GenerousChurch

To Have and to Hold...or Give by GenerousChurch 

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

What do you do when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your spouse about giving?

If this is the biggest struggle you have in your marriage, pat yourself on the back and take the rest of the day off.  You have my permission.  You may want to check with your spouse (and boss) before you take that advice, but I have no problem with it.

Seriously, it’s no secret that marriage is a work in progress.  There are always going to be issues of disagreement and compromise.  For example…

Not long after we moved to a new town, my wife learned of a local food bank and decided that she wanted to serve there as a volunteer.  That’s typical for her.  She’s always looking for opportunities to give.  I, on the other hand, am more inclined to take things slowly and to hold onto things that I may need down the road (including my time).

That’s where our intersecting personalities hit a roadblock.  She wanted to give time to the food bank.  I wanted her to be generous, but I didn’t want her generosity to cost me anything.  Unfortunately, as a one-day-a-week volunteer at the food bank, she would not be able to pick up our children from school on those days.  And that meant this act of kindness was about to pull me away from work every Thursday afternoon to pick up the kids.  In other words, her kindness was about to impact my lifestyle.  I might have to skip lunch on those days to make this work…or even worse, I might have to get started a little earlier in the morning to get everything accomplished for the day. Can you believe she would have the nerve to do that to me?

After hosting my own small pity party…and after picking up the kids on that first Thursday…I realized that this could work after all.  It took me a little while, but I finally realized that rearranging my work schedule would not be terribly life altering.

But, in all honesty, if I could have had my way, I would have kept her from being generous.  (Don’t judge me.  I see the way you are looking at me with that stink eye.)

Fortunately for me, I’m not alone.  In fact, I would dare say that most husbands and wives are not wired exactly the same when it comes to giving.  In terms of financial giving, Dave Ramsey often says that in most marriages there is one “saver” and one “spender.”  In much the same way, many marriages also have a “generous giver” and a “greedy hoarder.”  (That’s probably a bad choice of words.  Don’t go home and call your spouse a greedy hoarder.  It won’t be good for your marriage.  Let’s try that again…) In much the same way, many marriages also have a “giver” and a “governor.”  One spouse is often anxious to give while the other wants to set reasonable limitations.

So, how do we get on the same page?  Let me offer a few simple suggestions:

1. Pray for your spouse. 

By that, I don’t mean going to God and saying, “Please make (my spouse) more like me.”  If don’t think that’s the point of prayer.  Instead, why not pray something along the lines of “Father, thank you for putting me with someone who has gifts that I don’t have and ways of relating to you that I commonly fail to recognize in my own life.  I pray that you would continue to mold and shape (my spouse) even as you are molding and shaping me.  Don’t put (my spouse) on my page of life, but put us, together, on page with You.”

2. Recognize that your spouse’s strengths may be a gift of God to you.

Many of the greatest joys I have experienced in life have come as I nervously followed my wife into new areas of generosity.  Her penchant for giving has caused me anxiety at times, but more often than not it has introduced me to what God calls “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).  Her generosity should not be giving me gray hair.  It’s one of God’s great gifts to our marriage.

On the other hand, my “governor” mindset is also a gift to the marriage.  I just have to convince my wife of that truth.

3. Have real family conversations around the issue of giving.

Do you have different opinions?  Then, listen to each other without making assumptions and without looking to win a debate.  Listen to grow.  Listen generously.

As you have these conversations, focus on the “whys.” 

  • Why does generosity matter?
  • Why is this the time to have this conversation?
  • Why is God so generous to us…and so many others who don’t deserve His generosity?

4. Start by practicing generosity toward your spouse.

Generosity is a great tool for healing.  In fact God uses it to heal the world (think of the Gospel).  Why wouldn’t we use it to heal tensions in marriage?  Do the dishes…speak words of love to your wife or words of respect to your husband…buy them their favorite ice cream…help with yard work…wash the dog…take them on a date…give significant time to something they enjoy…handle the grocery shopping…write them a thank you note…cook dinner…snuggle in bed (even if you are not a snuggler)…buy them a book if your spouse is introverted…invite friends over if your spouse is extroverted…be thoughtful and kind…

However you do this, plan to be generous toward your spouse multiple times each day.  Then let God handle it from that point forward.

If you try these 4 simple things, you might be surprised at the teamwork that starts to develop in the midst of your “giving” and “governing.”  Better than that, you might also be surprised at how you start to uncover the type of marriage you’ve always wanted.

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