How do kids get their perspective on money?
A mature Christian woman once shared with me how her wrong view of money, and her self-centered view of giving was shaped by her childhood. Her parents fought over money, her mother cried over money, and one day her dad took her and three siblings out to teach them a lesson about how much they were costing him. As he ushered his four children into the garage he pointed at the car trunk exclaiming, “Look at that those groceries! You cost me almost $40!” As this little girl grew into a woman she held on to every cent with a vice-like grip. One day she married a Christian man who believed strongly that 10% of every paycheck was a good baseline for giving. One payday she came home from work with her paycheck and had planned to spend the money on new nursing shoes but was met with a rude awakening. Her husband reminded her that even though she made that paycheck, their commitment to God was top priority. Needless to say that night wasn’t pretty and they had their first big fight in the young marriage. 40 years later she describes how her childhood shaped her wrong view of money, but how God use her marriage to teach her what her parents never did. She now joyfully identifies giving as her spiritual gift.
It’s pretty obvious that kids get their perspective on money from their parents. As a parent, the last thing I want to see is my children waste their lives by racking up a big bank account, only to end up with a bankrupt soul. If you love your kids, I’m sure you’ll agree that we want their lives to worship God with all they are and all they have. Why not teach them from a young age to be a generous generation?
If your goal is to raise children who have the right perspective on God, and money, then you’re going to have to teach them what God’s word says about money. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to solely depend on the church to do this job for us, or even worse, let the kids figure it out on their own. Christian parents are held solely responsible by God for training their children and shaping their worldview. Have you ever wondered how in the world some kids got to be so selfish, self-centered, disrespectful, or irrational? (First of all, that’s most teenagers so don’t feel too bad if you’ve got those.) But, have you ever heard the remark, “Blame the parents”? Generally speaking, if you don’t help children build a solid foundation before the infamous teenage years, the only one to blame will be you. That’s harsh isn’t it? Not if you’re looking at things through the right lens. Think about it… Parents choose the church to raise their kids in (or let the kids choose), parents choose how to set priorities in the home, parents choose to let the Bible collect dust, parents choose to rack up the credit card, parents choose to ignore good advice, parents choose to fight over money, and parents choose divorce.
Parents, it’s time to get real about what we’re teaching our kids from day one and face the fact that ultimately, how we live is influencing our kids, and in the end, we are responsible. While rebellion may still occur, and our kids may go prodigal for a time, if we’ll build on the right foundation, that will one day be the very thing they come back to stand on.
One way that you can start to build the right foundation for your child is by training their perspective on money and giving. Jesus knew the issue of money would be an important one so that’s why He talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell. Not because it’s more important than salvation, but because it can easily become a salvation issue as our children get older. We live in a consumer-driven culture that teaches our kids from an early age that money is a powerful tool that can get them what they want. Pretty soon, the idol of wealth is built and they begin to bow down. Remember, it was the rich young ruler’s selfish inability to love God more than his own wealth that made eternal life his impossibility (Luke 18:18-23).
To help equip you for your God-given role in the lives of your kids here are answers to common questions about kids and money.
When is it time to talk to my kids about money?
As soon as they scream at you for taking something out of their hand for the first time! Even before that little bundle of joy says his or her first word, you can begin teaching them the biblical principle of generosity by handing that toy back and forth saying, “we share.” Many parents have experienced that this method of training actually works – or more appropriately – eventually works. But what I’ve just explained is only behavior modification. Just like adults, kids eventually learn that if they do certain things they get rewarded and round and round we go. Is that really going to transform their heart? No. That selfishness is still in their sinful little heart and is well on it’s way toward learning the tactic of manipulation. Until the heart is trained, we’ve only subdued the toddler of terror for a brief time.
How do I train my child’s heart regarding money?
- Work with your child on the concept of giving
Since the Bible speaks about money so much you’ll find everything you need within the stories of the Bible. It’s important for parents to not just teach about money, but to teach about giving. Consider a bedtime story about treasure in heaven from Matthew 6:19-21, or a morning devotional about the poor widow’s sacrifice from Luke 21:1-4. If you’re wealthy and trying to model how to love God more than money, go with the rich young ruler from Luke 18:18-23. No matter your life stage or life style, the Bible can help you bring up the concept of money and provide a perspective on giving for the entire family.
- Work with your child on consistency of giving
This blog post will fade into the archives after a week or so, but your job as a parent still has to remain front and center. Build principles of giving into your lifestyle so your kids see consistency. Teach with regularity that everything we have comes from God and belongs to God. Tell them why you give a consistent amount on a consistent basis. Show them what this looks like. Teach them that generosity is not a campaign, it’s a lifestyle.
- Work with your child on the character of giving
God loves a cheerful giver! Helping your kids understand the character traits associated with giving will show them this is part of worshiping God. Just like we rejoice in the Lord when we’re singing, so we also do in our giving. Remember though, your example can affirm this or contradict it. Do they see you get excited about giving to God as a regular part of worship? Do they relate what they see in the Bible to what they see in the home? One little boy I know treated his red cash box like a bank account. It sat proudly on his shelf and even had a combination key so nobody could access it but him. He wasn’t protecting his money selfishly; he was saving it cheerfully. He made sure it stayed safe until Sunday where he couldn’t wait to give it to God at church.
How do I help my children apply this truth?
Are there weekly offerings at church? Is there poverty just outside your door? A kid at school who has holes in his shoes every day? A single mom serving your table at IHOP? Don’t let these opportunities go by without asking your kids what they think should be done! Rescue Missions need volunteers, churches need benevolence funds, and hard-working single moms need big tips! Don’t brush off these opportunities by saying how sad it is and mumbling some superficial prayer to try and come across spiritual in front of your kids. If that’s you on a regular basis, change your game-plan in order to steer clear of raising Christians who sit on the bench.
In Conclusion, nothing will guarantee us perfect children and we’ll certainly never be perfect parents. But, if we’ll labor faithfully, pray diligently, and give generously, our example may be what helps the principle of Proverbs 22:6 become a reality. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Editor’s Note: If you attend a church which teaches a biblical view of stewardship, your children will receive proper instruction. However, if they go home and do not see you, as parent, heeding this instruction, they will determine one of two things 1) The Bible isn’t true 2) My parents aren’t believers. Parents are THE evidence of Christianity for their children.