We start in our house as early as possible teaching our kids about money. We try to give them some basic principles of how they can steward it well – even while they are young. The basic requirement is that they divide any money that they get into three jars: “Spend,” “Save,” and “Give.” 10% goes into “Give,” 10% into “Save” and the other 80% they can spend.
There are many days where I have wondered if this discipline is worth the time and energy that it requires. Our son in particular loves to spend money. He quickly realized how this system works out for him. Every time he gets any money, he is only able to spend 80% of it. That practice has led to more than one fit of whining or rage the past few years since we started doing this. It is worth it. It has enabled me to give my kids a practical example of how they can help other people by using their own “Give” money. As a father, I want them to see for themselves the tangible results of blessing people. This “Give” thinking has to be developed over time, and is important to get your kids thinking about money in a healthy way.
The “Give” Mentality
One day last week, my kids were whining about everything. A spirit of ingratitude seemingly had filled the house like a black cloud. They started complaining at breakfast about the food. After breakfast instead of playing together, all they could do was fight with each other. They were whining about toys and the things they wanted but didn’t have. Nothing was good enough for them that day, and they kept wanting more and more.
After a few hours of hearing complaining and whining, I realized that we needed to do something to break this pattern of ingratitude. I told them to go get their “Give” money so that we could figure out how we could give to someone in need. Together, they had $20 to give, so they started thinking through some ways to help other people instead of being focused on what they wanted.
Tacos For The Homeless
We came up with several ideas, and finally settled on one. The kids decided to buy tacos and cold drinks to hand out to homeless people in the city. They’ve been around homeless ministry with us, but they had never actually given their money to a homeless cause.
Mom made some extra tacos for us at breakfast that we wrapped up in foil. We all hopped in the car and headed to the store where the kids picked out the drinks to give away. We filled up the cooler and journeyed downtown for a fun adventure to give.
Over the next hour, we drove around and stopped whenever we saw someone who looked like they may need some food. The kids handed out the drinks and the tacos. They got to stop focusing on themselves, and actively go to someone who actually needs help.
Spiritually, both of these actions – the stopping and the going – are healthy. They build off of each other. The more we learn how to stop focusing only on ourselves, the more open we become to the people around us. We finally can see how God wants to work through us to love and serve them. The more we go, the easier it becomes to think less about ourselves.
One of my favorite places that God instructs us clearly on how we are to serve others is found in 1st John chapter 3:
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
I know the feeling from verse 20 all too well. Often, I get caught up in my own world and overly focused on my own agenda. My heart naturally starts gravitating towards ungratefulness during those times. My focus settles on me, what I want, and what I don’t have.
With children it’s much easier to see ungratefulness than with adults sometimes. They are unabated in their responses and emotions. Kids haven’t learned to lie as well as adults. They wear their ungratefulness on their sleeve and it’s out in the open for everyone to see. When you notice your child acting in an ungrateful manner, it’s your job to guide them the right way. We have to guide them back to thankfulness and away from themselves.
Children will not remember the large majority of what you tell them. However, they will remember what you do. Are you showing your children how to love with actions and in truth?