One of the root causes of sin is when the desire to have something we want clouds our judgment. We want what we want, when we want it – which is usually now. When that doesn’t happen, sinful attitudes and behaviors often result. The ability to accept delayed gratification can help your children overcome many of the temptations to sin in life. Of course the ultimate delayed gratification – an eternity spent with God in Heaven for remaining faithful to God – is the very underpinning of Christianity.
There’s a fun devotional you can do to help your children begin to understand the importance of accepting delayed gratification in living the Christian life. Before calling your children together, take a few moments and think of examples in today’s world when waiting for something has better results or conversely, demanding what we want now can have negative consequences in the future. A simple example would be eating a seed instead of planting it and waiting for it to provide entire pieces of fruit or lots of vegetables to eat. Having this list prepared will make the activity easier for you to lead.
Call your children together and tell them the story of Jacob working for Rachel found in Genesis 29:14-30. Point out that Jacob loved Rachel so much he was willing to wait seven years to marry her and work for Laban for seven additional years as a result of marrying Rachel right after Leah. Point out where it said the seven years seemed to him like only a few days. Ask your children why that might be true. Point out that if Jacob had not been willing to work for Laban for fourteen years, he would not have been able to marry Rachel – the love of his life. To Jacob delayed gratification was worth it.
On the other hand, point out that in the story of Jacob, Esau and the lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34), Esau was not willing to wait to eat stew. His unwillingness to endure delayed gratification meant he lost his birthright to Jacob.
Give your children one of the examples you thought of earlier. What are the rewards for waiting and/or the consequences for failing to wait? Make a game of it using more of the examples own your list. See if your children can think of other examples. Mix up silly ones – like eating uncooked food – with more serious ones that can lead to sinning. Have fun with it, but throughout the game, emphasize the importance of taking the time to think about what might happen if they waited to get what they wanted a little longer. Would waiting actually be better in the end?