Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Ryan writes in to ask this: “Pastor John, is a tight budget a sufficient reason in and of itself to delay a young dating couple from getting married and prolong their engagement for a significant amount of time? This question assumes all other factors are a go: both love Christ, the local church approves of the match, parents approve of the relationship, and emotional and sexual purity has been honored, etc.” What would you say to this couple, Pastor John?

Well, in general I would say I am in favor of trusting God for his willingness and ability to help a young couple make it in such circumstances. In other words, I am probably going to lean toward go ahead, take the risk. Get married.

But here are some questions I would ask.

Does the guy have the ability to support himself and his wife? Now I think he should want to do that and he should try to do that. I think it is part is calling his head and provider and his male masculine role. But there may be good reasons why he can’t. For example, there may be a disability. He might be a veteran, say, who is wounded. Comes home and the job he used to do made a good living can’t do it anymore and he has got to find another way. Now that may be temporary and a young wife might step up and bring them through a season with her own employment or it may be permanent. And she marries him knowing for whatever reason, good reason, he will not be able to do all that he would love to do in supporting the family. And she will honor his manhood in other ways and he will take his unique responsibility as head in other ways and she will probably make more money than he does in that kind of situation and they will partner to make this marriage work. And we should ... it would be good to remind ourselves that in former centuries, especially in agrarian societies, most societies, it was built into the roles of marriage that it was a kind of shared productive business partnership. The farm worked because he and she and the children and the hired hands did their chores. If anybody shirked the business failed. Everybody worked. It wasn’t like she was just watching soaps. I know that is anachronistic, but she was fully engaged in the domestic dimension of this business called the farm and it was necessary that she be a part of that.

The woman should ask, I think, the young woman in this scenario we are talking about: Does my fiancée have character traits that are holding him back from finding the kind of employment that can support us? Like is he lazy? Is he fearful? Is he distracted? Is he totally into sports and not yet grown up? Is he irresponsible with money? What is it that has us stuck at this place? And if she finds that this is, in fact, the reason they wouldn’t be able to make it financially, then if I were her, I would pull back from the relationship and let him know that she needs to see significant maturity before she could move forward with marriage.

Now, see that is a different kind of failure than disability or some other reason that might be hindering it. She should be aware that there are often character traits that keep a man from stepping up and making a life for him and his wife.

And the last thing I would say is where I started. If there is maturity, if there is deep love, if there is a community and family support, I would probably say: Go for it. You know, two can live more cheaply together than apart. And marriage at its best is to help us through tough times, not just be rejected because there are tough times. And so, boy, I remember how it was with me and Noelle and I was ready to marry far quicker than we did get married and if I had to do over, except for Noelle’s dad who wanted her to finish college before we married, I would have married her a year earlier. And we would have made it. We were both in college, but we would have figured it out.

So I am inclined to say there are down sides to being deeply in love, being ready to marry in every way, but that financial one. There are down sides not to moving forward. And a huge sexual temptation is one of them as well as life living a life of great frustration. I think God calls couples to really enjoy fighting this fight together if they are mature.

Thank you Pastor John. For couples considering marriage, we have a free ebook we developed specifically for you, and it includes one of the most popular resources we have online by Pastor John, simply titled: “Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage.” That list of questions has been packaged with other related resources from Pastor John and published as the ebook we’ve titled: Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples. And you can download the ebook free right now in a variety of formats by going to our website desiringGod.org. Click on the tab that says “books,” and then scan for the title: Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples. … I’m your host Tony Reinke, see you tomorrow.