You and your spouse are pulling out of the church parking lot. The message that day was on giving. During the message, you exchanged glances, as if you both knew God was speaking to you. In your heart you know your financial relationship with God isn’t where it needs to be. During the last song, you held hands, sharing a moment of physical and spiritual connection.
This is the moment of truth. The kids are on their phones. Where you are eating lunch has been decided. Will the two of you have a conversation about what you both just experienced?
How do you have that crucial conversation about giving? More than any other spiritual discipline, convictions about giving get dropped quickly in the face of bringing it up with your partner.
So how do you have this crucial conversation about giving?
Someone has to go first. This is a good chance for husbands to lead and say, “I feel like we need to talk about the message today.” About 80% of the time, however, women take the lead in bringing up an issue the couple needs to face. If you sense you both felt moved by God, either partner can say, “I sense you felt God speaking to you during the message. I did too. Can we talk about that?”
Be courageous and go first! Get the conversation started!
Make a commitment to explore the message from God, but not reach a conclusion. “I think we need to talk about this, but not leap to a decision today.” This one statement will lower the anxiety of the other partner. It will probably lower your own anxiety! When God speaks to you in any worship service, he wants you to reflect on what he is saying. Ask: “Is the message we think we are hearing consistent with God’s Bible?” Jesus said, “Count the cost.” What’s the cost of the message you heard? What do your feelings represent?
Tentatively explore possible next steps. If you both sense the same next step, this is easy. You might agree that you need to begin to give $100 a week. God sent you the same message.
What happens when you see different steps? The general principle of 1 Peter 3:7 applies: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” In this case, focus on the principle of this verse, not the specific teaching regarding gender roles. For example, if a wife says, “I believe we need to step up to giving 10% of our income,” and the husband says, “I’m afraid we can’t afford that,” a good response from the wife would be, “I respect your fears. I will not push. What would be a next step that would stretch us, but not break us apart?”
Once you agree on a possible next step, it’s a good moment to bring this conversation to a close. Before the conversation ends, commit to step four and set a time when you will resume the conversation.
Hold the next step loose and commit to pray. As you close the first conversation, agree to hold the possible next step loosely. You think you have common ground and a common vision for what God wants you to do. Commit to one another to pray about this for a specific period of time. If your pattern as a couple is to pray out loud together, do so. If it is not your pattern, forcing an “out loud” prayer on this issue will be artificial and will create suspicion and mistrust.
I would not make this time of holding the next step loosely and praying too long. Other life issues will be to crowd out the message of God, like thorns choke out seeds struggling up to the sun. I would suggest a period of no longer than three days.
Close the Loop. When it’s time to resume the conversation, make sure you have un-interrupted time (when the kids are asleep and pressing chores are done). Start this conversation by summarizing where you left off the last conversation. Remember to receive the feelings and impressions of your partner without judgment.
Now ask the proposed next step still feels reasonable to each of you. If so, then it’s time to put it in motion. It sounds hokey, but put it in writing! Writing helps it be real and helps you remember. Designate which one of you will be responsible for making sure the gift(s) will be given. Do not assume it is the one who always pays the bills! It might be important for both of you to share in the act of giving. Discuss the best way for you to share the gift: check, online, automatic bank draft, text to give, etc. I strongly suggest you not give cash. Contributions to churches are tax deductible. Giving by a traceable method allows the church to provide you with a statement of contributions that you can use when you prepare your tax return.
Once the gift is given, be sure to celebrate!
Non-judgmental, vulnerable conversations about giving can bring a new sense of closeness in a relationship. God may be inviting you to experience a whole new level of intimacy with each other and with him!