It is time we rediscovered a key to prosperity too many have thoughtlessly thrown away!
WOULD YOU believe it? If you want to go from a relatively middle-class life (by North American and European standards) to a much poorer existence, one of the quickest ways to do it is to get a divorce! On the other hand, if you want to enjoy at least some amount of material prosperity — the odds are much better for you if you have a happy family life. The root cause of prosperity, of course, is God. Obedience to His laws brings blessings. One of these laws is tithing — but there is another part of God's great law of love that — though seemingly unrelated to personal finances — is equally important: that part which protects the family. Have you ever thought what the role of the family is in the creation of prosperity?
High Importance of Family
First, let us see just how important family life is in God's plan. When God created mankind, He established human families through the institution of marriage. "It is not good that the man should be alone," God said (Genesis 2:18). So God created woman, and the first family came into existence. Later, as the human race grew, the chief divisions within mankind were based on separate families, grown large into tribes and nations, as revealed in the 11th chapter of Genesis. When God codified His law for the Israelites, He gave several provisions that directed the family: "Honour thy father and mother," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife," all seek to protect the family relationship (Exodus 20:12, 14, 17). Additional statutes deal with family law, emphasizing the values of respect toward parents and faithfulness in marriage. The Bible's emphasis on family is present at its beginning and end. In the beginning, in Genesis, God establishes marriage for Adam and Eve At the end, in Revelation, Christ returns to' marry His Bride, the true Church. Perhaps because secular economists do not pay much attention to these doctrines they do not realize just how important families are to prosperity!
Time and Patience
The key is time When a man marries and has a family, his view of time changes. He is less likely to live for the moment, to dissipate his income in riotous living, or leave his job or work willy-nilly to pursue some personal whim In short, he is more likely to become a responsible, productive member of the community. The insurance companies, of course, recognize this truth, granting lower rates to married than single men, all else being equal. Marriage, and especially children, orient people to the future. One begins to think of children's education, of the family's material welfare. Suddenly, it becomes important to work and save toward the future, to develop economic skills and produce a steady income. Of course, not all men do right, economically, by their families. One of the most terrible woes in this present evil world is when a man, otherwise able, does not heed the biblical rule to "provide for those of his own house" (I Timothy 5:8). The world is full of stories of drunken or profligate fathers who squander their earnings while their families suffer. Clearly, marriage and family are not enough by themselves to make a man a responsible, productive citizen. And, of course, there are many, many single persons who are very responsible and productive people. (Such people are likely to be the children of responsible, stable, productive families!) But, as George Gilder points out in his recent and highly perceptive book Wealth and Poverty, an intact, stable family unit is a virtual requirement to lift people from poverty to prosperity. The main motivation for a poor man, in particular, to faithfully work and save over a period of years is family responsibility. One of the reasons for the prosperity of Northern Europe, after 1600, relative to the rest of the world, was that men were expected to support their families by themselves. Consequently, people delayed marriage and children until they acquired some savings or economic skill. One of the most fascinating statistics, author Gilder reports, is that one of the key features that distinguishes poor communities from others is the greater relative presence of unmarried people! Poor communities often have more than their share of unmarried people. Such people often live hand to mouth, "unable to plan or save or
"An intact, stable family unit is a virtual requirement to lift people from poverty to prosperity."
keep a job" again, the key is time. Studies of certain poor people in modern societies show that they often live for the present, the now. They do not care about the future. Mr. Gilder stresses that for men in the world, it often takes family responsibilities to make a man future oriented. The proverbial "carefree" life of single men, by contrast, shows their present orientation. Why forego pleasure today for the sake of tomorrow? For many men in this world, the only reason would be their families. Now consider the astounding findings of two recent surveys. Town and Country magazine interviewed the men who are at the top of America's top 100 companies. It found 95 percent of these highly successful men are still married to their first wives! A specialist at the Harvard Medical School, George E. Valliant, was puzzled by the survey: "I have to confess this is unexpected," he said. "I would have thought the Cost of success in such huge corporations might have gotten in the way of their marriages." Actually, the results shouldn't be puzzling at all. Stable marriages created order and gave purpose to these men's lives that many single or divorced do not have stable home life actually liberates drive and productivity in a man, because he becomes future oriented. Rising to the top of a major corporation requires a great deal of diligence, preparation, patience and steady performance of work. A future-oriented married man is more likely to have these qualities than the single man whose focus is on living for today. Secondly, of course, a man who is willing to exercise the necessary character to keep his marriage intact (particularly in these permissive times!) is also likely to have the character and self-discipline to achieve better success (therefore economic success) in a large corporation. Town and Country's survey is confirmed by another study by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Management. It found 89 percent of 1,700 top executives have been married only once, and 95 percent of these were currently married. Such statistics accord with findings of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, cited in George Gilder's book. The Institute reports husbands work 50 percent harder (meaning number of hours and weeks a year in paid employment outside the home) than bachelors with comparable age, education and skills. "The effect of marriage," Mr. Gilder concludes, "is to increase the work effort of men by about half." On the other hand, a divorced man is more likely to undergo a drop in income, and is more prone to take to drink, drugs and crime. After divorce, men are more prone to mental illness, and "self-destructive" diseases, such as cirrhosis of the liver. Divorced men are far more likely to commit suicide than their married counterparts. No doubt much of this self-destructive conduct stems from the increased loneliness and shrinking personal horizons.
The Woman as Head of Household
Of course, the beneficial effects of an intact family — and the destructiveness of divorce — aren't confined to men. While there is some movement in the divorce courts today to award child custody to fathers, the most common result of a failed marriage is a woman trying to raise her children by herself. The same result occurs, also, in cases of illegitimacy. Thus the breaking of God's law — whether in terms of adultery or some similar sin that causes marriages to break up — or premarital sex — both lead to the same evil result. Aside from the social evils, the economic consequences are horrendous. Illegitimacy and single-parent families are recipes for economic hardship and poverty. The hard truth of economic life in this universe is that a female-headed household will almost always not prosper. For example, Money magazine presented a profile of a newly divorced, middle-class mother of two. As a highly qualified; real estate salesperson, she was able, by herself, to earn at a yearly rate of around $36,000 to $40,000. Nevertheless, she was going into the hole about $500 a month, and her spending wasn't particularly extravagant either! If newly divorced, middle-class professional women have a hard time making ends meet, how much worse must it be for the vast majority of single mothers who earn much, much less! The fact of life in this world is that children will tend to make it more difficult for a single mother to pursue her career, or even just make a decent living. She must not only be mother, but homemaker and breadwinner as well. Such incredible demands on her time and energy cannot help but hurt her ability to earn a living. Illegitimacy and divorce — both bad results of breaking God's law — go. a long way toward explaining much — maybe most — of the poverty in Western societies today For the poor, in particular, such sins virtually insure that they will remain perpetually mired in their poverty.
Experience of Ethnic Groups
Some poor people — usually immigrants — go from being almost penniless to being middle and upper class in two or three generations. But why do other poor people stay poor? Poor immigrants to the United States are renowned for their family loyalty. They begin small, family businesses. Usually each member works for far, far below the minimum wage — but the family prospers because the value of the business goes up, just like the value of a cared-for home goes up. After a number of
"New divorce laws make divorce easier - but the economic devastation remains the same, or worse."
years, the immigrant family is typically worth more than other families who were content to work for shorter hours at higher wages. There is a delightful comedy-type song, played on some of the popular radio stations, which captures the essence of why family unity and loyalty is one of the key elements of prosperity. It is the story of an Italian immigrant mother admonishing her son to work hard, be cheerful and stay in school. The lines, "Whatsa matta you, gotta no respeck?" do more to explain why Italian families in the United States have achieved a great deal of economic success in the United States than do a hundred monographs in academic journals! By contrast, ethnic groups who do not typically show family unity or loyalty are the poorest, by far. When more than half of all U.S. black children are illegitimate, or when a large percentage of all black children in America witness the breakup of their parents' marriage, there is almost no way they are going to prosper. Yet black immigrants in America who have come from the West Indies, whose families are typically intact, make more than the national average! But native-born blacks, a community with extremely high rates of single mothers and illegitimacy, earn among the least of all major ethnic groups.
The Scourge of Divorce
Illegitimacy, that is, the failure to obey God's law in the area of premarital sex, is perhaps the main reason the poor stay poor, at least in the Western world. And divorce, generally the result of failure to obey God's law after marriage, is probably the chief reason why middle-class people become poor. The exact rate of divorce in American society is somewhat unclear. Comparing this year's divorces with this year's marriages often yields too low a figure, since they are not the same marriages. Business Week reports that about a third of all marriages "survive." The number of divorces yearly, we know, has doubled in the past decade. In any case, the figures are pretty bad. What it means is untold personal economic hardship for millions of people. New divorce laws make divorce easier — but the economic devastation remains the same, or worse. And the costs of divorce can be devastating. With the laws the way they are now in many places, divorce is almost as complicated as dissolving a business. As Charles J. Fleck, presiding judge of the nation's busiest divorce court, in Cook County, Illinois, declares, "A simple case can... end up with two bankrupt persons." Even if a family doesn't own its own home or have much money, a divorce still may entitle the wife to the one major asset the husband does have, his pension rights. Dividing up those rights (which are rights to a future income) now can require the services of costly lawyers and accountants, as well as forcing the sale of property at a potentially bad time. When families do own their own homes, affairs can become even more complicated — and costly. With inflation and increased home values, a couple can easily go from being two people in one very nice home to being one person each in a small, cramped apartment. Divorce can also mean forcing sale at the wrong time, payment of real estate commissions, prepayment interest penalties, and, if one or both spouses tries to buy again, more loan fees, commissions and probably a higher interest rate. Any number of real estate agents will tell you divorce is one of the main reasons for selling homes today. Taxes can also take a heavy toll because of divorce. Assets often must be sold to pay-off one spouse's property rights, and the government may want to tax any profit on that sale. Then there are, for a middleclass family with any substantial assets at all, the really heavy cost: lawyer's, accountant's and appraiser's fees. Straightforward divorce cases sometimes cost $5,000, complicated divorces (for the rich) man run as high as (hold your breath) $250,000! Nationwide in the United States divorce law is a $3 billion industry, amounting to about $3,000 a divorce. And after the divorce, the costs go on. Two residences, two cars, duplicate household expenses, utility bills, two sets of furniture, all are usually required when one would have done before. A couple can go from being relatively prosperous, middle-class homeowners to each eking out a rather poor existence in a small apartment, all because they were not willing to do what was necessary (basically, have a giving attitude toward one's mate) to keep their marriage together. No wonder one survey reported in Parade showed, after one year of divorce, 60 percent of the men and 73 percent of the women felt they had made a mistake in divorcing!
The End of Poverty
Only through keeping the family units intact has any ethnic group ever risen out of poverty. When a community is made up of single mothers struggling desperately to raise their children on a low income, and rootless, single men who have no purpose in life other than to enjoy the present, there will be:; squalid, grinding poverty. Stable families are a principle of economic success. Young men from such families grow up realizing that a man should support his family - not live a footloose existence as a pimp, drug dealer or robber. While it is not fashionable to say it in an era like today where people dogmatically insist there are no real sexual differences, young men do have inner need to express their innate aggressiveness somehow. In this world today, in particular, being responsible husbands and fathers channels that energy into generally constructive pursuits — steady work, career building and saving. (See generally Wealth and Poverty, chapter six.) In the World Tomorrow, the one Christ will establish upon His return to set up God's Kingdom over the whole world, people will be taught God's laws concerning the family. That world will not have the suffering — or, at least, hardship — of a woman trying to raise her children by herself. Illegitimacy and divorce will almost disappear from human experience. And it will be an incredibly prosperous world. In the meantime, in this world today, the biblical laws can be put to work for anyone. Keeping your marriage intact doesn't guarantee abundance, of course. But it will help. Interested readers should read our free booklet, Why Marriage! and reprint articles, "Seven Steps to a Good Marriage," and "The Care and Feeding of Marriage."