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The left hand and the right hand give no thought to disunity, isolation, or competition. If they could speak for themselves, they would say that they are one. The biblical idea of one-flesh-ness echos a similar sentiment. Paul could not be more straightforward when he talked about this concept to the Ephesians. As you read the paragraph, think about how this text could apply to your view of money and marriage.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:28-30).
There are no degrees of one-flesh-ness in marriage; it’s just one. Nothing more. Nothing less. The left and the right hand do not slowly become part of a baby’s body at birth. They are all in, all the time, right from the beginning. No exceptions for a healthy baby. When a couple marries, they are positionally one flesh in God’s mind, though they will spend their entire lives functionally growing deeper and deeper into what it means to be one flesh practically.
Listen to Moses and Paul!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31).
The couple’s burden and opportunity are to assimilate into what God has appointed them to become when they are fully mature. Covenant partners are constantly moving away from each other or they are simultaneously drawing near each other. A man and a woman will have to work hard to be one flesh, and the initial key in that process is determining which way they plan to lean. What about you? Are you leaning into or out of your marriage?
Paul essentially repeats the Genesis text in his famous marriage passage in Ephesians. His direction is clear. A new couple should push away from their parents while leaning into their newly established home. The new couple disconnects from their origins and leans into a new agreement—their one flesh, independent, God-sustaining, domestic empire. The “marriage leaning formula” is enormous, and how you think about it will establish your marital trajectory for the rest of your lives.
You have probably heard the analogy of two ships leaving the harbor side by side; they were only a few degrees off regarding their eventual destinations. One ship ended up in England, and the other ported in Africa. Just because you are side-by-side at the altar does not mean you’re going to end up side-by-side at the end of your life. If you hope to finish well together, you have to determine from the beginning that you will be intentional about total assimilation.
One flesh is how it sounds—one flesh. Those who want to be one flesh understand it, think about it and seek to become it. Those who don’t want to commit fully to the marriage act as though it does not exist, or they quibble over the things they want to keep for themselves.
There used to be a time when married couples carried the same name. I realize this may sound odd to a younger generation, but if we lived not so many decades ago, my wife and I would be called Mr. and Mrs. Rick Thomas. How does that strike you? I’m not advocating we go back to yesteryear’s appellations, but there should not be anything wrong with it.
What I am advocating is that Christians come to a better understanding and practice of what it means to become one flesh in their marriages. We need to discuss what it’s like to have unification and harmony in the union, which is broad in its sweep. It leaves no part of the individual self unchallenged. It is two people intentionally seeking to be one in all things.
Here are a few examples of immediate and long-term one-flesh marriage goals. Say this aloud!
We are one in goals, dreams, ideas, hopes, Christ, church, work, children, holidays, passion, worship, discipleship, devotion, savings, spending, investing, repentance, relatives, maturity, accounting, confession, friends, eating, giving, vision, sleep, sex, health, planning, generosity, exercise, and sharing.
You may add your thoughts to my list. It does not matter what the category is, the couple should be leaning into becoming more and more one in how they live out their lives before God, each other, and the community. I realize some people will think this means you should be identical twins, which is not what one flesh means at all. Being identical would hinder the grander possibilities of one flesh living.
Lucia and I could hardly be more unlike each other. Those who know us could list many areas where we are different, but they would quickly tell you there is a cool quality of oneness in our relationship. That’s because we sincerely strive to be one flesh, though not identical twins. One flesh means we can be very different, but we are still one flesh. It’s like a coin. There are heads and tails; it’s unity, diversity, and power—a beautiful micro-picture of the body of Christ.
For example, Lucia loves going to restaurants for different reasons than I do. For her, it is an experience. For me, it is a task to test my endurance and check off my list. I have a utilitarian approach to food, plus I do not hear well, and restaurants tend to be noisy. Lucia has a near-worship experience with culinary adventures. But we are one flesh when it comes to eating. Let me explain.
When Lucia first met me, she discovered a lot of Hamburger Helper in my cupboards. She prayed, “Lord Jesus, help this boy . . . please.” When I first met Lucia, I discovered a lot of cooked meals at her home. I prayed, “Lord Jesus, thank you for this girl.” After we were married, we had several discussions about food. Those discussions were not between two competitors but between two people who wanted to learn about each other so we could better serve each other (Mark 10:45).
Food was one topic among many that we continue today. It was not about keeping from losing something but a sincere effort to gain something. We were no longer two people seeking personal advantage, but we were one flesh who wanted to grow in our understanding of each other so we could better represent Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:25). I intuitively knew that my Adam-ness was missing something and that her Eve-ness had the perfect matching piece. I needed a rib, and Lucia had one.
Our goal was to enjoy the ongoing adventure of figuring out how to put it all together in a unified oneness so we could magnify God’s name through the mystery of being one flesh. We knew there could be no secrets about how we thought about food; we had to talk about it. We did not have ulterior motives to persuade the other person to “do it my way or the highway,” but we wanted to learn how we could best be one flesh.
You may ask, “How did your one flesh food preferences work out?” First of all, it mattered little to either one of us. Married partners are not competitors but best friends who seek to glorify God through a one-flesh union. For example, Lucia is okay with hitting the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A; there are times when we need to get it and go. I am okay with taking her out for Asian.
Few things bring me more pleasure than enjoying my wife enjoying Asian food. I did not change her a lot, and she did not change me much. Changing wasn’t the point regarding our food preferences. The gospel taught us that if we learn to set aside what we like for the greater good of the other, we both will benefit (Philippians 2:6-7), and that was the case.
It is not unusual in counseling situations for lack of one flesh practice regarding money. I do not know how this works out in the greater body of Christ, but it has been typical for couples in my experience to have “his money, her money problems,” where their two preferences divide them. An evident lack of understanding and applying the gospel to marriage money was apparent in each situation.
The Bible tends to lean toward a marital community pot from which both partners work. If you’re seeking to be one flesh in your marriage, being one flesh in money should be a no-brainer, especially if the gospel is the accent mark of the covenant. A gospel-infused couple has nothing to fear, hide, or protect because their most significant need in life went away when God regenerated them.
Not pursuing monetary unity is not just a financial issue in the marriage but it is a systemic problem that speaks to an un-unified marriage in other areas too. If a couple cannot be one flesh in their money, you will likely find other fractures in their relationship. Alternatively, one flesh in finances means the couple is accountable to each other, and they have a singular vision regarding how they relate to money. It is not to say the wife does not have money to spend herself or the husband does not have any. It means they are one when it comes to money.
Each couple must work out how they handle money according to the peculiarities of the partners, and there are a zillion ways to do this because each covenant is different. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all. Each couple needs to be willing to sit down and talk about accomplishing one flesh in money matters. I will share how we live out monetary one flesh-ness, but I would never expect anybody to do it exactly the way we do. It is our way but not necessarily the best way for you.
Lucia handles nearly all of our finances. We’re one flesh, so it does not matter who manages the money. Though I could do it and did for the first few years of our marriage, we found it easier for her to handle the finances once she became a full-time, stay-at-home mom. Here are a few ways that describe our money habits.
Money is a means to glorify God, not an end to satisfy ourselves. If we’re rich, we’re both rich. If we’re poor, we’re both poor. We are a team working on the same financial page, trying to glorify God with the money that He gives us to steward. Of course, stewardship is the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to money.
The most obvious thing about the whole financial discussion is that our money is not ours; there is no “his money or her money.” It is God’s money. Ironically, two people in a marriage who quibble over money are quibbling over someone else’s money; they are fighting over something they do not own. There is an “implied form of stealing” when we selfishly argue about how we can benefit from something we don’t own.
Of course, there is also, let’s say, a mild form of deception, as well as biblical immaturity. Imagine someone loaning a husband and wife $1,000,000 to build a structure downtown for himself. At the top of the structure, the husband wanted his name placed on it so everyone would know that it was his structure. He could spread his fame to the world. The problem is that the money was not his. He built the building at the behest of the one who owned the money.
It’s not our name on the money we have or all the things we accumulate because of the money the Lord gives us to steward. Christian couples realize this, so they enter into mature discussions about money with God’s fame on the tips of their tongues. The first point of concern for these believers is not about his or her money, but God’s glory and how they can work in a one-flesh way to magnify His greatness through His finances.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).