By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
Ron Jones was doing pre-marital counseling with a young couple when it became clear they were on very different pages regarding finances.
“He had many years of running his own financial life, and he wasn’t trusting enough to open up his finances,” says Ron, the lead pastor of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. “I strongly encouraged them to work that out before they got married.
“We all learn about money in different ways, and we bring that into a marriage relationship.”
Ron has seen many married couples struggle in this area over the years. And he’s not alone, as money issues are still cited as the #1 reason for divorce in America—even among Christ-followers.
“My wife and I have learned that you can become financial soulmates or financial inmates,” Ron says. “When I say that in a group, I always get a mixed response of smile, laughter and concern on people’s faces. There’s a lot of financial pain and stress in marriages.”
For that reason, Ron and his wife Cathryn have dedicated part of their ministry to helping married couples talk about money—and more importantly, become “one” financially. Here’s a few principles they apply and teach:
What’s Mine is Yours
The Joneses have developed common language that drives their pursuit of biblical stewardship.
“We just said to each other, ‘What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine, and what’s ours is God’s,’ Ron says. “That was the starting point when we merged our married lives and our finances together.”
Ron has known many couples who lived separate financial lives, sometimes even with secret bank accounts. “That’s a roommate, that’s not a financial soulmate,” Ron says. “We encourage couples to be transparent, which takes most married couples years to work out.”
God Owns Everything
This is foundational, as couples move from an “ownership” mentality of it’s mine—to a “stewardship” mentality that says it’s all God’s and we are managers.
“That’s hard for a lot of people,” Ron says. “They are pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kinds of people who have made their own way in life and then become followers of Christ.”
“It’s a big shift to the biblical perspective that everything I have comes from God and belongs to Him.”
As Ron explains, if you hand me your wallet with your money and your credit cards, I probably will spend those assets very differently as I remember that they are not mine.
Every Financial Decision Is a Spiritual Decision
Ron observes that when married couples grasp this big idea, it changes everything. Viewing every financial decision as a spiritual decision makes us “think twice about how we might spend resources the Lord might give,” Ron says. “It’s also a reminder that I will be accountable to the Lord for how I managed His resources.”
Ron says this also helps couples prioritize their finances. He and his wife have lived a simple plan for 23 years of first giving God 10%, then paying themselves 10% in saving and investing for the future, then living off the rest. Ron encourages couples to give to God as soon as they get paid.
“You can’t say God is first in your life if he’s last in your budget,” Ron says. “People make major financial decisions like houses and cars and other fixed expenses, and they don’t consider God.”
“Make those decisions early in your marriage, and the rest will fall in place as time moves on.”
Finding Financial Freedom
The world defines financial freedom as having money to do whatever you want. But Ron’s study of Scripture has given him a four-fold definition of financial freedom:
- Free of debt— Couples will never be financially or spiritually free if they’re in bondage to past financial decisions. “Debt always makes you a prisoner to your past,” Ron says.
- Free from the love of money— “A lot of people misunderstand the Scriptures (1 Tim. 6:10) and think that money is the root of all evil,” Ron says. “It’s not. It’s the passion for, the drive to get more of it and more of what it can get for you that’s a dangerous thing.”
- Free to give generously— A simple question: Does our giving record reflect a tangible belief that it’s more blessed to give than to receive?
- Free to have fun— There’s nothing wrong with enjoying God’s blessings. Provided that financial priorities are in place, it’s okay to be extravagant at times and have fun with money.
Bottom line, Ron says couples need to give themselves permission and patience to reach a place of true financial oneness. “It takes years and years of discussions,” Ron says. “You have to do the hard work together of getting on the same page and thinking God’s thoughts about finances, and then putting it into practice.”
Andy Williams contributed to the writing of this article.
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.