Teaching Your Children To Be Givers
Most of us have had a conflict in our lives between what we think we want and what we really need. This same conflict also is alive and well in the lives of our children. We hear a great deal in the media about our national debt. As of today it is $16,475,048,398,166. This staggering number represents running away spending in our nation’s capital, but it also represents a national failure to teach our children proper attitudes towards money, things, and desires. Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home. How can we teach our children to be givers rather than takers? How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy giving to others as the Bible commands us to do?
1. Be Generous Parents.
The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding. The wedding reception had been going for a while when something tragic happened. They ran out of wine. That was serious business to the host of the party. It was a cultural “no-no”; a huge embarrassment to run out of wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best fruit of the vine that the people had that night. The people were surprised and said that normally people put the best wine out first and saved the watered down stuff for later. The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did. As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.
It is very clear to me that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want in life. God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want, but may not even need. We should not be afraid to do the same with our children. If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want, but may not even need. It is okay to do nice things for your kids. The atmosphere of (Luke 6:38) should be taught by example if we hope our children will embrace it.
2. Teach Your Children The Difference Between A Need And A Want.
As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want. In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs. (Philippians 4:19) is a tremendous promise that God wants to meet our needs, but the context of this verse makes it very clear that this is a conditional promise. This verse is a promise to people who are givers, and especially givers to the need of missions. Granted there are some that take verses out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture. The problem from a Biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need verses want. That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need verses wants; is broken. Adam and Eve entered a perfect world. They could have had anything they “wanted” except for one tree and yet that was the tree they chose to eat from. (We shouldn’t be too surprised at their decision, because we make choices like that every day.) That sin of rebellion brought about the world in which we live where there are actually things that are harmful for us, yet, because we are in a messed up world, we often want most the things that are not the best for us and we certainly have a hard time determining the difference between a need and a want.
It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want when most of us as parents struggle with the same issues.
3. Teach Your Children To Make Wise Choices With Their Own Money.
One of the primary reasons children should have access to their own money is so they can learn the value of it. Most kids are more careful spending “their” money than they are spending their parents. Talk with them about how they should spend their hard earned money or even money given to them for birthdays or Christmas. They ultimately should give their tithe to God, save some, and spend some for things they need or want.
4. Be A Good Example Of Making The Right Choices Between Needs And Wants.
I think we teach our children to value the need more than the want by first modeling it for them. We cannot ask children to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Children are smarter than that. Today’s generation is far more interested in truth and integrity than earlier generations. This generation despises hypocrisy. If children see parents saying one thing and doing another, they will reject that as being truth. We need to model and teach our children the proper concepts concerning money; ultimately that we are to be responsible with what God has allowed us to have. Children need to see their parents giving sacrificially of their time and resources. Volunteering to serve in the ministries of your local church is one of the most important life lessons you will ever teach your children about giving.
5. Ground Your Children In Reality.
Children need to know that the universe does not revolve around them. Our world as their parents may revolve largely around them, but the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Children need to experience times in their life when they have to wait for something they want. Teach and model for children a life that puts others needs and wants ahead of their own.
6. Whatever You Do Don’t Give Children Everything Even If You Can Afford It.
If children are encouraged by example to have a love of money…a love of stuff…chances are they will never have enough possessions in this world to be satisfied. Plant within them a love of God, and a love of people and they will want to be a blessing to others. Regardless of how financially secure your family may be do not raise your children with a “privileged attitude”. When this happens the child has a hard time developing a heart of giving, because they are often too consumed with acquiring more “stuff”. A dear preacher friend of mine said that whenever he would take his children to the store he would instruct them, “You are with me, I am not with you,” IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO TO YOUR CHILD! In fact, that may sometimes be the exact thing we need to say. Every trip to the store should not produce a new toy!
Perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do to help children succeed in life is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world. That is God’s heart for us as His children and it is the heart He desires for us to pass on to the children He’s placed in our homes.