Before I became a mother, I had no idea how much the subject of money would impact my children. God says “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” and as parents, we need to show our children what it looks like to steward God’s money responsibly. While my husband and I come from vastly different financial backgrounds, God saw fit to put us together in this covenant called marriage, and He blessed us with two children to shepherd.
The topic of finance is not one to sweep under the rug. The handling of money is one of the leading causes of divorce, and children will develop their view of money and material objects through their parents’ example. If you have a sizable bank account and 401K, you may think life is all roses. Then again, you may have found yourself obsessed with possessions and now realize there is so much more to life and what you can do with the resources God has given you. I don’t know your financial situation, but I want to encourage you to teach your children from early on what money is, Whose it is, and how to handle it. We must be on guard in this area lest we find ourselves loving the dollar and leaving our children hungry for more.
My husband and I are avid cash-only, money envelope, Financial Peace University nerds. One of us came from a family with great wealth, and the other came from near poverty. One of us had parents who were workaholics, while the other had parents who never held a steady job. Together, we represent a typical American family striving to make ends meet, and our goal is to show our children it doesn’t matter what you have—it matters what you do with what you have. To say our life is easy would be a big, fat lie. We have plenty of debt—primarily student loans—and a home with endless possibilities to stretch our ever-growing DIY skills. While things are far from ideal, we have made the choice to give to God what is God’s and to others what is theirs. To live within our means is empowering, and to see our children beginning to grasp the concept of money is incredibly rewarding.
When our oldest turned three this April, his birthday present was Financial Peace Junior and a service chart. Is that terrible? It may sound boring, but at 3, he adores his piggy bank system and is eager to “give,” “save,” and “spend”. We want both our boys to respect money and understand that everything has a price (and that price is not always financial). We can either live for the world or live for God. We can neglect to tithe or give to God our first fruits. We can be a blessing to those in need or hoard everything for ourselves. We can be a slave to the lender or a generous giver. The choice is ours. Money is an inanimate object but what you do with it has great power.
Practically speaking, there are simple things we must recognize early on. I’m confident most of you have been at the store when your children begin asking you to buy something for them. You may be tempted to give in to their request in an effort to pacify them and make it a sweeter experience for all. And, because you love them, it is natural to want to give to your children. The thing is, children are sponges soaking in everything and making it part of their sense of normal. If all children hear and see is “yes” to their requests, they quickly gain a sense of entitlement. Instead of surrendering to those moments of seeming torture, what if you made them moments of teaching? Teach your children about work, the value of a dollar and self-control—it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, after all. When teaching your children how to give, start early. By the time your child is two or three, they are old enough to pick out a toy (or several) and give it away. Children, like all of us, are selfish, but they can find great joy in giving and develop a servant’s heart when it is part of their sense of normal.
Whether your children are riding in the back of a Cadillac or the back of a Civic, we all live beyond what most of the world can fathom. Some children wear boutique clothes while others are covered with generously loved hand-me-downs. Some children attend private schools where tuition is more than many make working multiple jobs. No matter the message our subdivision sends, we are of equal value to God and have ample opportunities to bless others for His glory and the building up of His Kingdom.
If you would like to learn more about managing money God’s way, visit Stonebriar.org and make plans to attend Financial Peace University or Crown Financial Ministries classes. It doesn’t matter whether you have plenty or find yourself in want; learning is for everyone.