To gear up for the Real Marriage 2014 live event on February 21–22, Pastor Mark and Grace Driscoll are answering your dating and marriage questions here on Resurgence. To submit your own question, post it on Twitter and tag it #RM2014.
If you are both making poor money, should you still trust God, get married, and start having kids?
Tim, the pressure you are feeling is the same pressure that most every man feels. When I got married, I was a 21-year-old college student. We were broke. Our date nights included playing board games at the laundromat and going to movies at either the 99-cent or the $1.50 theater, depending on how much money we had that week. I worked hard at work and school. Times were tight, but we made it and lived within our means.
During the first three years of Mars Hill, the church did not pay me, as we were a small broke church of mainly college students and indie rockers committed to anarchy. Again, I worked a lot of hours, as I always had. In college, I worked and went to school. In ministry, I worked and planted a church. It is very tough to get traction in a career.
Principles for wisdom
Tim, without being your pastor and knowing the details (such as your age, exact financial status, employment history, and work ethic) I cannot speak clearly in a yes-no fashion. However, I can give you some principles from God’s Word to help you arrive at wisdom. Some things are not clearly right or wrong, but they can be clearly wise or foolish. Wisdom is a big theme in Proverbs, and I would encourage you to spend a lot of time in that book of the Bible if you are not doing so already.
Additionally, I’m a father with two daughters, so I think like a dad. As a dad, I know the vital importance of money. If you were courting my daughter, I would not have a big mushy heart and goo-goo eyes, but I would give you a theological quiz, check your Internet browser for porn, and look at some bank statements.
Don’t let finances decide your future
Money is not everything, but if you don’t have it, then you complicate everything. You don’t need to be rich, but you do need to provide. And if you cannot or will not provide, then certain decisions—Will you have children? When will you have children? How many children will you have? Will your wife stay home with the children?—will be made for you because of finances.
Some things are not clearly right or wrong, but they can be clearly wise or foolish.
The goal is to do all you can to be not only emotionally and spiritually ready for marriage and a family, but also financially ready. Toward that end, I offer five principles from God’s great Word.
1. You need money
If you want to be a husband and a father, you need money. You need a lot of other things, like theological convictions and a love for your family, but you also need money. Kids get hungry fast if all they get for dinner is a lecture on the atonement. And while a hug is a big deal, kids also need a pair of shoes and a warm coat.
I’m not accusing you of being one who would neglect your kids, but some guys are so spiritual they are impractical. They forget that our life is a life in a body on a planet that requires some material things. Those things tend to cost money. So as a man, you need to get some money. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says it well: “Money answers everything.”
2. You need money for yourself
Before a man gets a wife or a child, God the Father expects that man to take care of himself. If a man cannot provide for himself, he should not take on the additional responsibilities that a family brings.
Genesis 2:24 says, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This is a process of three steps, in a particular order, that both Jesus and Paul also quote:
- A man has to be independent, move out of his parents’ house, pay his own bills, and take care of himself.
- If a man does this, he can then consider being married to a woman he has pursued for marriage.
- If he does both steps, the man then gets to consummate his covenant with his wife.
You don’t need to be rich, but you do need to provide.
Part of the problem today is we have the order out of order, which leads to disorder. Guys are enjoying Step 3 while disobeying Step 1 by still living with their parents, or at least living off their parents, with little or no intention of carrying out Step 2.
The order of the steps is very important, much like dealing with a bomb:
- Locate the bomb.
- Get a safe distance away from the bomb.
- Detonate the bomb.
If all you do is invert Step 2 and Step 3, you’ve got a bad day. The order of things really matters.
3. You need money for your family
Once you have money for yourself, you will need more money for more people as you get a wife and children. There’s nothing wrong with your wife working a job, but the Bible does lay a major responsibility on the wallet of the man, saying in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Your family is your responsibility in the sight of God.
You also need to be thinking not only about your kids, but also your future grandkids. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Part of wise stewardship is trying to figure out how to get your wealth to extend as many generations into the future of your family as possible. Some guys will immediately argue with that, and you should praise God they are not your grandpa.
4. You need wise money counsel
Fools pay their own “dumb tax.” Wise men let others pay their dumb tax and learn from their mistakes. Since the world is basically a big casino where the house usually wins, you cannot just go with the flow—rather, get wisdom to swim against the flow. This is why guys like Dave Ramsey are so incredibly helpful. Men like him are the kind of guys Proverbs talks about when it says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22) and, “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war” (Prov. 20:18).
A wise financial plan has to account for how you earn money, how much of it you tithe to the Lord, how you save money, how you invest money, how you pay your taxes, and how you spend money. It has to forecast your future needs. It has to account for rainy days, unforeseen expenses, medical costs, and possible unemployment for a season. If we’ve learned anything since the curse in Eden, it’s that work is toil and toil is trouble.
If a man cannot provide for himself, he should not take on the additional responsibilities that a family brings.
If you have not done so already, you need to ask some other men for counsel on your particular case. If you have a wise father, ask him for counsel. If your girlfriend or fiancée has a wise father, ask him for counsel. If you know a godly older man, with a good marriage and family, who is a good financial steward, meet with him respectfully and ask him for counsel. I hope and pray you are both in a solid, Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church where you can meet with a leader and/or pastor to get specific counsel from those God has entrusted to love and lead you.
Trusting the Lord is great. Trust the Lord to give you wise counsel for a wise plan. Some guys don’t seek counsel or make plans, and then they call that trusting the Lord. It’s kind of like a guy who says, “I should not have drunk so much, and after I did I should have called a cab, but I’m going to drive home and trust the Lord to provide for me.” God already did provide, and only a fool fails to see it.
5. You need to work hard
The difference between a job and a hobby is that no one will pay you for a hobby. Why? A hobby is something you want to do, and so you do it for nothing. This is why napping, fly-fishing, and watching TV generally don’t pay well. Conversely, a job is something you would stop doing if they stopped paying you. The only incentive for showing up and doing a job is, generally speaking, to get cash so you can leave your job and go enjoy your hobbies.
Often, young men try to find a way to make a lot of money with a little work. This is why drug-dealing, stealing, and gambling are always popular. More recently, finding a woman with a good job and low expectations has also become an option.
Your family is your responsibility in the sight of God.
If you’ve ever played sports, you know it’s competitive. Somebody wins, and somebody loses. Business is like sports. The bottom line is how we keep score. If you want to win, you have to have a good plan and a good work ethic. A team without a playbook but with lazy players is never the winning team. This is doubly true for a young man. Any young man who does not have both wisdom and a good work ethic ends up looking for a life piggyback from his mom, girlfriend, or government.
Work hard. Proverbs 16:26 says, “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” And Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10–11, “We would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”
Work is good
Work was given before sin entered the world, therefore making work good (Gen. 2:15). But because of the curse, both the man and the woman must now toil painfully at their work (Gen. 3:16–19). Work is good for a man, especially a young man. Young men are like trucks—they drive straighter with a load. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.”
The difference between a job and a hobby is that no one will pay you for a hobby.
My dad was a union drywaller. He worked very long, hard hours for many years feeding his five children, of which I was the oldest. My mom stayed home to take care of us kids. We were a poor, working-class family. But my parents made it work and were generous to others with the little we had. So I’m not saying you have to have 17-inch rims on the wheel barrel you use to roll your money around.
Tim, thanks for asking me your question. I hope I was able to be of some help. You don’t need to be rich. You need to be godly and wise, and you need to get the skills to pay the bills.