A friend recently told me that many men in my generation will marry women who earn a lot more than they do. His reasoning was that women have somehow gained an edge over their male counterparts at employment opportunities. Most job adverts indicate more preference for female applicants.
Even if the presumed bias were not true, women would still earn as much as men do or slightly more. They are equally gifted, smart and on a level platform would be equally productive or even better.
But that is not unusual. What leaves me ruffled is the fact that with the rising earnings by women, there seems also to be an even greater confidence in the belief that a wife’s money is hers, and a husband’s money for the home. Though often said in jest, the reality this is to marriages is astounding.
The Bible supports that it is a man’s responsibility to provide for his family. The desire to be provider is in fact inherent to every man. It is a good thing for a man to struggle with the thought of leaving all the heavy lifting to his wife. But is it okay for a man to be worried sick because his wife earns more? And, is it okay for the wife to keep all (or even some) of her money to herself and leave every financial responsibility to the husband?
The Two Shall Be One
In the book of Genesis, right after God has performed the first wedding ceremony, an ordinance is instituted – that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Jesus, when asked about divorce by some Pharisees who were out to test him in Mark 10 quotes Genesis 2:24 and adds a firm warning against attempting to separate what God has put together (Mark 10:1-9).
The Bible is replete with teaching after teaching exalting oneness in marriage. Marital oneness may never mean one’s personality being swallowed up in the other spouse’s for example. But going by the seriousness the Scriptures advocate for oneness with, I believe it encompasses even the financial bit of a marriage.
Many a couple will share one bed, live under one roof, eat the same food and uniformly raise their children, but hardly be one in their finances. I remember this time during our premarital class when the Reverend taking us through Finances in Marriage asked how many would be okay to have a joint account. The level of the objection, especially from the ladies was startling. Out of the close to thirty we were, maybe about only five were okay with the idea.
To a majority, having a joint account would mean a leak created in one’s independence. I find this strange because if ‘two becoming one’ were to guarantee you just one thing, it would definitely be the loss of your independence. If anyone is not ready to give that up, it is questionable whether he/she is ready to take up the privilege of sharing his/her life with someone else.
It’s not a joint account that my classmates were opposed to. I believe they were opposed to total vulnerability to their spouses. But think of what it would be like attempting to enjoy an act of sex while withholding some certain parts of your body meant for pleasure from your partner because apparently they are reserved only for you. Wouldn’t that be height of insanity?
And how different is that from a couple thinking they can enjoy their marriage without yielding every bit of themselves to each other? When finances in a marriage are labeled ‘Restricted Access’, there is a good chance that marriage won’t function at full capacity.
Men Lead the Home
Headship in a marriage rests on the shoulders of the man. Whether he earns ten times more than his wife or ten times less, he remains the head. He is the provider, whether he meets every single bill of his home singlehandedly, or he does so with the help of his wife. The component of giving direction is crucial to his headship. His voice should never be confined to the size of his financial contribution.
When I married my wife, my monthly income from the support I get towards my full time ministry was about a quarter of what she earns monthly. The impressive thing is that there isn’t a single day that I felt her question my authority or watched her struggle to submit because of this. She entrusted everything to me, relying on my wisdom to determine how best we would use our income put together. The result was that we thrived.
Daily I worked hard to grow my income. But my motivation, each time that I would sit with a friend in a support appointment and share about my ministry and ask them onto my support team was never to surpass my wife’s income. My motivation was to raise enough resources that would ensure both my family and my ministry would thrive. Anything contrary would have sprung from insecurity, and that negatively affects marriage.
God has been faithful, blessing this effort in some months with more than she earns, and in others with slightly less. Her salary however has never been the mark I strive for. I look forward to someday relieving her of the burden of needing to work so that she can perhaps fully commit to raising the children God will bless us with, or joining me full time in ministry like she’s always desired, or doing something else she’s passionate about that may not even earn her much, but until then we continue to be grateful for the blessing that her income is to our family.
For as long as God continues to bless the work of her hands with material blessing, my family will always need my wife’s income, even when my income alone is sufficient enough to meet our every personal need without her help. The only day we won’t need her income, big or small, is the day we’ll hit a ceiling beyond which we can’t invest anymore. Or the day there will be no more relatives, friends, strangers, and causes throughout the world in need of our financial help. And such a day doesn’t seem possible while we still sojourn on this earth.
Prefer Diligence to Money
Many ladies would have shied from marrying me when Isla did. They would have been pushed back by legitimate fears over how we would survive in marriage. It would scare them worse that I was committed to a non-salaried ministry calling for life and would continue depending on God’s provision through others.
Majority of women prefer men that have made it. They just love security. I don’t find anything wrong with that. The only problem is with where they place this security; on material possessions rather than on an unfailing promise from God. When a lady’s security is held by what is in the hands of a man and not the assurance she has in her heart, she’ll be extremely lucky to avoid disappointment.
When considering whom to get married to, I’ll suggest you place more value on diligence than on wealth. A man may have so much money yet be lazy. Perhaps he inherited his father’s wealth. For such, a seemingly wonderful present may only delay for a little while the dark future ahead. But with a diligent man, to whom sometimes the reward of his labor will be lots of income and other times none, you have more hope of a great future.
Even when you earn more, wife, still regard your husband with all the respect God thinks him worth. Often times we imagine that marriages don’t work because of financial strains. But this wise woman at a couple’s brunch I once attended thinks differently. “On the contrary, many marriages break over wealth” she said.
A marriage that struggles because the husband earns less is a sign that authority in that marriage is wrongly pursued or defined. It is based on who earns more, instead of being based on whom God has appointed to lead.
A friend of mine was once asked what he would feed his wife considering he had no stable job yet wanted to marry. His response to the elder trying to dissuade him was simple; “Sir, you have a job today, and so does your wife right? In the event that you were both to lose your jobs now, would you consider parting ways until one of you has found another job that can sustain you?”
The elder went quiet, my friend got married and God has greatly blessed their marriage. The point is not that you be encouraged to go into marriage carelessly, man or woman, without a plan. The truth is that you will not eat rocks there. The point is that you be careful not to bank your hopes on possessions, because the other side of the coin reveals that they will not always be there. If money is your security going into marriage, then prepare to lose your marriage to the first strike of lack.
Be Motivated Differently Wives
Wives, and wives to be, do not find inspiration from the worldly attitude that seeks only to match or surpass a husband’s income. Be inspired rather to honor God in caring for and providing for your families. Do not work to gain independence from your husband, work because you are free in Christ to help him. Be like the Proverbs 31 woman who provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. Who considers a field and buys it, and out of her earnings plants a vineyard – Proverbs 31:15-16.
Be like our grandmothers and those before them who worked the fields to provide for their families. Even though working the shamba may have changed to sitting behind an office desk for you, let not the proceeds of your labor go to your own pleasures and development at the expense of joining hands with your husband to build your home.
The fear that some men will take advantage and let up on fulfilling their responsibilities is sincere. But don’t ever let a man’s sin be the start of yours. Of course your submission to him is easier in those moments when he meets his end of the bargain, but it is in fact perfected when he doesn’t.
Men, don’t ever forget that yours is the responsibility to provide. Whether your wife contributes twenty, fifty or momentarily a hundred percent of your household income, help her, both in word and deed, to always appreciate that she’s only your helper.