Bible Question:

What role should a husband take when his wife decides to leave him because she is monetarily unhappy? She is causing him to become hostile to her.

Bible Answer:

From a human viewpoint, a person usually seeks divorce or separation because they feel alone and unsupported. These feelings have developed over time usually as a result of inconsiderate, unloving actions and attitudes in the marriage. The person seeks divorce or separation as an escape from someone they view as uncaring and inconsiderate. God has a different perspective. He says we seek divorce or separation because our heart has become hard.

. . . Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. (NASB) Matthew 19:8

What does Jesus mean by a hard heart? Jesus illustrates one possible meaning in Mark 3:1-5 when He wanted to heal the hand of a man in a synagogue.

And He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Rise and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (NASB) Mark 3:1-6

The Pharisees did not want the man to be made physically well. They did not care that the man was hurting. They had a different agenda. Their theology was important to them. What we believe is important. But their theology was wrong and so were their hearts. They did not care if the man was happy and physically well. Their hearts were unloving, and selfish. The same is true in divorce and separation. Jesus says the one seeking divorce or separation has a hard heart – unforgiving, unloving, and selfish. In my counseling experience, I have discovered that both partners usually have a hard heart and one them finally cannot take it any longer.

When two people marry, they are both incompatible. It takes years of “yielding and giving” to each other to make a compatible marriage. We were born sinners. We married as sinners and sinners like things their own way. I have often heard, “I am not going to change. I have done all of the changing. Now it is her/his turn!” Those words reveal the heart of the speaker. God is not the center of that person’s life. The marriage is over unless he or she realizes they will have to change for the relationship to succeed.

Financial Issues

Financial troubles are a major reason for divorce today. The movie industry and pornography magazines would have us believe that sex is the leading cause for divorce, but couples find that finances are often the major problem in marriage. Either personal needs or wants are not satisfied. Financial troubles develop for a variety of reasons. When finances are the source of conflict, honest questions need to be asked to understand the real problem and then compromise is required. From experience I found that some men spend the family money on liquor, automobiles, sports, stereo equipment, and so forth. These men either do not understand or ignore the needs of their wives and children. God has some serious words for this kind of husband.

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever. (NASB) 1 Timothy 5:8

When there is extra money, a man needs to share it with the family. In fact, how it is spent should be a joint decision with the wife and only in very rare, special situations should he decide otherwise. There are also women who push their husbands for more money – more than he can make (assuming he is not lazy and staying at home). The money that both the husband and wife earn should be owned by both. If the husband needs to find employment or change his job, then that is the answer. If the wife desires more money, then she should ask God to give her husband a promotion, a raise, or a change of work. It is time to submit to God and pray.

But if a husband is diligently doing what he can to support his family, a wife needs to express her support to him by being willing to accept their level of income as from the Lord. We must remember that God is our source and He is the One who ultimately decides how much we should have.

But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. (NASB) Matt. 6:33

The last part of this passage tells us why God does not meet our needs sometimes. We are not seeking Him first. This is a question both husband and wife need to ask. Life will not improve with one’s current spouse or another spouse unless God comes first in our life.

How To Respond To A Spouse

Scripture never encourages us to vent our feelings on other people, including our spouse – as some advise. Such behavior is the world’s wisdom to fix a broken, hurting heart, but this is not biblical. Such behavior does not encourage us to show each other love. It does not heal a wounded heart. It actually creates two hurting hearts. There is a time to share hurts and struggles in a controlled way, but venting one’s feelings on another person in an attempt to “get it all out” actually creates more ill feelings.

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. (NASB) Proverbs 10:12

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. (NASB) Proverbs 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention. (NASB) Proverbs 15:18

An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. (NASB) Proverbs 28:25

An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. (NASB) Proverbs 29:22

How should one spouse respond to another spouse according to God? To one who threatens divorce or separation? The answer is “love” him or her. Give a “gentle answer,” be “slow to anger” and start “trusting God” for your situation. We must not seek divorce or separation, but remember that God calls us to change our behavior in order to make our marriage God honoring and to rescue our spouse from sin.

Two Biblical Keys

There are two biblical keys that are missing in many Christian marriages today: submission and honor. The following verses are often taught in our churches with an ever increasing accommodation to the world’s viewpoint.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. (NASB) Ephesians 5:22-23

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . . (NASB) Ephesians 5:25

For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:5-6

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:7

A biblical marriage is one in which the wife is submissive to her husband (Eph. 5:22-23; 1 Peter 5:5-6) and her husband loves and honors her (Eph. 5:25; 1 Peter 5:7). Christian marriages should look like the picture of Jesus Christ and the church. Spiritually, Jesus is in control and the church submits. Jesus is in charge whether we like it or not.

And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (NASB) Luke 6:46

But a marriage that is experiencing a power struggle does not look like Ephesians 5:22! Today, some teach and even preach the concept of mutual submission: a wife submits to her husband and her husband equally submits to his wife. The effect of this teaching is that the wife does not submit to her husband and God’s divine pattern for marriage is ignored. This teaching also ignores 1 Peter 3:5-6 where Sarah called Abraham “Lord.” That is the same word we use for our Lord – Jesus Christ. The concept is one of submission.

The husband is to respond to his wife with honor. How should this work out in our marriages? Here is a suggestion. The husband and wife should always seek complete agreement on important decisions. If the issue is unimportant, then either the husband or the wife should have the freedom to make the decision. Determining what decisions belong to whom may require the husband’s veto. However, he should rarely use it. God has called him to love his wife and give her honor as a fellow heir of life. In fact, 1 Peter 3:7 warns a husband to do this if he wants his prayers answered.

Conclusion:

How should a husband respond to a wife who wants to leave? He should forgive, love and honor her. He should not agree to the divorce unless he really, truly believes she is an unbeliever. He should seek real biblical counseling. There are two books that I would recommend:

Book TitleAuthor
Anger is A ChoiceTim LaHaye
The Marriage BuilderDr. Larry Crabb

Above all else, the husband (and wife) should pray (Eph. 6:18), read God’s Word regularly (Deut. 17:18-19), confess his sins (1 John 1:9), and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of his life every day, hour and minute (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18).
It is not biblical for a wife to divorce or separate from her husband for financial reasons.