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Book Review: Money and Marriage, by Matt Bell

Recommended. A helpful, passionate, biblical guide for making money a blessing in marriage rather than a cause for stress and friction.

Every once in awhile, I come across a book that surprises me. Such was the case when I read Matt Bell’s Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples; I was pleasantly surprised by the focus, the thoroughness, and the priorities of Bell’s book.

When Crystal and I went through pre-marital counseling, we used a great book that walked us through many aspects of married life. However, being such a wide-ranging look at marriage, it included only one chapter on finances. Once we were married, we discovered that a lot more help was needed! Money and Marriage is a book I wish we would have read before we were married or soon thereafter, because it walks readers through the newlywed financial process: discerning one another’s historical and emotional financial influencers; setting upon a clear, ten-step plan of action toward financial goals; and growing financially one. That last part–becoming one flesh financially–isn’t an idea I’ve encountered in other books, but, after three years of marriage, I know how absolutely crucial it is. When we’re married, this incredible one-flesh transformation takes place, and it’s a transformation that I think millions of people are not prepared to make financially. Bell’s focus addresses this need.

I also love how thorough Bell is. This is not a watered-down, cookie-cutter approach to finances, where each paragraph reads like a water-logged Chips Ahoy. Instead, each chapter reads like a session with a highly experience, highly compassionate, highly effective marital finances counselor. With each chapter, Bell provides Scriptural backing, clear explanation, answers to well-anticipated questions, and concrete action steps to take (What to Do and What to Discuss). I can’t wait to read the chapters aloud with my wife, because I know that we will take clear guidance away from every one.

And finally, I was refreshed by the priorities of Bell’s ten-step action plan. Though other books that Crystal and I have read seem to focus on becoming financially free before giving generously, Bell’s action-plan starts in this order: planning, working, giving, saving, and avoiding debt. I respect Bell’s honesty about the Bible’s teaching on giving–that God wants us to give freely and to grow in generosity and to allow giving to remind ourselves of our highest priority (“To love God with all our heart…” Matthew 22:37).

Ultimately, Bell’s book teaches marrieds how to steward God’s money with our spouse–how to manage it instead of allowing it to enslave us through greed or debt or idolatry or marital division or any mixture of these evils. Bell sees money for what it is: a useful tool for living generously, minimizing stress, and maximizing marital unity.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Marriage Monday Book Review: The Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman

Northfield Publishing, 203 pp., $14.99

Recommended. As long as you’re not looking for a marriage theology text, this book offers practical encouragement for loving your spouse sacrificially.

Positives:

  • Teaches spouses to sacrificially serve one another in the spirit of Phil 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Spouses are encouraged to speak their spouse’s love language, even if it doesn’t come naturally.
  • Gives dozens of practical ways to actively love your spouse.
  • Acknowledges that our self-centeredness gets in the way of our marriage (we tend to love our spouses the way we think love should be expressed toward our spouse).
  • Short chapters make it ideal for a husband-wife book club.

Problems:

I don’t think Gary Chapman set out to write a theology textbook, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me there. Therefore, I don’t “unrecommend” this book, despite the following areas in which I wish it would have ventured:

  • Scripture is rarely used in this book; in one place where it is used, it is applied only because the person being counseled is “religious”
  • The self-sacrificial act of speaking someone else’s love language is not connected to the gospel, and therefore we miss the primary motivation for creating a thriving marriage and therefore creating a compelling “gospel re-enactment” (Tim Keller, “Marriage” sermon series).

 

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