Reviewed by Douglas L. Watson
Haven’t we heard this one? “Money! The biggest problem in marriage.” Or maybe it’s the lack thereof. Pastors who counsel know that money matters are a problem in many marriages. But is money, or the lack thereof, really the root issue in marital financial problems? Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, dispels that notion. The root issue is disunity in the marriage over the handling of money. Thus, to help Christian couples solve financial difficulties, he seeks “to help you flourish financially and, more importantly, to rediscover your love for one another so that you can work together in unity.”
To accomplish this, Mr. Bentley, along with input from his wife, Ann, uses seven “keys,” or principles that, for the most part, are scriptural, and set up as steps for a couple, by faith in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, to instill in their hearts and put into practice in their marriage. By these keys, the couple can realize marriage solutions to their money problems; hence the title.
Before going farther, however, Reader, be prepared! The author is not Reformed; he is broadly evangelical. So, while many of the principles he teaches are Biblical, there are the inconsistencies of loose interpretation of Scripture and loose theology that we have come to expect from the broadly evangelical segment of the church. Thus, though many of the principles and supporting material are scriptural, they don’t necessarily come from the texts he cites.
Still, there is much in the book that is useful. The seven keys are summarized by the words “Peacemaker, Prosperity, Purpose, Philosophy, Personality, Plan, and Process.” Some of these keys and their supporting material are Biblically sound and suitable for Reformed marriage counseling. The first two are particularly sound. The fourth and fifth, likewise, seem fairly Biblically sound. The sixth and seventh deal more specifically with applying the marital unity promoted by the previous keys to the specific matter of money management and are also helpful. Of course, the reader is reminded once again that he will need to look past the theological and hermeneutical looseness, and do a little “cherry-picking,” to glean that which is good and sound.
It is the third key—that husband and wife together should discern the unique purpose the Lord has for them in this life—that is most unsatisfying. It calls for the Christian to discern what God has in his future, under the guise of “God’s will.” Thus, he confuses God’s decree with God’s revealed will. This would have been a much more satisfying and helpful principle had he followed Scripture teaching and the Puritan understanding of the doctrine of vocation, that one should seek to follow the employment for which God has best suited him with natural talents, skills, etc.
So then, forewarned about the book’s weaknesses, the reader can find a pretty good resource, to be combined with others, to receive help for one’s own marriage and finances or to counsel others.