"Authority" may be a scary word, but it's important to define financial roles in your marriage.
In any relationship as intimate as marriage, there must be sharing of responsibilities and abilities. God often uses opposites in a marriage to balance the extremes. If husband and wife are identical in nature, undoubtedly the decisions will be unbalanced. Thus, a saver balances a spender and a hospitable spouse is balanced by a reserved one. A sensitive, discerning wife is a great asset to any husband, if he's willing to listen to her.
However, the burden of maintaining a trouble free, financially sound, spiritually mature, and cooperatively considerate household is the responsibility of the husband/father. "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
The wife's responsibility is to support her husband and honor him by following his direction — as opposed to nagging and belittling. Sometimes she needs to be willing to suffer with him and to let him fail if necessary without judging (1 Peter 3:1).
For a wife to be submissive does not mean that she must remain silent or give in to every word, whim, or desire of her husband. She needs to take an active part in family planning, financial planning, discipline of children, decision making, and family goals. The following are four financial areas in which wives need to play an active role.
Budget. Husbands and wives need to establish a budget either together or with the approval of both. Every item should be discussed, prayed about, and agreed upon. The primary consideration should be to develop a fair, but reasonable, family spending plan.
Windfall plan. In addition to the budget, which controls normal income, husbands and wives should agree on the disposition of additional income (gifts, overtime, income tax refund, inheritance, and so on). The plan needs to be fair and equal for all concerned. Remember that a marriage is a partnership and partners share in all things. Avoid the "his money, her money" or the "I deserve this because" attitude.
Long-range plan. Although most wives do not like to make definite plans beyond one year, husbands need to encourage their wives to discuss long-range plans with them. This would include not only children's college educations, children's marriages, and retirement but also what to do in the event that one spouse dies before the other.
Bookkeeping. Assuming there are no unresolved financial problems and a budget has been established that is fair and reasonable, a decision of who will manage the books needs to be made. Either the husband or the wife should be the bookkeeper — not both — and both should agree on the decision. You probably would want the spouse who is better at math, bookkeeping, accounting, and paying bills on time to be the bookkeeper.
Women Who are Heads of Households
There are instances in which a woman is forced to become the head of a household as a result of divorce, her husband's death, or other reasons. In these instances, she has no choice but to assume an authoritative position.
A woman in this position should know that within the body of Christ, God has provided the leadership she needs. The local church she attends should be used as a source for counsel and help with financial matters. However, she needs to be willing to let her needs be known, and the church must be willing to equip itself so it can help her.
Financial authority in the home is one of the most misunderstood principles facing today's Christian family. If both husbands and wives will faithfully observe the mandates established by God and submit to the discipline needed to comply to those mandates, families will experience less stress than those who disregard His mandates.
This article is an adaptation of Larry Burkett’s Biblical Principles Under Scrutiny article titled “Financial Authority in the Home,” published by Christian Financial Concepts, 1985.