“Is it OK for a couple to give separately?” Gary Hoag assesses the situation, takes us to Scripture and offers steps for couples to take

Situation: My husband and I don’t always agree on giving.

When we think of couples who have thought biblically and well about generosity and stewardship, we think of Gary and Jenni Hoag of Denver, Colorado. Gary blogs at generositymonk.com. We’ve partnered with Gary as he’s helped spread the message of financial transparency and accountability around the world through ECFA.

We posed this question to Gary and here’s what he shared.

 

I’ve observed five things about marriage and giving:

1. Most couples don’t live on a budget that they both understand and could articulate.

2. Most couples don’t talk about their giving on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

3. Most couples don’t have a strategy that guides their giving so that our passions align with God’s heart. Couples can think of this strategy as a team effort to shape their hearts, to help them care about what God cares about.

4. Many people don’t know their spiritual giftedness, so they are not deploying themselves in service.

5. Many people are biblically illiterate so they are not stewarding the eternal gospel well.

 

For many, that’s the situation in our marriages and in our own spiritual lives.

 

Scriptures: What are key stewardship themes to consider?

Three themes surface in the New Testament for couples to think about.

1. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 instructs us to steward faithfully the eternal gospel.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

2. 1 Peter 4:10-11 teaches us to employ the spiritual gifts God has given us.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

3. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 commands us to put to work the material goods that God has entrusted to us.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

 

To dig deeper on money, I also add these two passages:

1. Matthew 6:19-24, where Jesus explicitly tells us not to store treasures here.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“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.”

 

2. Mark 12:41-44 as he looks not at what we give but what we keep and only celebrates when we hold back nothing.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

 

In short, we’ve learned that God is watching and has give us key stewardship responsibilities. What should couples do from here?”

 

Steps: Five Steps Toward Greater Oneness and Sacrifice in Giving

Step 1: Take Inventory and Consecrate Everything to God.

Write out on paper a list of your material resources (assets and income), your spiritual gifts, and a summary of how you received the gospel. Consecrate everything on that paper to God, all you are and all you have. Practical idea: Mark that date on the calendar and celebrate it annually as your consecration day. This is really about deciding that the rest of the days on this earth will aim not at collecting experiences, possessions, etc but at denying self, taking up our cross and following.

She loves coffee so it’s like a date. The process unites us though we care about different things, we support about 20 items in our stewardship portfolio.

 

Step 2: Commit to Budgeting and Talking About Money Together.

Agree to live on a budget and talk about it monthly together. Be sure to have non-budgeted giving (for us it’s $300 per month) so that up to an agreed on amount (for us it’s $100) you can give spontaneously to whatever your heart moves you to support (Good Samaritan giving). Practical idea: I travel a lot so we have coffee once a month to talk about it the stewardship of our income. We aim to live as simply as possible to be as generous as possible. She loves coffee so it’s like a date. The process unites us though we care about different things, we support about 20 items in our stewardship portfolio.

 

Step 3: Map Out a Plan for Material Assets.

Map out a plan to store up all the material assets in your stewardship in heaven. As the saying goes, “do your giving while you are living so you are knowing where it’s going.” Do this also because there is no sacrifice in estate giving. No one who can take a dime with them when they die; everyone leaves everything behind. Practical idea: Set “store up in heaven goals” and assess your progress each year. It’s the opposite of the world’s goal of accumulating an amount. We continue to be stunned by all that passes through us when we focus on being intentional conduits.

 

Step 4: Assess How You Deploy Non-Material Assets, Like Time and Energy.

Assess your deployment of time and energy and see how that matches giftedness. Practical idea: Take a spiritual gifts inventory and go over the results with a friend to get their feedback and to pray into ways you can deploy yourself in as a worker for God (whether in the profit or nonprofit world). We find that when you serve in your giftedness you no longer do what John Stanley describes as “trading time for obligation.” When I match my giftedness and abilities, God deploys me to a mix of service. I teach as a visiting professor at multiple schools and do ECFA work on a limited basis so I have margin for writing, speaking and consulting work. My wife similarly divides her service to providing soul care, speaking in various settings, helping out at church, and substitute teaching at the local Christian school.

 

Step 5: Reorganize Your Life So God Can Spend You.

Talk honestly about how your life is a witness to an engages in both the great commission (sharing the gospel and making disciples) and great commandment (extending mercy and service). This might lead you to stop doing some activities and start doing other things. Practical idea: Lynn Miller put it, “Reorganize your life so that God can spend you.” Do this together. It’s a journey, and taking this journey together is really all about getting you as a couple in step with God together. That’s what matters. How you give from there is really up to you.

 

Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., has dedicated his life to encouraging Christian generosity as the Generosity Monk. He provides spiritual and strategic counsel for nurturing a culture of generosity in local churches and helps ministry administrators consider biblical and practical pathways for raising up givers to participate generously with them in God’s work. Find him at generositymonk.com and find his wife at soulcareanchoress.com.

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