A recent article from the Washington Post by Amy Joyce was titled “Teaching Kids Dollars and Sense.” In the article Ms. Joyce quotes Ron Lieber, who authored the book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.
I have not read the book and don’t know anything about it, as I am only commenting on the article. Most of what Ms. Joyce wrote was spot on, such as: start early; it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach their children about money; let the kids suffer the consequences of a bad financial decision when they are young; use three jars marked give, save and spend to develop a kid friendly budgeting system, etc.
But one of the things I heartily disagree with was that we can feel good about ourselves if we have “a little left over for charity.” We’ll never have enough left over for charity. This attitude is inappropriate for adults and unattainable for kids. The first words a toddler usually learns are Mama, Dada and MINE!
Kids are not natural givers. In our consumer society where children are walking bill boards with their character based, book bags, lunchboxes, shirts, dresses, shoes pj’s and underwear, no child will be naturally generous because everything in our culture influences them to be selfish. Children will only be generous with money if the parents intentionally teach them to be generous.
Google the words “children and generosity” and you will get about 35 million results in nano-seconds, most of which use words such as teach, learn, lesson, activities, raising, developing, growing, engaging, fostering, cultivating, helping, nurturing. None of these words make generosity sound like an automatic way kids think, do they?
If we want our children to be generous, we need to teach them to be generous, and the best way to do that is to be generous ourselves. We often hold money tightly grasped in our hands as if our very life depends on it. But the Bible tells us that all the money and possessions we hold onto so tightly really does not belong to us–they belongs to God.
God owns everything. Think about that for a minute. The Bible tells us that God owns everything: the highest heavens (Dueteronomy 10:14); the world and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1); all the land (Leviticus 25:23); all the silver and gold (Haggai 2:8) all the animal, cattle, wild birds all living things in the field (Psalm 50:10-12); all the earth Exodus (19:5); all of life (Ezekiel 18:4).
Boiling it down to the smallest possible denominator, what do you have that does not have God as its source? Your job? God gave you the talents and gifts you use in your work. Your life? God is the source of all life. Your health? Your family? Friends? Everything you have comes from God!
Once you recognize God owns everything, it’s easy to become generous. It’s not how much of your money you have to give to God. The real question is how much of God’s money do you need to keep.
1 Chronicles 16:28 tells us “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and might.”
Proverbs 25:21 tells us to be generous to our enemies “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat, if thirsty, give something to drink.”
Tobit 4:8 challenges us to “Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little.”
Above all else, giving directs our heart to Christ. Matthew 6:21 tells us, “For your heart will always be where your riches are.” This is why it’s necessary to give each gift to the person of Jesus Christ: it draws our heart to him.
Read the story of the faithful steward in the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:21). Giving is one of our responsibilities as stewards, and the more faithful we are in fulfilling our responsibilities, the more we can enter into the joy of knowing Christ more intimately. (“Well done good and faithful servant. Come share your Master’s joy.”) Nothing in life compares with that.
For most of us, becoming more generous is a journey that takes time. The more we expose ourselves to what the Bible teaches about giving, the more generous we become. And once we become generous, it’s easy to teach our children to be generous.
There are lots of things parents need to teach their children . . . to look both ways before crossing the street, how to speak properly; how to make their bed; how to dress and even how to manage their money and how to be generous.