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, et cetera.” What would you say to this couple, Pastor John?
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.
Partner Over Provider
Does the man have the ability to support himself and his wife? I think he should want to do that, and he should try to do that. I think it is part of his calling as 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 wounded veteran who comes home, and he can no longer do the job he used to do to make a good living. 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 good reason, he will not be able to do all that he would love to do to support the family. And she will honor his manhood in other ways; he will take his unique responsibility as head in other ways; she will probably make more money than he does in that kind of situation, and they will partner to make this marriage work.
It would be good for us to remind ourselves that for most societies — especially agrarian — in former centuries, 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 for her to be a part of that.
When to Pause
The young woman in this scenario we are talking about should ask, “Does my fiancé have character traits that are holding him back from finding the kind of employment that can support us? 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 stuck us in this place?” 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.
That is a different kind of failure than disability or some other reason that might be hindering a man from providing for his family. She should be aware that there are often character traits that keep a man from stepping up and making a life for himself and his wife.
Go for It
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.” Two can live more cheaply together than apart. Marriage at its best is to help us through tough times, not something to be rejected because there are tough times.
I remember how it was for Noёl and me — I was ready to marry far quicker than we did get married. If I had to do it over, except for Noёl’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 downsides to being deeply in love, being ready to marry in every way but that financial one, and not moving forward with marriage — and sexual temptation is one of them, as well as living a life of great frustration. I think God calls couples to really enjoy fighting this fight together if they are mature.