The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples

The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples

by Art Rainer


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God has a plan for your marriage and your money. It starts with a challenge. Will you accept?

For many couples, the collision of marriage and money is the beginning of relational havoc. But does it have to be this way?

What if the collision of marriage and money no longer tore couples apart but brought them together? What if money was no longer a topic to argue about but a topic around which couples rallied? What if the collision of marriage and money actually helped couples find contentment and purpose?

In The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples, financial expert and author of The Money Challenge Art Rainer takes you on a journey to a financially healthy marriage. Get started on the right foot, or get back on the right track, by accepting the challenge and realizing God's design for money and marriage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781535912389
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 394,507
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. He writes widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God's Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

Read an Excerpt



Chris and Mr. Gunther walked around the building to the pool deck facing the beach. Chris assumed that it was okay for Mr. Gunther to leave his post at the front door. Mr. Gunther didn't hesitate, so Chris didn't either. What were they going to do, fire a man who had worked there for sixty years?

"Man, this is a beautiful place," said Chris as he looked out over the pool and beach.

Mr. Gunther smiled, the wrinkles on his face made it evident that smiling was his most frequent expression. "Chris, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation you were having with Claire. I hate hearing those types of arguments between newlyweds. Is everything okay?"

Chris smirked. "Did you really just bring me back here to get me away from the other guests?"

Mr. Gunther chuckled. "Well, no. But maybe I should have earlier! I just like the view back here."

Chris wasn't sure how much to tell Mr. Gunther. After all, he just met him. But he seemed genuine enough. "As you can tell, we had a pretty big argument earlier. What you heard was more of a follow-up argument. For some reason, Claire decided that now was the right time to reveal her credit card and student loan debt. She never said anything about it while we were dating or engaged. I can't believe she kept it from me."

"Hmm. I see," Mr. Gunther said with a look of concern. "And why does that bother you?

Chris was a little taken aback by the question. The answer seemed apparent. "Well, obviously, there's the trust issue. And second, now we have this deep financial pit that we have to get out of. I have no idea how we can do it. And as if that weren't enough, my company is in the middle of layoffs. I have no idea whether or not my job will be cut. I had this dream of being young and financially healthy, making a mark on this world, and now we're just young, in debt, and potentially jobless."

Mr. Gunther put his hands in his pockets. "Well, there's a lot to unpack there. It's funny, Rose and I weren't too different from you and Claire when we first got married. Granted, neither one of us had a lot of debt, but we were broke. And, boy, did we have some arguments about money. Some were brutal. The financial stress seemed to get the best of both of us."

Chris replied, "From what I hear, money tends to be a pretty big issue in marriage. My older brother got a divorce last year because of money issues. Already having arguments about money makes me wonder if Claire and I will make it. And I hate that thought."

"Well, you don't want that, do you?"

"Of course not. I didn't marry Claire only to get a divorce. But what scares me is that my brother didn't marry his wife thinking that they would get a divorce either. But money got in the way."

Mr. Gunther looked out toward the ocean and was quiet for a few seconds. Then he spoke, as if to himself. "Contentment and purpose."

"Excuse me?" questioned Chris.

"Contentment and purpose. It's what changed our marriage and money issues. You see, God has a design for our marriage and our money. When we chase that design, we find ourselves content and purposeful. When we move away from it, we find ourselves dissatisfied and lost."

Chris's head was nodding in agreement, but he wasn't sure how to respond. "Okay. So, I guess the next question is, how?"

Mr. Gunther pulled his hands from his pockets and crossed his arms. "Oneness. It starts there," Mr. Gunther said with confidence.

"What do you mean?"

"Our resort has received a number of awards over the years. The ones on which we pride ourselves most are the ones that deal with customer experience."

Chris knew this. It was one of the reasons they chose The Miami Palms Resort and Spa for their honeymoon. The reviews were stellar.

Mr. Gunther continued, "We're good at what we do because our entire staff operates as one. We're not a bunch of people moving in our own directions with our own goals. We move in the same direction toward one goal — creating a surreal customer experience. If we chose to go in different directions, it would be a total disaster. You certainly would not have chosen us."

He was probably right.

"So, Chris, what you need to do is operate as one, not two. It's how God designed marriage to work. Oneness is essential to move forward in your marriage and your money. It's the starting point for experience, contentment, and purpose."

"Okay. I think I understand," Chris said hesitantly.

Mr. Gunther reached back into his pockets and pulled out two tickets. "I want you and Claire to meet a very special, very rich couple that happens to be staying at the resort this week. These are complimentary tickets for our resort's suite at the sports arena. There's a basketball game tonight and they will be there."

Chris took the tickets. He was pumped. What a great opportunity, to enjoy a game and mingle with the rich. He couldn't wait to get back to the room to tell Claire.

"Thanks, Mr. Gunther!" Chris shook his hand.

Mr. Gunther smiled. "Of course. I'm glad you're here." Then in a more serious tone he said, "Chris, you have to decide to be one."

An Unfortunate Memory

I remember the moment clearly.

I was their banker. The middle-aged married couple sat in the two chairs on the other side of my office desk. I took one more glance at my computer screen, looked at their credit report, and then gave them the unfortunate news — their home loan application was denied. They had too many debts and not enough income. Their credit was maxed.

So they could understand what I was seeing, I began to read out loud the different debts listed on their credit report. As I read them, one by one, they acknowledged the debt with a reluctant head nod.

Until I read a particular credit card.

"That's not ours. Is it fraud?" questioned the wife.

"Possibly," I replied. As I began to walk them through the steps they should take to determine whether or not they were victims of identify theft, I saw something that the wife could not immediately see. Her husband's face had become very red, and beads of sweat were forming on his forehead.

"Just don't worry about it!" the husband suddenly exclaimed.

Understandably surprised, the wife quickly turned to the husband and said, "Why not? It's not ours."

"Just don't worry about it!" he repeated emphatically.

At this point, the wife saw what I had seen. Something was wrong. He was hiding something. While she did not recognize the card, he clearly did. What he had hoped would remain hidden in darkness had been brought to light.

The wife turned back to look at me, shocked, frustrated, sad, but calm. "I'm sorry, Art. We need to leave." And with that, she stood up and walked out of my office. Without saying a word, the husband followed behind her, his head lowered in shame.

I wish I knew what happened to that couple, but I don't. All I know is that a wedge had been driven down the middle of their relationship. The husband was on one side; the wife was on the other.

Years ago, when they said "I do," this was not a part of the marital plan. This was not part of the happily-ever-after dream.

It never is for any of us. And I know it isn't for you. You want something better. You want something more.

The Great Divider

Financial stress is taking its toll on us.

If at some point last month you found yourself stressed about money, you are not alone. In a survey on stress, the American Psychological Association found that money was the second (62%) highest source of stress among American adults. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they worry about unanticipated expenditures. Thirty percent worry about saving for retirement. And 25 percent worry about paying for essentials.

Of course, financial stress does not stay contained to the individual. The stress seeps out and impacts our most important relationships, including our marriage.

I wish the statistics on money and divorce weren't so consistent, but they are. So I can't ignore them. And neither should you.

According to another study, 70 percent of couples admitted to arguing about money. These arguments are more frequent among younger couples than older couples. Why should we be concerned about money arguments? Because 57 percent of divorced couples reported that arguing over money was the reason for their divorce. In fact, research reveals that fights about money are one of the leading predictors of future divorce.

With the consistent and abundant reporting on financial stress and its damaging effects on marriage, one would think that married couples would seek financial unity from day one of their marriage.

Unfortunately, statistics continue to reveal a different story.

Financial infidelity — lying about financial matters — isn't rare. In a Harris Poll, 42 percent of people said that they had committed financial infidelity. Seventy-five percent said that financial deception hurt their relationship. Twenty-percent of respondents in a study from SunTrust said that they had spent $500 or more without their spouse knowing. Six percent confessed to hiding accounts from their spouse.

While divorced couples may point to their finances as the reason for their divorce, there is normally more going on than meets the eye. Financial conflicts in marriage are usually symptoms of something more significant, something more foundational.

You may think there is no way that you will ever be one of these statistics, that you and your spouse are immune to this. I hope you are correct. But just remember this — very few couples get married thinking they will be a statistic one day.

I can guarantee that the couple in my bank office never thought they would be leaving a bank office, humiliated and hurt, because of financial infidelity.

This is the reality we are facing — marriages are being torn apart. And many couples are seeing the underlying issues manifest themselves in their finances.

This is not God's design for marriage. This is not God's design for money. You, your marriage, and your money were meant for more. You, your marriage, and your money were meant for something far greater, far more satisfying, far more adventurous, and far more lasting than you could ever imagine.


I have heard marriage compared to a pair of scissors. Two blades are united in a way that is never intended to separate. There are times when the blades may go in separate directions, pulling away from one another. But this movement does not allow for the scissors to operate as intended. Only when the two blades are brought together in unison do you experience the full potential of the scissors' design.

This is God's design for marriage — that two would become one. And their sacrificial love for one another would reflect God's sacrificial love. Marriage is a sacred union that, when following God's design, screams the gospel to the rest of the world.

It started in Genesis.

In Genesis 2:24, we see God setting the expectation that when a man and a woman enter into a marital relationship, two formerly separate entities are now united as one.

Paul writes about the depth of this oneness in 1 Corinthians 7:4: "A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does."

In marriage, our rights over our own bodies are lost. Think about that statement for a moment. God's design for oneness in marriage runs so deep that our rights to our own bodies are null and void. In an act of incredible vulnerability, we relinquish our own authority and give ourselves to another.

Independence and individualism are valued in America. We value our autonomy and freedom. We want to do what we want, when we want to do it, and however we want to do it. And it is hard for these American values not to invade and warp our view of marriage.

But independence, individualism, autonomy, and personal freedom are not in God's design for marriage. The American value of independence must be laid aside, and sacrifice must be picked up in its place.

A rich marriage will not be found pursuing our own wants and desires. That path will only lead to greater discontent and division. A fulfilling in marriage will be found when two set aside their individual wants and desires for the sake of the one sacred union, in order for the world to know the one sacred God.

It is no longer "mine."

It is no longer "yours."

It is "ours."

And this oneness should seep into our marriage's finances.

More Than Money

God has an exciting design for our money, but most people are completely missing out on it.

You might be familiar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The master was going on a journey and entrusted three servants with his possessions. The first servant received five talents, the second received two talents, and the third received one talent.

When the master returned, the servants reported how they managed his possessions. The first and second servant doubled what the master had given them, and they were rewarded accordingly. The third servant simply returned what he had been given, without any gain. The master sent him away because he had squandered the opportunity given to him.

We can learn four quick lessons from this parable:

1. God owns everything. The talents in the parable are always identified as the master's talents. No matter who is holding the possession, the ownership never changes.

2. We are the managers. God hands over some of his possessions for us to manage — or steward — well.

3. Not everyone gets the same amount of possessions (and that's okay). Some will be given more and some less. And this is okay. Because it is not about the amount. It's about the stewardship.

4. We are held accountable for whatever was entrusted to us. Whether we have been given more or less, we will be held accountable for what we have been given.

But there is more here, something that is frequently missed.

This parable provides us with direction for the possessions under our watch. It is not merely stewardship for the sake of stewardship. When the master returned, the two celebrated servants had accomplished something very specific — they increased the master's wealth. The master returned to greater ownership than when he left. His kingdom had grown. His kingdom had advanced.

What does this tell us? Being a good manager of God's possessions doesn't mean just keeping them safe. That's boring. And keeping his possessions safe was exactly what the third servant did. We are called to something significantly more compelling.

Good stewardship that does not advance God's kingdom is not really good stewardship. There is a goal. There is a mission. There is a kingdom to advance. We are to be a part of advancing his kingdom. And this is exactly what God wants us to do with the possessions he has given us.

Good stewardship requires generosity.

God's Design for Money

Most of us chase things with our money that result in momentary satisfaction. We think if we can just buy that house, drive that car, wear those clothes, or even obtain financial independence, we will be satisfied and content.

But the satisfaction and content are short-lived. We buy that house with that car in the garage and those clothes in the closet. However, as the weeks, months, and years roll by, the luster is lost, and we are no longer satisfied with those things. We turn our attention to the next thing to satisfy.

I bet I can tell you of a time when you used money in a way that brought a greater, longer-lasting satisfaction.

It was when you used money for something greater than yourself.

You gave to your local church and its mission. You bought Christmas presents for a family you didn't know. You bought a backpack and school supplies for a child you would never meet. You helped a friend who got slammed with an unforeseen emergency.

I bet when you think back on that moment, you are hit with a sense of contentment and satisfaction. While you frequently regret past purchases, you rarely regret past generosity.

Why is that?

It is because when you are generous, you are getting closer to God's design for you and your money. You see, God designed us not to be hoarders but conduits through which his generosity flows.

Getting rid of debt is a good idea. Setting aside money for retirement is a good idea. Pursuing financial health is a good idea. And we will discuss those things in this book. But they are not for the ends in themselves. Being debt-free, having enough for retirement, and obtaining financial health are just means to a much greater, more exciting end.

They are a way for us to live the generous life he desires us to live. They are means to get us to a place where we can live with open hands, ready to give and go as God lead us. Financially healthy people are better able to say "yes" instead of "not yet."

This is why we pursue financial health.

The Dangerous Collision

So here we are — God has provided us a design for how our marriage and our money are to work. Yet, it is the collision of marriage and money that sends many couples reeling.

But it doesn't have to be this way.


Excerpted from "The Marriage Challenge"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Art Rainer.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Palm Trees and Arguments,
Decide to Be One,
Chapter 1: Oneness,
Chapter 2: Welcome to the Team,
Chapter 3: Your Money Story,
Chapter 4: Become a Millionaire,
Decide to Chase after God's Design for your money Together,
Chapter 5: It All Starts with Generosity,
Chapter 6: Just in Case,
Chapter 7: Free Money,
Chapter 8: Crushing Your Debt,
Chapter 9: You're Unemployed. Now What?,
Chapter 10: The Retirement You Always Wanted,
Chapter 11: The Big Purchases,
Chapter 12: Impact Eternity Together,
Decide to Destroy Marriage Dividers,
Chapter 13: Marriage Divider 1 — Poor Communication,
Chapter 14: Marriage Divider 2 — Selfishness,
Chapter 15: Marriage Divider 3 — Distrust,
Chapter 16: Marriage Divider 4 — Unrealistic Expectations,
Conclusion: Rich,


  • Previous buyers of The Money Challenge and those who regularly read and listen to Art Rainer
  • Young Christians who are dating or engaged
  • Married couples, especially newlyweds
  • Previous buyers of Thom S. Rainer books (I Am A Church Member, Simple Church, Autopsy of a Deceased Church)

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