Years ago when I lived in New York City, there was a well known “preacher” who promised people if they gave him $500, God would give them a new Cadillac. Most of the members of his congregation were some of the poorest people in New York City. I always wondered what happened when the promised car failed to appear.
God never promised us everything we want in life, no matter what we give Him. A quick look at the lives of the Apostles and how they ended, will reinforce this concept. As far as we know, none of them gathered great wealth and power. In fact, they all experienced periods of imprisonment, beatings, exile and rather horrid deaths (except for the Apostle John who apparently died of old age). Yet, through it all, their faith remained strong and they stayed focused on God’s mission for their lives – no matter the cost.
Your kids need to understand anyone who promises them their Christian walk will be filled with material blessings and that God is some fairy godfather in the sky is just not teaching scripture. Will God bless them? Yes, but not necessarily in the ways they expect. Could God give them great riches and power? Yes, but it rains on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45. Note: Rain was considered a blessing.) Wealth is not an indicator of your child’s spiritual health – even though it is definitely a blessing from God.
The other problem with this “prosperity gospel” is that when your children have some sort of money problem (or don’t) they can assume all sorts of things that just aren’t true. They aren’t a better or worse Christian based on their wealth and worldly power. God doesn’t hate them because they are poor. God hasn’t deserted them because they aren’t sure how they will pay their rent next month. They aren’t more godly because they can afford a bigger house or car.
The beginning of raising kids who understand how to view money and material things is to help your young children understand the difference between needs and wants. Many temptations to sin come from a feeling that we “need” something or we “deserve” something that is really just something we want.
Have fun with it. Make it an ongoing game like “I Spy”. The latest Nike shoes. Need or want? Shoes in general. Need or want? With little children, you will want to focus on simple things, for example I need to eat food, but I want a cookie. As your children become more mature, you can make it more difficult. I need shoes, but do I need Nike shoes?
For teens, you may choose to get really deep. How many pairs of shoes do I really need? After a certain number of pairs, should I be giving the money to help people who have no shoes at all (and catch horrible diseases from going barefoot)? What would I do if I no longer had a working stove and couldn’t afford one? How could I substitute something less expensive? What is the most important “want” God wants us to have? What temptations do we have when our “wants” become our focus? What did Jesus mean when he said it would be difficult for those who are rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Or to store up our treasures in Heaven?
You may not have all of the answers yourself. In fact, probably none of us really do. These are vitally important discussions to have with your kids though. Helping your kids understand the difference between needs and wants can save them a lot of pain and negative consequences.