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.
Have you seen the viral post claiming to have found a way to cure holiday tantrums over toys? Evidently, the mom struggled with her child having melt downs in toy aisles of stores because she wanted something from Santa right then.
The mom’s solution? Take a photo of the child holding the toy to “send to Santa”. She claimed the child immediately calmed down and often even forgot she wanted the toy.
As a Christian parent, I have so many issues with this supposedly wonderful idea. Beyond the implied lie to the child that she will indeed get everything she wants from Santa (the mother had no intention evidently of giving her child most of those toys), the solution feeds a greedy, entitled heart.
There are several more effective ways of avoiding the “child melting down in the toy aisle” scenario. In fact, doing these things consistently can help you raise kids who don’t become greedy at all.
Stay out of toy aisles and toy stores with your child. Showing kids aisles and aisles of things they didn’t even know existed, only tempts them to want those things. Why encourage greed? The only time a child should be on any toy aisle is to quickly choose a present for someone else. Even in those cases, discuss ahead of time which toy you will probably purchase, find it quickly and immediately move to the checkout or another less tempting section of the store.
Avoid commercial television, catalogs and other advertising. Advertising is another way children become convinced they need something they didn’t even know existed until they saw the ad.
Explain the family budget in age appropriate ways. Even young children can understand how hard their parents work to earn the money you have. They also need to understand that God wants us to give money back to Him and to help others first. After that, there are bills that must be paid. Your family must also save money for things like college, family vacations and to repair the car when it breaks down. The little money left is for fun things like toys. You never want your children to worry about money, but they need to understand there isn’t an unlimited supply either.
Limit presents to Christmas and birthdays. If they want anything between those holidays, they must earn and save the money for those items by doing extra little jobs around the house or saving their allowance. Regularly giving your kids toys for no real reason makes them think they may just get everything they want – especially if they make it clear it is something they want badly.
Never reward tantrums. Your kids need to understand the quickest way to make sure they never receive a toy is to pitch a tantrum about wanting it. For older children, you may have to make a similar rule about continual begging for an item.
Set a good example. If you constantly talk about the things you want, spend too many hours and too much money shopping for non essential items, you can’t expect your kids to act differently.
Make sure your family finds giving more rewarding than receiving. Make regularly serving others and sharing the things you have a family priority. Focus more on how your family can give than how your family can accumulate more things for yourselves. When unexpected money comes into your family, give God a portion first.
You won’t banish greed from your child’s life by snapping a picture of him or her in a toy aisle. You can, however, by helping your child grow a godly, generous heart. It takes more time and effort, but it’s actually effective.
Raising kids to have godly values about money is tough. Not only are parents battling an extremely materialistic society, but godly principles about money require a delicate balance.
For example, everything we have belongs to God and is a blessing from Him. (James 1:17) We also need to take good care of our blessings and give generously back to God through helping others and direct donations to God’s work. (II Corinthians 9:7) We need to work hard in our jobs. (Colossians 3:23) We shouldn’t be obsessed with money, especially to the point where it replaces God. (I Timothy 6:10) And on and on.
It seems like a lot to teach a kid who is just learning to tell the difference between a dime and a quarter! Yet, if your children don’t learn how to be good stewards of their money, they will suffer a lot of negative, real life consequences. Poor money management will also tempt them to reject giving money to God or to serve others, but to keep it for themselves and what they want instead.
Have you ever thought about how many problems are caused because people never learned how to share well? Sounds silly, but think about it for a minute. An unwillingness to share easily is often a prime indicator of a selfish heart. And we all know selfishness is the root of many sins.
Not to mention sibling fights, friendship spats and other problems caused by children who don’t know how to share well. As with any character trait, it’s easier to help your child make a character trait God wants them to have a part of their identity if you start when they are young.
There are really quite a few simple and even fun things you can do to encourage even very young children to make sharing a part of who they are – not a rule they are struggling to obey.