When a Spouse Doesn't Want to Give
As I mentioned a week ago in my blog on giving and debt, I'm going to set aside Wednesday blogs specifically for question and answers. If you have a topic you'd like to see me address in a Q & A, feel free to post that in the comments. Because it is a once a week blog, I won't be able to get to every topic, but I'd enjoy hearing what some of you are wondering about.
This week I'm continuing to address questions about giving that I answered on the Revive Our Hearts website. (Related to giving, check out this blog post from my friend Matt Guerino, about how God used a high schooler and a homeless man to inspire God's people to give generously to His work in Sudan.)
My husband, though an active believer, does not want to participate in tithing or giving. He feels there is not enough money to take care of the family as it is, so giving extra away is not something he chooses to participate in. We have never regularly tithed, even when we were on church staff. As a stay-at-home mom with no income, I have nothing to contribute outside of what he decides for our family to give. I pray, in earnest, for a change of heart. How should I respond?
A good and difficult question. My own mother wrestled with it when she came to faith in Christ after I did, but my father was adamantly against giving anything to the church or missions. He didn't come to Christ until years after she died.
You are certainly right to pray for your husband. That may be your greatest gift to him in this situation.
I will first try to answer the question for the benefit of those without believing husbands (most of which applies also to those with believing husbands), then bring it home at the end to your specific question.
On the one hand, it's not God's desire for a woman to be her husband's moral judge and guide. She is to be submissive to her own husband so that "even if he is disobedient to the word, he may be won without a word by the behavior of his wife as he observes her chaste and respectful behavior...and let her adornment be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:1-4
On the other hand, the Christian wife is to be a moral example to her unbelieving husband by seeking to obey God and act on her conscience. In this sense, while she is not her husband's moral judge, she SHOULD be his moral example, as the text indicates in relation to her behavior. She should show him what Christlikeness means.
I believe wives should submit to their husbands except when doing so involves violating God's commands. A wife can't and shouldn't force her husband to give, but she can and should give of her own income, even if he disapproves (she should, of course, graciously communicate her conviction without a critical or judgmental attitude). The 1 Peter 3 passage pertains, as it shows the importance of being a good example and not preaching to her husband.
I think showing him the depth of her conviction through her own giving is part of that example.
I have encouraged women in this situation to go to their husbands, explain their deep conviction about giving, perhaps share one of the passages about how God blesses givers, and tell him she believes God will provide for their family so that the amount she desires to give won't be noticed by him, even if it is substantial. For instance, she has calculated that she spends X number of dollars on clothes, food, etc., and she will reduce those amounts and give from the reduction. Or, she has a health club membership that costs $X per month, and she will drop the membership and give that amount away. Perhaps seeing her sincerity in this, he will agree without these reductions being necessary, or perhaps he will agree to the test to see what happens. I do encourage Christian wives to get creative and find ways to honor God first, and show their husbands both their faith in God and their desire to honor their unbelieving husbands.
Now, in the case of the believing husband the same things above apply, BUT there is one more element. If your husband knows Jesus, he has the indwelling Holy Spirit who can give him insight and empower him to obedience. Because of his profession of Christ, he is held to a higher standard. It is appropriate to say to him, not in anger but with grace, that perhaps he should trust God to undergo this experiment of giving more. God says in Malachi 3, "test me in this and see." If he is a believer, it is God's job, not yours, to convict his heart and challenge his faith, BUT I think it is your job to graciously let him know that he needs to think through what God says in His Word about giving. Don't nag him, but do let him know that God addresses this issue and that you want him and your family to experience God's blessing.