Despite his negative response, NaijaWife continued.
“But isn’t his money for our family and my money is mine?“
The pastor just shook his head. Less sure of herself, she finally plunked back into her seat.
“God is the great provider…” He began, but at that NaijaWife scoffed and raised her hand again
“Obviously God is the great provider. But that doesn’t mean a Husband shouldn’t provide for his family!” She retorted.
Unfazed by her interruption, he continued. “…I’m going to tell you something you probably haven’t heard before, but I hope you’ll listen closely.
What he said next was a complete mind blow for the two of us. I’ll sum it up as follows:
- Stop thinking of your money as “your” / “his”/ “her” money. It’s first and foremost, God’s money. Yes it’s easy to think that the money we have belongs to us because well…we worked hard for it right? We slaved away at a hard job, day and night to earn that cash! We delight ourselves in seeing it grow in our bank accounts. And when we don’t have any cash, we look at others who do in envy, thinking “If only I had more money” all the time.
- But what you have, came to you from God. Any job your husband has, smart and capable as he might be, was through God. Same way, any job that your wife has, brilliant and accomplished as she might be, is through God. The society we live in tells us that anything we have, we got because we deserved it. We’re the best. We’re the smartest. But truth is, plenty of people are “better” or “smarter” than you. Are you patting yourself on the back thinking you’re so talented that everything good that has happened to you is because you deserved it? Wrong.
- Do you know what a Trustee does? They hold the money given to them and spend it according to the instructions of their “head boss” – the actual owner of the money. When a Trustee starts to think the money he owns belongs to him, that’s when disaster ensues. Same thing with corrupt government officials who are entrusted with the people’s money but spend it on themselves at will. Same thing with parents who abuse the children God gave them. You don’t own a child. You’re their custodian, tasked with raising them correctly.
- Your marriage is a form of trusteeship where God will entrust you both with money. You are to use the money to care for your needs but first and foremost you are to use it according to God’s instructions. Sometimes God asks us to do things with the money he has given us that we never “planned” for. You might be asked to forgo your vacation and support a charity instead. You might be asked to sponsor a child that isn’t your own through school. You might be asked to invest it wisely or to pay for someone’s much needed surgery. If you keep thinking it only belongs to you, then you’ll always find it hard to do what God asks you to do with it. “Why do you think the Bible says the “Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil?” But by first submitting to the fact that all your money came to you from God, he in turn provides for your needs and your family’s needs. By resisting and thinking selfishly about money, you’ll only bring disaster down on your household.
- Despite what you’ve been taught, to place the financial burdens of your family solely on the man is not a sign of “respect” for his manhood. The same way the man expecting her to do all the cooking, cleaning and washing for ever “because she is the woman” would be contemptuous. A wife who contributes towards your family “only if the need arises”, is actually nothing like the Proverbs 31 woman, who is industrious by nature and helps provide for her family every day. Contribution is a symbol. A way of saying “I’m in this with you” and “I’m a part of this family as well”.
- So rather than point fingers at each other when financial issues hit, come together and pray about it. Instead of barking at each other and defining your masculinity by the size of your pockets or defining your femininity by how dependent you are on a man, look first to the Great Provider.
His last and most final point was:
In order to become one, you have to really “become one”. To lose a sense of “mine and yours” and start thinking of yourselves as “we” and your belongings as “ours”. When “two become one”, then so do your incomes. Do you trust each other? If you don’t, don’t get married. Turn around before it’s too late. But if you know you trust each other, put it into practice. Try opening a joint account and set up a plan for how you will both contribute towards it. Work out a percentage of your incomes that should go in that makes sense for your circumstances, and not according to cultural dictates. Lastly, give each other the access pins to your accounts. That not only shows trust, but also forces you to be responsible in how you spend.
Well the smile went back up on NaijaWife’s face at his remarks concerning passwords, because she had long
tortured forced blackmailed gotten me to share my passwords with her. Still though, his speech questioned everything else we had been taught.
So on our own, outside of the class, we spent more time in thought, study and prayer. We thought about the common situations we’d seen with our friends and family where the wife is constantly placed in the position to ask for money, and the man becomes controlling, abusive and domineering. We also thought about friends of ours who had married for money, seeing the way to financial security as only being possible through a rich husband.
A friend of NaijaWife who we shared our story with would frequently pray:”Lord! My future husband must always make more money than me oooo!” and when NaijaWife advised her against that prayer, she didn’t quite understand. Well, explained NaijaWife, “If he ever loses his job or gets demoted, you would automatically have to lose yours too, just to keep in line with what you always prayed. Better for you to pray that he will always do well and be successful.”
If for some reason she lost her job and had to depend on me, should I start seeing her as a leech or a burden on my neck? What if I was incapacitated or lost my job, should NaijaWife now see me as a useless husband unable to provide for his family? Should we immediately divorce because society now sees us as being in an “Abuja marriage” (still not sure what that means)? Should I sit at home lamenting, stewing in resentment at my inability to provide financially (as though that were all ‘provision’ meant) for my loved ones and eventually take out that resentment on my wife? I’d probably start saying things to her like “Do you think you’re better than me because you earn more?!” “Do you think you now wear the pants in this house?!”
It’s a common scene in Nigeria (or most countries for that matter)…accusing our wives of failing to respect us because they keep asking for money, or of failing to respect us because they earn more than us. As if women themselves don’t also need respect. Why do we do this? I think its mostly because our culture and society mandates that we tie our notions of respect to the money we have. In our world, the one with the most money is the one in control…the one who deserves your respect….the “pant wearer”.
Well, we’ve broken free of that. The more we learned about marital finances, the more I realized that I’d been looking at her debt situation all wrong. I’d approached it thinking “But this is MY money. Why should I have to send it towards loans she took out before she even met me? Why should she get to chop my hard earned money?” “Was it me who wanted to have a fancy American education?!” When really, I should have turned to the woman I loved and told her, “Your debt is my debt …so God help us both.”
Like I said before, marriage isn’t a 50-50 partnership. It’s 100-100%. Put your chips on the table, because you’re “all in or nothing”. So we needed to create a system that would prevent me from developing an inflated ego for having more money, or from treating her like a trophy wife, as well as a system that would prevent NaijaWife from feeling contempt for me or feeling like she was just a bystander in our family.
Eventually, I showed her the excel I’d drawn the night she told me about her debt. Then we created a new one together, for our family budget.
We deliberated over the columns for months on end in the lead up to our marriage. We pooled our funds into a joint account from which we pay all household expenses and maintain a savings account. But we also gave ourselves allowances that we use to do the things we love to do separately. In her case, she might blow through it freely on a girl’s night out or on new hair nets and fried chicken to munch on. In my case … well I usually just end up handing mine over to her when she’s run through hers.
So far, it’s worked. In no time at all, despite the school debt, we’d amassed a savings that neither of us could have achieved on our own. How? Because we decided to trust each other, put aside our cultural biases, the echoing doubt of our previous life experiences, and most of all, trusted God to provide.
Best part? Less arguments. The way we spend our money is so automatic neither of us has to think much about it. Having a head for figures, I set up the accounts and make sure the inputs and outputs are moving correctly, but not once do I have to have a “stern” talk with my wife about her spending habits and not once does she need to grab me by the neck, panicking that our bills won’t be paid.
Testimony aside.. while things are good now. We are not naive and we know things can go sour at any second, any day. Either one of us could lose our income, fall ill or whatever. And just as I’ve typed this post describing the financial blessings our marriage saw early on, years from now I may come back on here with a different story. I don’t know the future, but if it could happen to Job…it could happen to any of us. Sometimes our faith just has to be tested. But because we’ve already established an open method towards approaching our finances, we believe we will be able to weather the storms that come our way.
What system do you and your spouse use?