Happily Ever After, Pt. 1

Lately, God has been leading me into a deeper understanding of marriage and marital roles. You might be wondering how this applies to a single person. As many of you know, I am unmarried, so how can I speak to marital roles and how can I apply this knowledge to my own life?

Firstly, the Apostle Paul was a single, never married man and yet he wrote the most quoted marital advice in the New Testament. God reveals Himself through people of various walks of life. You don’t have to be married to see the value marriage can provide. Do not discredit someone’s revelation of God’s character based on their marital status, but look instead to their spiritual fruit as Jesus instructed.

“Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” -Matthew 7:17

Secondly, understanding God’s intention for marriage is extremely important for singles, especially those who plan to one day be married. I want to begin to prepare today for marriage by cultivating my character to become a good wife someday. Often people think they can’t learn how to be a good spouse until they are married, but I have seen in my own spiritual walk that it doesn’t work that way. If we ask God, He will provide opportunities to train for our future. Just as He trained David to be ready to slay Goliath by sending bears and lions for him to kill while shepherding. Just as He strengthened Samson to defeat the Philistines. Just as He prepared Esther’s heart and favor with the king to rescue her people. So also will he prepare a single person’s heart for marriage.

About 9 months ago, I began asking God to show me what it means to be a godly wife and to provide me opportunities to train for that future role. Think of it as dressing for the job you want. The Father has been faithful to respond to that request! He has taught me submission to the Holy Spirit as well as spiritual leadership. He has shown me that being submissive is far different than the warped definition the world has given us. He has trained me how to see others as He sees them. He has enabled me to encourage and call out the king in my man rather than complain about his shortcomings. He has provided opportunities to pursue missional living rather than romantic relationships alone.

One of the most valuable revelations Holy Spirit has shown me is in the purpose of marriage itself. Marital roles are intended to support us in our spiritual mission and sanctification. In short, marriage is not intended for our personal happiness and sexual gratification. It is for the purpose of reflecting Christ’s love to the world. Additionally, it is for marital partners to encourage each other to fulfill their God-given purpose. Finally, it is for growing more Christlike. As with everything else in life, it’s about making Christ greater in our life.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17

In Timothy Keller’s book “The Meaning of Marriage,” he states the following:

“a lifelong, monogamous relationship between and man and a woman. According to the bible, God devised marriage to reflect the saving love for us in Christ,  to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole life union.”

In the next post, I’ll discuss how this understanding of God’s plan for marriage can be of practical and spiritual use to a single person. In the meantime, whether married or single, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Why did God invent marriage? If you’re already married, what has he taught you through that relationship?

Can’t Buy Me Love

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t make it into our twenties and thirties without a few financial blunders. They flood our mailbox with credit cards the minute we turn 18, but they don’t teach us how to manage finances or even balance our checkbooks in high school. I don’t know many people without student loan or medical debt at the very minimum. Some of us had parents who were wise with their money. Some of us saw excellent examples of what NOT to do.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

Most of us have heard of or even subscribe to the Dave Ramsey financial philosophy of zero debt budgeting. I agree with 98% of his philosophy. It’s wise, biblically sound financial stewardship.

However, what if you meet someone and they’re a great catch: a mission minded, compassionate, Christ follower with strong character, but their only flaw is they’re still on “Baby Step Number 1,” starting an emergency fund? What if she’s the most amazing, godly woman you’ve ever met, but she has student loans coming out of her ears? Does that disqualify the person from the dating arena? And what about grace?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about what’s tolerable and what’s not in a potential dating/courting partner. But what about the gray areas? Finances can be a major issue in marriage. Some statistics would claim that 80% of marital fights are over finances. So it’s an important topic to discuss ahead of time.

First and foremost, we have to look to the Bible as the primary authority. It discusses money quite a bit. In fact, Jesus talked about money more than Heaven and Hell combined! God knew from the start the challenges finances would pose for us, so He gives us detailed instructions in His Word regarding it.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” -Malachi 3:10

This is a direct command and the only place in scripture where God challenges us to test Him. That’s pretty serious. So, rule number 1: I tithe and anyone who is a potential dating partner must faithfully tithe as well.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

As I observe and get to know someone as a dating partner on a deeper level, I’m taking note of how and where they spend their money. This is not so much a hard and fast rule as it is watching and learning. I want to know where his heart is and according to Scripture, how he spends will tell me a lot. Does he use it to bless others and sow into ministry? Or is he miserly? Does he blow it on foolish and selfish things? Or is he generous and kind with his money? No one executes this perfectly. Lord knows I don’t! But over time, you should have a good general idea of where most of your partner’s treasure is being sown.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” -Matthew 6:24

I am searching for a partner who is seeking God and passionate about missional living. According to this scripture, serving God and “chasing the almighty dollar” cannot coexist. Therefore, as I strive to personally be less selfish and materialistic, I am also looking for a partner who is not obsessed with money, climbing the corporate ladder, or preoccupied with big houses and fancy cars. Years ago, I dated a guy like that and it was this reason alone that caused me to realize that he loved money and a lavish life more than God or subsequently, a relationship with me.

Ambition is not a bad thing. Obsession (AKA idolatry) is. When the money, cars, houses, trips, promotions, and various symbols of “success” become more important than pursuing God and furthering His kingdom, that is idolatry. Focusing too much on finances can be an idol.

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” -1 Timothy 5:8

Wow. That’s harsh! Any potential partner must be financially self-sufficient. That means he must be able to support himself. If he is a single parent, he must be able to provide for his household. In this day and age, that looks different from person to person. He might have a roommate or she might rent from a family member. Bottom line, they should be able to support themselves and provide for their own food, clothing, and shelter. The condition and style the above items is in a bit of a gray area. Some may prefer to see filet mignon and Patagonia, while others are fine with bologna and secondhand threads. That’s up to you.

To recap, the 4 big financial health signs I have discovered in scripture are as follows:

  1. Must be a tither. Period.
  2. Watch for spending habits.
  3. Can’t idolize money and/or success.
  4. Must be self-supporting.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it reveals some good indicators. In all of the above, you should apply the same litmus tests to yourself. What do your spending habits tell a potential future dating partner? Do you tithe faithfully? If you fall short in any of the four areas, why?

Remember to have grace and understanding for yourself and others. No one is perfect and most of us are still trying to figure this whole money management thing out. So rather than being legalistic, seek to understand and show grace. Perhaps there are genuinely extenuating circumstances.

On the other end of the spectrum, do not, under any circumstances ever ever EVER let a dating partner move in with you before marriage to save money or begin financially supporting a boyfriend or girlfriend. This compromise of physical, financial, or relational boundaries will only hurt you in the end.

In addition to studying scripture, it’s vitally important to seek godly counsel from someone older and wiser who has been there or your pastor. Accountability will lead to growth and help you learn quicker if you allow it to.