The property laws for children’s toys highlight an amusing view of a serious problem. The laws of property ownership from a child’s view are:
1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.
Deb Lawrence, Missionary to the Philippines with SEND Int’l, quoted in Prokope, November/December, 1992, Page 3
These laws have been described, perhaps accurately, as evidence of original sin. These reflect what many, if not most, children will do instinctively. It is that instinctive selfishness that parents must vigilantly look for and avoid. It is that instinctive selfishness that parents must teach their children to overcome.
Unfortunately, it is a modern trend for some parents to believe that they should allow their children to develop their own beliefs and desires without the parents’ instilling (supposedly) any predispositions. That is a commonly expressed concept especially directed at religious beliefs. It is also seriously wrong and works to the detriment of a child’s maturity and judgment. It is the worst thing a parent can do.
If parents don’t influence their children, they leave that job up to a very twisted world. That is because if parents don’t influence their children,
The media certainly will,
Movies and television will,
Their neighbors will,
Other children will not hesitate,
Politicians will, and,
Educators of unknown faith and interests also will.
Do you trust each and every one of those outside influences to do a better job influencing and guiding your children than you can? Even more on point, do you trust any of them to do a better job than you can? Training up your child is your responsibility. Proverbs 22:6. Yes, it is the child’s teachers’ responsibility, one the teachers are educated and trained to meet; but you as a parent should start long before your child starts school. You will have many, many more hours and opportunities to instill life lessons into your child.
One area where parents can and should have a major impact is on their children’s attitudes toward their stuff and on their view of generosity. The way young children learn first and best is from their parents. Observation is a child’s primary means of learning, and they see far more than most parents realize.
So, how can you teach giving and generosity? The answer should be obvious; by giving and by being generous yourself, especially when your children are nearby. Teaching giving by giving is a great and fun way to educate your children. The lesson comes from more than giving them money, even if they are to put the money in an offering plate. That doesn’t teach them to give their own money; they are merely delivering your gift. For them to learn giving and the joy of giving (Acts 20:35), they must actually give their own money or possessions.
Here are a few ideas for teaching giving:
1. Make sure your children see you write the check and put it in the offering plate. If there is no offering plate in this pandemic and post-pandemic world, make sure your children see you write the check and put it in an envelope. Giving online is simple and easy, but it is also invisible to your children. Many parents I know make a point of giving visibly so their children see it. If you insist that you will only bank online, engage your children in your budgeting and payments, and especially make sure they see that you give online to your church.
2. Then take it to the next level. Involve your children in the family giving decisions. Let them know that you are giving, at a minimum, a ten percent tithe. That means you share with your children what your income is and how you computed the tithe, a combined math and generosity lesson. Children need to learn how decisions on family financial matters are made and how the family budget is managed. Let them learn from you!
3. Consider establishing a family giving fund with the National Christian Foundation. Have a family conference, perhaps monthly, and involve your children in the giving decisions. Let them choose a charity for giving over and above your tithe; it can be a mission fund or even a secular charity. The goal is to make giving be a part of normal life. After all, we have life – and life eternal – because God was amazingly generous with us. John 3:16. If you are uncertain how to set up a giving fund, call us, or check out our menu tab Ways to Give at idlewildfoundation.com.
4. If you give your children an allowance, or, even better, if you make them earn an allowance, they should tithe, save and give out of that allowance. Let them give 10 percent as a tithe, save 10 percent towards a future purchase or goal, and give an additional percentage so they can see the immediate results, perhaps a gift to a homeless person or a widow in need. See 7 Steps for Financial Progress and Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship for some details on saving wisely.
5. The giving a family does should not be of just money. We are also to be generous with our time and our talents. So find a widow in need at your church (trust me, your Pastor can find more than one) and fill a need she has. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, cut grass for a disabled veteran, volunteer at your church for Sunday morning service, write to a missionary from your church or who has visited your church, go on a short-term mission trip, support an orphan or a family overseas. World Vision can make that easy, but still a very visible and touching lesson for your whole family. The possibilities are endless.
Make what you do a family activity. Make it a part of your family conferences to discuss what and how often you will do this activity.
6. Make giving a Bible lesson. For example, teach your children Malachi 3, especially Malachi 3:10:
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
7. But don’t stop there. Share with your children your stories of how God has blessed you and your family. Share that the blessings are certainly not dollar for dollar or always financial. In fact, share that most often the blessings returned to you by God are not financial. They should not ever be taught an expectancy of a dollar return on a gift.
8. The giving lessons don’t stop with that one verse. There are over 2,300 verses on giving, possessions and money in the Bible. Most make excellent additional life lessons.
9. Make giving and generosity a personal and family habit. Behavioral scientists try to teach that it takes about six weeks to develop a strong habit. In the case of giving, it likely takes quite a bit longer because it may not occur every single day. Make this a life lesson, not a short-term experience or, even worse, a short-term experiment. By giving weekly, serving regularly, being a servant, and sharing your life and experiences with your children, you improve the quality of their home life (and yours) and vastly improve their vision of the value of life.
10. Pray with your children about giving decisions and over the giving opportunities that you and they will see and consider. Here is another area where you are teaching life, giving, prayer and reality, all in one part of every day, prayer time.
11. Create a family journal where you record what you give in both treasures, time and talents, and start adding to that family journal the blessings that God shares with your family.
12. Even over summer vacations, continue your family giving and serving. People’s needs and your church’s needs don’t take a break during summer, so service shouldn’t be seasonal. Take breaks when they are needed, and certainly God does allow you to rest, but service and giving more often energize than exhaust when your heart is right.
13. Learn, buy or develop games that teach stewardship principles. For a few ideas, check out this link oureverydaylife.com.
God’s creativity in His ways of teaching and reaching us is endless. Since we are made in His image, we have innate creativity and can, with encouragement and heart, as well as prayerful thought, come up with many creative ways to show our children a Christian world view. Please feel free to share some of your ideas with us. We will share additional ideas as time passes, so keep reading. God will bless you, He has promised that.
26 They [the righteous] are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.