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Let’s Talk About Relationships – Marriage & Money

From the series Q&A with Chip Ingram

In this Q & A program, Let's Talk About Relationships Part 2, Chip addresses your questions about finances, joint vs. separate accounts, and how to balance financial responsibilities inside a marriage relationship. He also answers questions about Christian responsibility to speak the truth in love in the current context of gender fluidity and alternative sexuality: how do we engage and keep a candid conversation going? And finally, questions about sexual baggage, like pornography and infidelity, in a dating or marriage relationship.

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So, I’m back in the studio with Jerry McCauley, a really dear friend, uh, staff member for many years, and he’s our senior vice president of communications and product development. So, Jerry, welcome to our time together to ask and answer these questions and it’s just great to see you.

JERRY: Thank you! Great to be here with ya. We’ve got a lot of great questions today.

CHIP: Well, let’s go ahead and jump right in.

JERRY: Sounds good. This first one, it’s about finances. It’s, “What does God’s Word say about doing finances jointly?  That is, not putting the full burden on one of the spouses?”

CHIP: You know, I don’t know that I have a specific verse that says, you know, a man is supposed to do this, a woman’s supposed to do that. What I do know is that the moral weight and responsibility for providing for the family is on us, as men, and then I think we have to ask ourselves, what’s the practical way to do that? And I think that can look different with different couples. But let me give you an example of how not to do it.

Uh, I’m a big-picture person, my wife is very detail oriented and so I just let her pay all the bills, didn’t really keep track of anything, and early in our marriage, I remember buying something, and it was for her and it was romantic, and I brought it home, and she got so ticked off because, uhm, apparently, we didn’t have money in our checking to pay for this wonderful gift that I got her. And, and, it was a real point of tension, and then she shared with me in tears, “I just feel all the weight of our finances.” And so, as a practical matter, and I would just encourage you to think of a way that will work for you, but literally for decades now, Theresa and I do our bills together.

All of our bills come in, or as with most of you, they come in online, and we sit down together and we go through all of them. And the few that we still actually write checks, I write the check and she has the ledger, she’ll pay ‘em online, but we sit there together, and we both know how much money we have, we make our giving decisions every two weeks when those checks come in, uh, we kind of make it a time that’s kinda fun – so, we, you know, you know me, we have a good cup of coffee – and, and just kinda hang out.

And what happened is more than paying our bills, what we started doing, is what we realized is we evaluated priorities and we shared the burden, and you know, she actually does the meticulous part because my mistakes were killing us, but I carry the moral weight and we do it together, so I’d just say, you have to figure out the best way to do it, but I think if one person in the marriage feels like: All the weight is on me.

Or, I think, very common, a lot of men take care of all of this, and I can’t tell you the uh, the widows, that I have met with that had no idea how much money they had, what bills they had, uh, what insurance, what coverage, they were completely in the dark. Let me just encourage you, as a couple, uh, money always tells you where your priorities and your values are, you have to do it together.

JERRY: Chip, that’s super helpful. I know that many of the younger couples that I talk to actually have separate banking, separate financial accounts… uh, as you’re talking to younger couples, how would you approach that with them?

CHIP: You know, I would really, let me just be that fatherly figure. Do not do that. That, that’s – there’s a spirit of independence in that. There’s always going to be some levels of secrecy. You have become one spiritually, you’ve become one in your soul and emotions, and you have become one physically. And to think that you can be separate financially, will take you down very, very bad paths.

Having all your money together will cause a little bit more conflict than doing it separately, but it’ll cause you to make decisions that are joint. Anytime there’s this attitude of, “Well, this is my money and that is your money,” then you don’t understand that before the eyes of the living God, you are one. The two become one flesh. So, let me encourage you to let that be reflected in your banking and in your spending, your investing and all that you do financially.

JERRY: That’s really insightful. Thank you, Chip.

JERRY: Okay, so our next question has to do with decision making. So, here it is. When you have a large decision to make in life, and there are constantly small hiccups in the plan, how can you tell if the hiccups are signs to not go through with it, or if they are just small challenges that lead to a greater plan and a test of strength?

CHIP: Let me tell you, Jerry, I think that is a fabulous question and especially for people that are very sincere, really want to walk with God, you know, what we know is there are two things. You know, I hear people talk about, “God opened this door, God shut that door.” And I think there’s a certain legitimacy of how circumstances play out.

But what we know, as you read through Scripture, often, when you do the will of God, what you know is it gets worse before it gets better. There are all kind of challenges. In James chapter 1, he says, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various tests, knowing the test or the trials lead to endurance. And let endurance have its perfecting or maturing result, that you might be perfect and mature, lacking in nothing.” And so, when you’re swimming upstream, when you’re following God, there’s multiple tests and challenges. And so, the call is to persevere.

Now, on the other hand, there’s Scripture that is very clear that there is sowing and reaping. There are consequences. You take this step and maybe you’re very sincere. I have certainly done this. And you think it’s God’s will and you get barrier after barrier after barrier and the Lord is trying to tell you, Hey, don’t go down that path. And what I hear in this question is: how do you tell the difference? And I would love to say, “Well, that’s x minus y to the second power, equals…” In other words, here’s an easy formula. I think what we have to do is say, okay, first of all, is this God’s will as best as I understand it? And on some of these big decisions, should we relocate? Should our children be in this school or that school? Should I take this job or not take this job? Should we go into full-time ministry? We have two children, should we have three? Well, I can tell you, if it’s having the third children, you’re going to have a lot of tests and there’s no going back after you take that step.

But in all seriousness, what I want you to know is: I don’t think there’s a formula to tell you that and I think, at times, the enemy will bring things that His goal will be barriers and challenges and discouragement and God will use those same barriers to actually mature you. And I think in some ways, we don’t know.

I will tell you, I have had a lot of counseling that I have done and I have made some decisions that I always thought that everything was a test, you just have to persevere, persevere, persevere, persevere over a period of time until it got so obvious to my wife, my children, my closest friends and counsel, “Chip, what you’re doing is not producing fruit. There’s no joy in your life. This is not wise.” And what I had to realize was this wasn’t a mountain to go over or go under or go through. This is one where this season is over; don’t do that.

But I would say, on an awful lot of decisions, once you’re clear, you’ve gotten counsel, God has spoken from His Word, you’re on the same page if you’re married, you have determined that this is the will of God, it’s not just an iffy thing – then I would say in most of our cases, we need to persevere because most of us in our humanness will bail out a lot quicker than the personality type that might be a little bit over the top like me that, no matter how hard it gets, we think you’ve just got to get through it.

So, you have a Holy Spirit living inside you, you have the Word of God at your disposal, and you have wise counselors around you. And I think you have to take those things with an honest heart and you need to say, Lord, I am willing to continue. Lord, I am willing to persevere, to go through this. You tell me. I will not give up. But, Lord, I also want You to know, if You are speaking to me that this is not the right plan, if I didn’t hear Your voice, then I am very open to stopping. And I think when you pray like that, in the Scriptures, trusting the Holy Spirit with wise counselors, then I think God will show you in your specific situation what you need to do.

JERRY: That’s great. Do you have an example of a time where the doors were being slammed in your face and it, it was really clear that these were more than just barriers and more than just learning curves?

CHIP: Yeah, it was, I happened to be president of Walk Thru the Bible at the time and what we were doing internationally exploded. It was really, really exciting. And, yet, after I got done teaching the Bible for about the first three or four years of my time there, then my job was about ninety percent being the CEO of a large organization, I had seven vice presidents, they were all direct reports, they all had a separate P&L statement. I was in ten-hour budget meetings. And the only thing, when I taught the Bible, was something I had already taught to launch it in all these different countries.

And it was great. We went to all these countries and everything got rolling. And pretty soon, I didn’t teach the Bible anymore. And I wasn’t preparing messages and I was the CEO of a non-profit. And literally, my joy was shrinking, one of my oldest sons, very perceptively, we were all on vacation, came to me and he said, “Dad, I’m concerned about you.” I mean, I looked like I had aged about ten years in about two. He said, “You don’t seem to have joy.” And he says, “I’m sure you know more about God’s will than me, but just the way I see your life, if this is God’s will, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Are you sure that you’re doing what God wants you to do?”

And Theresa had the same concerns, and then I had two staff members who I had done fifteen years of life with, and they were real serious and they said, “Oh, we really want to get with you.” And I learned later they prayed and they fasted and it was one of those intervention-type things. And they sat down with me and they just said, “You’re in the wrong seat. We love you. We know you. We were with you when you pastored a church. What is happening around the world is awesome, but man, you’re killing yourself. And this is not the right fit.”

And I remember going into a closet, not to overly spiritualize it, it was a walk-in closet, it was pretty big – on that vacation, and literally crying and just telling God, I just felt like I, I can’t let You down. And it was really a sweet, sweet moment where on the one hand, I felt like I had failed and, yet, I felt an experience with God, a sense of approval that, you know, This is not what I want you to do. I’ve got fifty… Literally, I remember the Holy Spirit whispering, I’ve got fifty CEOs in Atlanta alone that are way better than you would ever be that could do this job that you’re doing. You need to get back to teaching God’s Word.

So, yeah, that’s, that was one of those times, Jerry. And, yet, I will say I’ve had an awful lot of other times where God spoke, I started down a path, and everything that could go wrong went wrong, only to look back over two years or five years and realize: wow, the enemy didn’t want me to do that or I need a lot of refining.

And, you know, David gets anointed as king and then for ten years he’s dodging spears, hiding in caves. You look at so many biblical characters, God says, “This is what is going to happen,” and then if you look at their life, Joseph gets clarity from God when he’s seventeen, and his life looks like a train wreck until he’s thirty. But all of that prepared him. So, I think it’s trusting the Holy Spirit’s work and being really willing to persevere if you have to or to not persevere, which for some of us feels like failure.

JERRY: I love that the common thread there is that you had some trusted counselors in both situations, both the, the saying “yes” to and saying “no” to. And also, that you grew in both situations. So, thank you for sharing that.

JERRY: Chip, this next question is a real current, cultural issue that we’re all facing, maybe in our schools, with our parenting, with our kids, with our co-workers. So, it says, “Can you talk about the intersection of Christian responsibility of speaking truth and the current culture of gender fluidity and alternative sexuality?

CHIP: Wow, uhm, you know, sometimes I talk about twenty-five-thousand-dollar questions. I think this is a fifty-thousand-dollar question. I mean, that is a huge, huge issue. And so, let me just say this: we at Living on the Edge, have been weighing, looking, pondering, in fact, last year, spent time as a team thinking and saying, “What are some of the issues that we have to address as we listen to parents, grandparents, pastors, youth pastors, young people? What do we need to address?”

And so, what I want you to know is we are in the process of developing an online course on actual sexuality that will talk about all the issues in terms of transgender, homosexuality, heterosexuality, and kind of where all these things – how do you get a clear, loving, kind, biblical view of these things? And then how do you respond in a lot of different circumstances?

And so, rather than jump in and give you maybe even like a five-cent answer, let me tell you that online course is in development. And let me give you one book that I think will be helpful. It’s by Andrew Walker, W-A-L-K-E-R. Andrew Walker.

And it’s called God and the Transgender Debate. I think that is a great place to start. It’s balanced, it’s kind, and it has good research. And I think it’ll be a good first step if you’re in the midst of struggling or really needing some information on that right away.

JERRY: Chip, that resource sounds really helpful. I’m wondering if you could just give me a sense of: how do I engage with a friend, uhm, in a conversational way so that I can have a further conversation after I take that course, and so I don’t shut things down right away with my response?

CHIP: Yeah, I think, one is we need to speak the truth in love. We talk a lot about bringing light and not heat to controversial issues.

In fact, I wrote a book and we have a small group resource called Culture Shock where we deal with human sexuality, homosexuality, a lot of controversial things. And what I have learned over the years is you always start with listening, not judging.

It doesn’t mean you compromise the truth in any way. You always understand that however people are living, it actually makes sense to them. And you don’t know where they have come from, you don’t know what they have been through. And so, quick, harsh, judgmental – you don’t compromise: this is right, this is wrong, this is the truth. But when you’re in a relationship and if people are going to get help, they don’t need pounded.

What they need is someone who looks them in the eye, who compassionately really wants to understand. And unless there’s a bridge of relationship, whatever you believe or whatever you think will never make it to that person’s mind, let alone their heart. And so, I think that’s always the first place to start.

And I think, here’s another issue, especially for those that this is theoretical. This isn’t your son or daughter or your nephew or a co-worker and it’s just sort of out there. Proximity is absolutely crucial. When I hear people and I just cringe and it breaks my heart, who either are on the all-love, everything is okay; or on this harsh, super-critical – what I realize, most times they don’t know someone personally. They haven’t walked in a journey with someone and really care for someone that has sexual confusion. And that can be heterosexual confusion, it can be homosexuality, it can be transgender issues, it can just be doubts going through puberty. There’s all kind of issues.

But where we start is caring about the person and listening to the person and wanting to know what is really going on, because unless you build trust in relationship, you really have no platform to help them anyway.

JERRY: That’s really helpful.

JERRY: Alright, Chip, our next question is one that maybe isn’t so common for people to vocalize. So, this listener definitely took a step of courage to write this one. But it’s: “How do you deal with sexual baggage?” For example, he wants sex regularly, she doesn’t. Or he watched pornography as a teen and his early twenties, and she doesn’t get it. What do you say to that couple?

CHIP: Well, I would say that I’ve had this conversation many, many, many times as a pastor over the last three and a half decades. And sexual baggage is not something that is happening outside the Church. It’s happening with lots of couples. And it happens with couples maybe not surprisingly, of all different backgrounds and all different ages.

I think some people think, “Oh, that was my past, that’ll never come up, that won’t be an issue,” and it comes up in different seasons. This one, “He wants sex regularly, she doesn’t look forward to it.” You know, this has been, I cannot even count the number of people that I have talked to with the challenges that this literally becomes a battle and a war in a relationship.

And then resentment occurs, bitterness occurs, and you can just play that out. Often it goes toward a focus for her for kids and their life and him, often, in work or pornography. And what I would say is that I don’t find many couples where this is a significant issue where they figure it out on their own.

And here’s the first thing I’m going to say: lots of people have sexual baggage. You are not alone. Number two: this does not have to define your marriage, the world is not over, and it’s not like this is impossible, even though you may feel like the barrier and the hurt and the wounds.

And what my experience is is most couples bury it. They fight for a while and then they bury it. And then, often, depression occurs or sarcasm or passive/aggressive behavior. And it just becomes a, it’s like a scab that keeps getting pulled off and pulled off. And I will tell you, over time, not good things happen. And so, you need to find a great Christian counselor.

There are some good places to start. Dr. Ed Wheat has a classic book called “Intended for Pleasure.” For as “educated” and modern, as free as we think we are, I am astounded at how little many Christian couples really understand about sex’s function. And I’m not talking just about the biology, but the emotional aspects and how a woman’s mind thinks, a man’s mind thinks.

And then there’s a lady I know, Dr. Juli Slattery, I’ve done some events with her. I have done, actually hosted a Focus on the Family interview with her and she actually wrote an appendix for a book that I wrote where we talked about marriage that works. And as I talked about the male/female relationship, I asked her to endorse the book.

And she goes, “Well, I really want to and I agree with what you have said, but I am counseling all these Christian women. When you talk about some of these areas of intimacy, I think, I think they’re not going to hear what you’re really saying.” And I said, “Well, would you write an appendix and talk about what that should look like?” And she did.

Her ministry is called: Authentic Intimacy. Let me give you that again. Authenticintimacy.com is her website. She has written on it, her doctorate is in sexuality; she covers this as openly, kindly, winsomely, and biblically as anyone that I know.

And so, what I would say is don’t put it off. It’s not going to get better. You need a third party. You need to get educated. And then you need to recognize that if you’re a woman, a man thinks very differently about sex, and it means something far different to him than you. And if you’re a man, you need to understand a woman thinks about sex far differently than you and you need to get educated in order to nurture and cherish her so this is an experience of love, not feeling like it’s just an act or an event.

So, that’s sort of all the Dr. Ruth in me can give you at this point and I better stop, but I hope that is helpful and gets you moving in a good direction.

JERRY: Great. Very helpful. Thanks for those resources, too, Chip.

CHIP: You bet.

JERRY: Alright, Chip, our next question: “Our marriage has been riddled with infidelities. How can we find trust again?”

CHIP: Wow. Uh, that that’s really, really hard. First of all, let me say to this person and the thousands and thousands of others listening at this moment who have faced infidelity and who are saying, “We know that was a big mistake, and I have chosen to forgive my mate who has betrayed our relationship, but we are committed to working through this,” I just want to tell you, amen.

And I know it’s hard, I know it’s difficult, it is very, very difficult when you have been the betrayer as I have met with these men or women who have stepped out on their marriage and the guilt and the shame and the feeling like sort of emotionally, no matter how many baths they take, they’re never quite clean. And the disappointment. And then the natural response, because we are human, when you have been betrayed and when every action or you’re a little bit late or there’s a phone number or a text that you don’t recognize and the alarm bell goes off and your mate is saying, “Hey, what about this and what about that?”

And you feel attacked again, and what you realize is, yes, you brought that on yourself. And anytime there’s anything that’s kind of different, those wounds, those hurts, those concerns, that is this going to happen again, it becomes just like a weight that hangs over a marriage. And I think that’s what this person is talking – is how do you regain the trust?

And so, let me first of all say forgiveness and gaining trust are two different things. I have sat with, I counsel men, I have counseled couples, but I have counseled primarily men who, like, “Yeah, I know, I made a mistake. It was just physical. It didn’t mean anything. I really love my wife. I’m really sorry. And why can’t she get over it?” And I just think, Oh my gosh. You really don’t get this at all. And, “She said she forgave me, but gosh, she’s on pins and needles and I’m twenty minutes late from work and she’s asking me all these questions.” Listen carefully; listen very, very carefully. If you are the one who has betrayed your spouse and they have forgiven you, forgiveness and gaining trust is not the same thing.

But trust takes time. Trust happens by consistent behavior over time. Consistent actions over time that communicate by what you do, by what you say, by how you treat her, or by how you treat him, that the past is the past. And I just want to tell you that when it has been riddled, especially if it has been more than once, it’s very, very difficult to overcome, but it can happen.

On the hope side of things, I have literally had the opportunity to have a couple who was divorced, with – riddled with infidelity and then an amazing work of God in the person who was the offender. And literally came back and waited two years and demonstrated trust. And I had the great privilege of remarrying them.

So, what I want you to know is that this can happen, but I do want you to know it’s hard, it’s difficult, and trust has to be rebuilt. So, clarity, expectations, communication at a level like never before, because every little thing raises those warning red lights that something bad is going to happen again. You need accountability for each of you.

If you’re not in counseling, you need a good counselor where things can get on the table on a regular basis. If you don’t have a mentoring couple, you need a couple that you both trust, that you can sit with and have coffee, and they don’t need to have theological training. They just need to have a great marriage and they love you where you can come and share what is going on and, over time, as you are in His Word, as you learn to pray together, which is critical, and as you begin to behave in ways, trust can be rebuilt and God can save your marriage.