TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].
I’m young and want to get married soon to my amazing, Christ-loving girlfriend. But I don’t have the money to provide for a marriage. What should I do?
I love this question! It’s sincere, hopeful, Christ-centered, and practical.
I assume you’re looking for advice beyond saving up for a wedding. It seems you desire financial stability to support a family over the long haul. What you want is a good, godly thing.
Let me proceed by exploring what marriage requires and then how we can get there.
What Marriage Requires
The first and most important biblical principle regarding marriage comes from Genesis 2:24. Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 19:5, where he gives us God’s original intent for marriage—an intimate, permanent, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. In Genesis, this verse comes after God makes Adam from the dust and Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. God states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
This is the expected order of things—leaving then cleaving.
So what does marriage require? The implication is a man needs to be independent of his old family and able to support his new family. The new couple should be able to stand on their own, relationally and financially. This doesn’t mean newlyweds don’t need support from biological and church family, but it does mean they don’t set out assuming that others will regularly pay their bills.
Develop a Plan
If you’re at the age where you’re seriously considering marriage, I hope you’re already involved in some kind of education or training program or are working full-time. If not, this is the place to start. As you save for an engagement ring and a wedding, you need a steady income, or the anticipation of one, to afford a roof over your head, food on the table, and other essentials.
You don’t need to do this alone. Your future bride may want to contribute as well, perhaps by having a job or a plan to earn a degree or learn marketable skills.
Remember you don’t need to have a perfect job, or even a particularly well-paying job, to afford marriage. You don’t need to wait until you can afford a big wedding or a down payment on a house. You may be living off student loans or in a tiny apartment. Don’t confuse affording a marriage with affording a huge diamond ring or brand-new furniture. You need to provide for the essentials like food, clothing, and utilities—basically, the same things you need as a single person.
You don’t need to wait until you can afford a big wedding or a down payment on a house.
I don’t know where you are in terms of starting your career path, but I want you to know this: God has plans for you. Finding your first job is an opportunity to learn to trust God. Changing jobs as the need arises is also a chance to grow in faith. Instead of being anxious about how God the Father will provide for you and your family, trust Jesus’s words to his disciples: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). How does God normally provide for us financially? It’s through our jobs. We can look to him to give us all we need, including employment.
Can We Afford Children?
After cleaving together, Adam and Eve are told to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). As time goes on, you and your spouse will probably start thinking about expanding your family. Finances also enter into this equation.
It’s wise to consider whether you can reasonably provide for an extra mouth to feed and body to clothe. The potential loss of income or additional expenses for childcare have to be weighed carefully. But you don’t need to wait until you have a fully stocked nursery or a fully funded 529 plan to have your babies. Again, you need to be able to provide essentials such as diapers, clothing, and food.
Children are part of God’s good design. If he blesses you with a baby, whether you feel ready or not, he will provide. And the challenges of reworking budgets and making sacrifices for your precious little one will give you and your wife an opportunity to work together as a team and to grow in selflessness.
God Will Lead You
Let me leave you with this. Living God’s way, in accordance with his Word and the wisdom he provides, is always what’s best. His plans are perfect. He knows what you need because he designed you. His provision—of a godly woman to marry, of an education, of a job, of children—is something you can trust and rejoice in.
Living God’s way, in accordance with his Word and the wisdom he provides, is always what’s best.
Allow me to modify the title of a children’s book by Dr. Seuss: “Oh, the places the Lord will lead you to go!” As you consistently commit yourself and your future family to God’s purposes, he’ll provide exceedingly, abundantly, far beyond all you can ask or expect (Eph. 3:20).
Christian marriage is a great adventure where your faith will grow immensely. You’ll learn to trust God and lean on his promises. You’ll see God’s faithfulness as he leads you through every season of life. You’ll experience the joy of the Lord in your relationship and, beyond that, your marriage will cause flourishing in your community as you point to the ultimate source of all love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).