Most marriage differences are harmless if not humorous. Danielle likes to arrive fifteen minutes early. I prefer on-time-ish. I love peach cobbler. Danielle is suspicious any dessert lacking copious amounts of chocolate. Danielle is a morning glory. I. Am. Not.
One marriage misconception, however, can introduce anxiety, tension, and loss into Christian marriage. And it stems from a complex mash of cultural norms, insecurities, and misapplications of male leadership in the home. I realize, of course, that most Americans have long since jettisoned the notion of husband-as-head, but Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3 beg to differ.
Here’s the problem.
Many Christian men worry that they are forfeiting in-home leadership if they delegate certain financial responsibilities to their wives, even if their wives are better suited for the detailed rigors of budgeting and more acquainted with day-to-day expenditures for groceries, kids’ clothing, and other household items.
In my experience, when husbands forget that personal finance is a team sport, they not only manage their finances poorly, but frequently ignore the task altogether. And, thus, a vicious cycle ensues:
- Jack neglects his financial responsibilities while talking a big game: “Baby, I got this.”
- Jill feels insecurity and/or faces the very real consequences of Jack’s negligence.
- Jill expresses her frustrations while complaining, “Honey, I tried to buy groceries today, but the card was declined.”
- Jack accuses her of nagging.
- Jill feels ignored and dismissed; Jack feels marginalized and disrespected.
- And, oh yeah, they still have money problems.
Believe it or not, I’ve encountered this situation more frequently than any other problem in marriage. And when asked, husbands are reluctant to change because they feel that this is an area where their leadership should be most prominent. Fair enough. But let’s allow the Bible to speak.
The Old Testament and Feminine Shrewdness
Just as Deborah’s judgment and military exploits necessarily demanded meticulous planning and shrewd logistical execution (Judges 4), so Ruth’s work ethic impressed her mighty man of valor (Ruth 2). The Proverbs 31 woman idealizes such profound commercial success that domestic serenity, parental blessing, spousal confidence, and public praise follow quickly on her heals. And what the Proverbs 31 woman does in the abstract, Abigail skillfully executes in the moment (1 Sam. 25). Have you ever considered the sheer quantity of food she quickly shipped to David’s militia (v. 18-20)? That sort of decisive, skillful, and subtle action would have simply been impossible were it not for a lifetime of cultivating a logistical skill-set. Her actions drove David to praise her, to repent of his sin, and to worship her God (v. 32-33). David, the quintessential warrior, the manliest of men, admired her skill. Was David suddenly a weak man because he recognized her gifts? Hardly.
Jesus and Feminine Support
Our Lord frequently praised the financial virtues of believing women. Not only did Jesus praise the generosity of the destitute widow (Mat. 12:41f) and memorialize Mary’s seemingly gratuitous act of worship (John 12), but he highlighted a certain feminine determination that illustrates both the Kingdom of God (Luke 15:8-9) and perseverance in prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
The most powerful lesson, however, is found in Luke 8:1-3 where we’re told that Jesus accepted the financial provision of believing women He’d healed. As the gospel narratives progress, it becomes obvious that Jesus delegated to believing women many of the logistical components necessary to keep a team of hungry men on the move. Had Jesus displayed some sort of budgetary weakness? Did he relinquish any shred of His leadership? Of course not! Jesus not only did what was best for those women and what was best for his disciples, but He did what was best for … Himself!
Paul and Feminine Sponsorship
The great apostle never once shrunk from the robust financial involvement of believing women in his missionary enterprises. Aquila the tentmaker and financier is never once mentioned apart from his business partner and wife, Priscilla (or, more tenderly, Prisca). Paul accepted the provision of Lydia, the dealer of purple goods (Acts 16). Further, Paul fills his salutations with commendations for skillful women like Phoebe, a servant and benefactor (Rom. 16:1-2); Mary, the hard worker (Rom. 16:6); or Nympha, the in-home hostess for the entire church of Colossae (Col. 4:15). In fact, when reading Paul’s dealings with people, if he was guilty of anything, it was in being too generous in his delegation.
So, How Should We Think?
All this biblical data piles into a pretty solid conclusion: a Christian husband should not feel the least bit threatened by his wife’s involvement in their personal finances. Perhaps hubby is better suited to manage the budgetary details. If so, that’s wonderful. But he should always seek consensus from his wife their financial goals and, perhaps even more importantly, he should always heed her cautions.
But what if bookkeeping and budgeting is a weakness of his and strength of hers? Well, praise God for bringing two people who complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Her participation in no way diminishes the husband’s leadership, but actually accentuates it. For those in that situation, I think good biblical counsel is this: Husbands, take control of your finances by letting your greatest financial asset fly: a shrewd, believing wife.
It’s so easy to jump to unreasonable conclusions. I’m not saying husbands should have to ask their wives for money anymore than I’m saying that wives have no role at all. No, in-home finance is a team game. Allow individual talents to shine with Christ as the Head, the Kingdom as the goal, and the Bible as the action plan.