Ironically, many parents who are themselves a model of generosity, stewardship, and long-term thinking take a decidedly short-sighted approach in how they teach that same habit of giving to their children. Why is this? Well, it’s easy to settle for behavior modification in our children rather than the true heart change that God desires. After all, God is more concerned with our hearts than our money—this is Stewardship 101, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we expect that God wants the same from our children as well?
You Can’t Do It
So, how do you give your child a heart for giving? Well, you can’t. In fact, as parents, we don’t have what it takes to truly effect lasting change in our children at all. In Paul David Tripp’s excellent book, Parenting, he says that, “you have no power whatsoever to change your child.”
If you’re thinking that this article got depressing quick, then you’re not wrong. But the beauty of the gospel and the transformative power of grace is that what we can’t do, God can. Tripp goes on to explain that:
“Parenting is about your humble faithfulness in being willing to participate in God’s work of change for the sake of your children… God has given you authority for the work of change, but has not granted you the power to make that change happen.”
Tripp terms this parental authority a form of exercising “ambassadorial authority”. When we choose to exercise this ambassadorial authority as representatives of God then we are truly doing gospel work.
Your Child’s Heart
One doesn’t have to search in the Bible too long to find a connection between giving, money, and one’s heart.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:21
And, as important as it is for parents to instill wise habits in their children, even including giving habits, it’s not enough if we stop at building those habits and neglect to concentrate on their hearts.
So here’s a question to consider—does the following verse apply only to us as parents, or to our children too?
"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." - 2 Corinthians 9:7
Many children (just like many parents!) start out as “reluctant” givers who are “under compulsion”, but if we count that quarter dropping in the offering plate as the ultimate goal for our children then we are falling short of God’s desire for radical heart change. When we want to give, and our kids want to give, then we can see evidence of the transformative effect of the gospel in our lives and our kids lives.
Jesus is the answer, not only for a change in eternal destination, but for a change in who we are: our identity, our sense of self, sense of purpose, our motivations and desires. In short, what the Bible calls our heart—our inner self, who we really are, the truest you on the inside—is what we want changed in ourselves and our children, and if we want our children to have that realest part of them truly transformed to have a heart for giving, then let’s point them to the only One who can effect that lasting change!
About the Author Joel Ohman is a Certified Financial Planner™, serial entrepreneur, and author. He is founder of MedicareInsurance.com, CarInsuranceComparison.com, and a number of digital media startups. He is a trustee with The Idlewild Foundation and he and his wife Angela have three young children and a Bull Mastiff named Caesar.