Kids often think if they can just have the next new thing, they will be happy. As adults, we’ve hopefully learned that we can’t fill the space in our lives meant for God with things. There is always something new or something better or something more. Rarely, does a greedy person ever believe they have enough money or “stuff”.
There’s a fun family devotional you can do with your kids that involves an object lesson. Before your kids join you, find a tin can that has a safety cut lid with no sharp edges. Put about an inch or two of fingernail polish remover with acetone in the can. (Remover without acetone won’t work.) You will also need a huge pile of styrofoam packing noodles.
Call your kids together. Tell them about King Solomon. Remind them he asked God for wisdom, so God said He would also grant Solomon wealth because he had chosen wisdom. Read them 1 Kings 10:14-29. In today’s money, Solomon’s worth is estimated to be $2 trillion!
But when he was older, Solomon wrote the book Ecclesiastes because he learned a hard lesson about money and things. Ask your kids to make a pile of styrofoam noodles that will fill the can you have chosen. Slowly begin dropping one noodle in at a time. As you drop a noodle, ask your kids what are some of the things they would buy if they had $10. With each noodle, raise the amount of money they can spend. The noodles should be dissolving in the acetone. (Reminder this is a toxic chemical and should be watched carefully around children. Dispose of properly afterwards, so they don’t mistake it for water and drink it.)
Eventually, all of the noodles in their pile should be gone and the can still hasn’t filled with noodles. Similarly, if you made the jumps in money small enough, there should still be things they want to buy. Now start adding the remaining noodles from the original pile. Note that the can never fills with noodles and they never run out of ways to spend the money.
Explain that the acetone represents the greed that can grow in our hearts. We can feed it money and things, but it will devour them and still want more.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:10. Ask your kids what God would prefer us to have in our hearts other than greed.
Let’s be honest. We leave in a greedy world. Our society wants us to believe we need all sorts of things that are actually wants. Christians aren’t immune from materialism either. So what can you do to raise kids who truly understand God’s view of needs v. wants?
Grab some magazines, random items around your house and a Bible. Tell your kids the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and 1 Kings 1 and 2. It’s not necessary with young children to focus on the sexual aspects of the story, but rather that David felt like he needed Uriah’s wife, even though he already had wives of his own.
Explain that David was so intent on getting what he wanted, he committed several sins to get it. Explain that God wants us to understand we actually need very little. Most of the things we think we need, we actually want. Explain that when we get confused, we can often do things that make God unhappy and even sin – especially if we primarily focus on getting all of those things we want for ourselves.
Explain to your kids, you are going to play the game Wants v. Needs. Hold up one of the items you gathered. Ask your kids whether it is something they want or need. If they believe it is something they need, they should also share how much of it they think they need in a given time period. Older children can be asked to support their choices with evidence.
After a few items, give them the magazines. Have them find pictures of things they want versus things they need. Older children can examine ads to see how companies try to convince people they need something, they actually merely want.
Can your family come to an agreement about what your needs actually are in life? Now think about playing the same game if you were a family living in one of the poorest countries on earth instead of one of the richest. Would your answers be different? What if your grandparents had played the game when they were little? What if Jesus played the game when he lived on earth?
End your time by discussing ways your family can be less concerned with getting “stuff”. How can you all be more grateful for the blessings God has given you? How can you share your blessings with others who may not even have everything they need?
Stewardship for Christians is a rich topic that rarely gets addressed fully…especially for kids and teens. Wrapped up within stewardship are taking care of the blessings God has given us as a world and individuals, giving, generosity and money management.
Money management is such a complex topic many Christians avoid even discussing it. Where is the line between a need and a want? Would God want you to spend your money on a luxury car, a safe dependable car, a jalopy that’s falling apart or to take mass transit?
There are plenty of scriptures about money management for Christians to consider. In wealthier cultures, most of us are probably much more selfish with our money than we should be. We have softened our culture’s extreme greed perhaps, while still indulging in behaviors and choices people in poorer countries would consider wasteful or greedy.
Just because it’s a tough topic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it with your kids. In fact, it may make it more important that you make sure they are using their money as God would want them to do.
Thankfully, there are lots of resources available to help. Some cost a little money, while others are free. While not all of the resources below are Christian per se, they teach some important lessons about money. You can easily add scriptures later to point out God’s commands about money, financial responsibility and generosity.
Dave Ramsey. Ramsey is a Christian and his materials do address giving back to God. His non-debt approach is important for your kids to understand before they are able to actually borrow any money. His materials do cost money, but you can sometimes find them on sale. His resources designed for kids, teens and homeschoolers not only have important information, but also are interesting to watch.
Play Money Magic. This online game gives kids a sense of the need for budgeting. It helps them explore the concept of choosing to buy something now instead of planning for things you will need later that are much more important.
Play Spent. Spent is an online game that can help your kids develop empathy for those in poverty. It gives them similar incomes and expenses and helps them understand how difficult it is to meet their basic needs.
Play Shady Sam. Shady Sam is an online game created to teach kids about loan sharks. Although technically not loan sharks, many credit cards and rental places charge interest rates that make them comparable to loan sharks.
Play Hit the Road. This online game is one of those great scenario type games where kids must make choices as they play. Their choices impact future game play. This particular one involves all sorts of financial decisions.
Take some time to teach your kids about money…how to handle it well, but more importantly how to handle it in ways that please God. It is an important element of raising your kids to be faithful, productive Christians.
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.
Let’s be honest. None of us really wants to be quarantined for a long period of time whether it’s from this virus or something else. The good news is that a lot of healthy families are being quarantined at home. We don’t know how many of us or how long any one area will find everyone at home before the virus peaks and life resumes as normal.
If you find your family at home for any period of time, don’t waste that precious time. You may have few other opportunities to connect as a family in this way. There are a lot of ways you can take advantage of this time and use it to better prepare your kids to be who God wants them to be.
Reconnect emotionally. Have those long conversations. Find out what everyone is thinking and feeling about all sorts of topics. Get to really know and appreciate each other. And limit time on devices to no more than an hour or two a day outside of time required for school or work.
Have fun together. Play games. Watch silly old kid movies. Tell jokes and stories. Have tea parties. Build forts with blankets. Have a family sleep over. Just enjoy being together.
Start or entrench habits of spiritual disciplines. Family devotionals, independent Bible reading, prayer, meditating on scriptures…all of those habits that will make you and your kids stronger spiritually, but you never seem to have time to practice. Challenge and encourage each other to establish good spiritual habits that will keep all of you connected to God each day.
Serve others. Whether or not people can leave their homes seems to vary from place to place. FaceTime people who may be isolated at home alone. Help others as much as whatever restrictions you are under will allow. Model unselfish behavior by not hoarding supplies, but sharing.
Read good books aloud. Most adults don’t realize it, but even many teens still enjoy hearing a great book read aloud. C.S. Lewis stories appeal to all ages as do many other great books that allow you to have interesting family conversations. You should have access to e-books even if libraries close and many classics you can find online free or at very low cost.
Look for God working in the world today. Things like pandemics can make some people question whether or not God still loves us and cares about us. They may feel like God has disappeared. Point out the small blessings God sends your way each day. Celebrate God’s goodness as He gives people gifts to develop new medicines and vaccines to end the current health issues facing us. Remind your kids daily that God is alive and walking beside us even when scary things happen.
I doubt any of us will be volunteering to be quarantined for fun. Taking advantage of the opportunities it may present your family to grow closer and more godly if it is required of you though, may bring your family more benefits than just good health.