This is one of those topics that upsets people. Some who are fond of storing treasures in heaven think that having nice things is just plain unspiritual. Others will argue that being poor to be spiritual is unwise and stupid. Luckily, I am not hanging around to incite debates on what materialism is and what it isn’t and if someone is more spiritual because they only let their kids wear hand-me-downs. I just want us – and by us I mean me first, obviously – to think about what it means to store treasures in heaven and how that might contradict with the materialistic and superficial aspects that are so prevalent in our culture today.
Our kids are inundated with stuff. Stuff here, there, everywhere and someone who has far less stuff than you might still have one thing that is the very thing you want and don’t have. Someone will always have nicer clothes, more toys (hardware or vehicles), and a bigger house than you. How do we bring our kids up with a balanced view of appreciating the fruits of our labor with knowing where true value lies? Hmm, I wish I knew. I can, however, think of some places to start.
(1) Money is not negative.
I think that some Christian circles can almost view wealth and money as taboo. If you have a lot, then you aren’t very spiritual. Other Christian circles view money as a sign of God’s favour. If you’re broke then you must be a high sinner. Again, balance is key. Money is not the enemy and, in fact, the more money that the Kingdom has at its disposal the better, in my opinion.
However, the Bible says it’s the love of money that is the root of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). So, as Paul communicates (Phil. 4:12), the longer we’re on a journey with God we’ll more than likely now what it’s like to be in seasons of plenty and seasons of drought. These droughts are valuable times because they teach us that we can survive and thrive and depend on God even when we aren’t helping to buy our financial planner’s yacht. Then, when a season of plenty comes back around we actually view money as a means to an end as opposed to a destination.
(2) The deathbed flashback.
Maybe I’m morbid, but I often think “will I care in the slightest about this on my deathbed?” When I start to obsess over something (a frequent occurrence for personalities like mine, of which I hope for your own sake you don’t have) I go back to this…. Will it matter when I’m 90? I often imagine myself nearing 100 with my house full of about 85 people, my kids, their spouses, their kids, their kids, some dogs and a stray neighbour or two coming in and out of my room as I lay on my bed old, wise and ready to meet God.
I think “will it matter if I built the kid’s sandbox myself or if I bought a pre-made one from the hardware store?” Silly, sure. Effective, yes. If we can learn to live our life in the present based on what we know has life long memorable value then we won’t be able to help but communicate this to our children. As they age and we are able to discuss these matters with them, we can get into deep and meaningful conversations that really get them thinking about what they want their life to be about. This is where it’ll get good.
(3) Show them by experience what truly matters.
Kids will pretty much pick up on what you value and prioritize by how you live. If you live far above your means and accrue lots of debt because of a need for “stuff” then more than likely your children will grow up to do the same. Why wouldn’t they? They’ll think that’s normal. In contrast, if you live a life properly balanced with enjoying the fruits of your family’s hard work and the joy and fulfilment that comes from generosity and service to others, then your kids will think that’s normal. We want their view of normal to be as biblical and as healthy as possible. If we manage ourselves first, our children’s perspectives will naturally be affected.
(4) Help expose them to things eternal.
Some things are eternal and some things are not. Your house, though very important for the survival of your family, is not eternal. If your family went through 35 hours in 35 years you’d still be a family. I surely don’t have all the answers, but I believe that the actions we make and the words we speak in line with God’s will and at His leading have eternal impact. When you speak that word of encouragement that changes a person’s path, it has eternal consequences.
When you treat someone used to being ignored or jeered at with respect, dignity and kindness then you are loving them with Jesus’ love. These things are far more important than what brand our shoes are. Expose your children to things eternal and then, when they’re old enough to talk about it, get into conversations about these things. Ask their opinions, answer their doubts, show them Scriptures, and give them a chance to experience the joy of being used by God to love and serve others. Once they’ve experienced it themselves, the hard part is over.
(5) Don’t deprive to prove a point.
There will be times of lack when we’ll have to make do with what we have and what others bless us with. That is fine and right and our kids may have to suck it up and realize this school year they don’t get brand new Nikes. That’s life. However, I believe we must be wary to not deprive our children of things or really downplay the importance of things to them in a way that encourages them to create a life trying to fill a void. You know what I mean. The kid who always had to wear hand-me-downs who is now very irresponsible with his money but dresses in the most fashionable and name brand clothes around because he spent his whole childhood being embarrassed about what he was wearing.
Again, sometimes we have to do what we have to do, but I think it’s prudent we take into account our children’s tastes and wishes – within reason – and provide for them in a way that doesn’t give them a poverty mentality. A poverty mentality – or always feeling as though there’s no money and consequently viewing money as the answer to all problems – can have devastating effects. It’s okay if you splurge a little on your kids.
It’s okay if you sometimes get them the expensive shoes. It’s okay if you get them an iPad if they really enjoy it. I’m not saying spoil. I’m not saying indulge their misguided feelings of entitlement. I’m not saying run up a credit card bill to avoid hurting their self-esteem. I’m simply saying, don’t think you’re being spiritual by making them live on less and have less than others. It may backfire in ways you hadn’t planned.
As we go through this Christian life with our families we will learn so much. We’ll mess up and teach them wrong things and have to go back and try to teach them right things. They’ll show us where we’ve messed up as well. It’s a privilege to do the Christian life, period, and it’s surely a privilege and an honor and a responsibility to be entrusted with the lives and spirits of young ones.
I believe raising our young children to be comfortable in high season and low season and with eternal things will give them depth of character. It will help them avoid our culture’s trap of materialism, and it will give them the opportunity to learn firsthand that the things that matter most, and the things that truly resonate in our spirits as being the better way, are the eternal things.
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