When my wife and I were newly married, we were a formidable force of unity. Our romance was impregnable. We had endured a lot on the journey to the aisle. We overcame the hurdle of marrying from outside our tribes. We overcame the odds of marrying very young (2 weeks after campus). We endured the taunts of enemies and the painful backbiting of supposed friends. We got the blessing of our parents and most importantly, the blessing of God. All this solidified our relationship and we were more united that we had ever been as a couple. However, we were not familiar that only a few weeks into our marriage, our unity would be shaken. Little did we know that the unlikely nemesis of our unity would have to do with money. We had never fought about money. We had mutually agreed on a joint bank account. We were very transparent about our sources of income. We mutually agreed to invest and save most of our wedding money. We agreed on the neighbourhood to live in and we were comfortable with our lifestyle and expenses. However, all was not dandy. One evening we received a message from a friend of our parents who could not attend our wedding. They had sent their apologies but insisted that they had to give a gift. They sent us the gift through our parents weeks after we got married. When we opened it, it was a thick bundle of notes worth 40,000 KES. We were elated!
“This is great!” I exclaimed, “We can pay rent for the next month and use the rest to do some house shopping.”
My wife looked at me as if I had cracked some incredulous joke.
“What!” she said laughing, “We’ve saved so much money from the wedding. It’s time to treat ourselves. Let’s go shopping!”
“Shopping?” I asked, surprised. “For what?”
“New clothes!” she answered gleefully.
“That’s not prudent use. We will pay the rent. I will do it first thing next week.”
“But we have salaries to pay rent,” Turi added.
“The more reason to save our salaries,” I responded.
What started off as a friendly discussion escalated quickly into a fundamental division. Then it turned into an argument. We argued endlessly until we reached a stalemate. In the stalemate, the compromise was clear. She took 20k and I took 20k. And we were both happy. Or so we thought. I rushed to the supermarket and stocked the house with my 20. Turi rushed to the bazaars and flea markets and came back with a humongous bale of clothes. I noticed her kindness when she handed me a few clothes she had bought for me. But this pleasure was short lived when she asked me if I had any money from my 20k left. She had consumed her 20 and still wanted to get a few things. The argument revived with new strength. I did have the money but I wasn’t going to give it to her. This time, the argument became emotive and personal. We fought with our words and raised our voices and tempers. I’m sure the neighbours heard us fight. We didn’t care. I was labelled the guy who could not enjoy a dime even if his life depended on it. And she was labelled the gobbling spendthrift who had no savings gene in her DNA. And for the first time in many weeks into our marriage, we slept angry at each other. She faced east; I faced west; and we both faced the consequences of the love of money.
Jesus taught to watch out against all forms of greed (Luke 12:15). In that passage in Luke, his words “Watch out!” seem to intimate that we can be blind to the love of money. We can think we have good motives but in truth we just love money. He then says “All forms of greed.” It is as if to say that the love of money takes many forms. Today it can disguise itself as saving. Tomorrow it can disguise itself as enjoying life. Jesus taught in one of his sermons that the love of money keeps one from loving God (Matthew 6:24). And when we fail to love God, we also fail to love people (1 John 5:20). Turi and I saw the deadliness of the love of money because that night we failed to love one another by breaking one of our sacred relationship rules. The rule we have is a mutual agreement stemming from Ephesians 4:26, to not go to bed angry at each other. Our selfish views would not allow us to humble ourselves and resolve the matter.
Now, naturally, there are readers who may see the issue as a no-brainer. Some may say, “Surely any sensible person can see that Turi is right. You have saved enough. Live a little!” Some may say, “How can a sane human being not save that kind of money in this tough third-world economy. Ernest is right.” Turi and I have often found that in our fights, the facts don’t always present the truth. Turi and I did a money test not long after that and discovered that one reason for our fight that night was our predisposition to our views of money. In the test, we discovered that there are four general views of money.
You view money in any of these four categories:
- Freedom- To you money means having the freedom to do what you like and gain new experiences
- Security- You need to feel safe and secure and you desire the stability and protection that money provides
- Power- Personal success and control are important to you, and you appreciate the power money sometimes provides
- Love/Affection- You like to use money to express love and build relationships
These four views are not evil. They are just fact. However they become evil when money takes centre-stage in our hearts; when it becomes an idol; when we love it. When the love of money overtakes our hearts we think that the ultimate freedom, security, power and love for our lives can be found in finances. And we use the facts to justify our idols. People who love money whilst viewing it as freedom may get into many debts very fast as they chase the latest toys and joys. People who love money and view it as security may become misers and very stingy. People who love money and view it as power may use it to oppress people and control them. People who love money and view it as affection may use it to manipulate relationships and get their own way. The problem is not the view. The problem is the love of money. Turi’s dominant view of money is freedom. My dominant view of money is security. There is a clash in those two views. However, our class was not merely because we held separate views. The Bible warns us against such shallow thinking and instead to examine ourselves before the LORD (Psalm 139:23-34). These views had taken ultimate stances in our hearts and that is why we fought. 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (ESV)
The cure for the love of money is the God of the Gospel- Jesus Christ. He alone is the ultimate freedom. Our sins are forgiven and we will rule and reign with Him. He alone is the ultimate security. Our souls are sealed forever for eternity in his rich Kingdom. He alone is our power. Believers shall judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3) and exercise dominion in the Millennial Kingdom. And he alone is our love. So great a love he is that he laid down his life for us to escape the wrath of God. And Christ promises that if we have him as our God, he will take care of us. Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV)
Turi and I woke up that night, unable to sleep. I held a 1000 KES note between us and said, “This should not separate us.” She agreed. I apologised for failing to lead as the man in the relationship. I apologised for not suggesting a tithe of the money to the LORD before using it for self. I apologised for not considering her needs before mine. She apologised for not submitting to my leadership. She apologised for not considering my needs before hers. We made amends and asked the LORD to help us put him before ourselves. When we were done, she stopped facing east and turned to face west. I stopped facing west and turned to face east. And the magic happened. In our short marriage life, we have realised that the love of money even kills the intimacy in our marriage.
It may sound incredible to accept, but believe it or not, we have never had another money argument since that incident in our first year in marriage. On days when we depended on every coin in the month, we have maintained God at the centre. And on days when the bank account has overflowed with finances, we have kept God at the centre. It hasn’t happened automatically; it has happened intentionally by submitting our wills to God with every coin gained, spent, invested and lost. The part of the vows that say, “In riches and in poverty” must be taken seriously by any couple that walks down the aisle. God requires your marriage to stay intact in all seasons. Perhaps the words of the Apostle Paul seal this message:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)