And in the pastorate those inevitable time pressures would increase, complicating the problems we were already experiencing.
Are you caught in the money trap? Maybe you spend too freely, or else you are too frugal. Discuss your spending habits together, then decide how you are going to budget your money