Teaching Children Biblical Stewardship
My almost 5-year-old son recoiled from his sandwich. With passion in his voice and fire in his blue eyes, he bellowed, "This isn't what you like, Mama! This is what Daddy eats." My last hope for another mayonnaise devotee in our family was dashed. But there in the ashes of my defeat a more important lesson arose.
Seizing a Deuteronomy 6:5-8 moment (teaching biblical values as you go), my wife, Melanie, explained with effortless ease, "Miracle Whip — the kind Mama likes and you wanted on your sandwich — was not on sale.
When it goes on sale, we'll get some." Our preschooler continued to protest about his preferred sandwich spread. Yet Melanie, ever ready, replied, "Let's pray about it."
And they did. Right then. And for the next few days. My wife and son prayed for — among many other things — a sandwich spread sale. It's a good reminder: Nothing is too small to pray about with our children. Such childlike faith is a virtue Jesus commended to adults as well (Luke 18:16-17).
Smile with me at the outcome: God's sovereignty extends even to the condiment aisle in a grocery store.
Melanie found a great sale. Used a coupon, too. My son got his Miracle Whip. But most importantly, he learned about prayer, contentment, patience, and stewardship. My family calls it the Miracle Whip Miracle.
God calls it faith.
God desires each of us to walk so closely with Him that we depend on Him for everything (2 Corinthians 5:7), even sandwich spread. And when we do, we open ourselves to occurrences beyond our imaginations (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Spreading TruthAs Christ-following parents, we're privileged to train our children for biblical living. This begins with our convictions developed through Bible study and prayer and extends to Deuteronomy 6 moments with our kids, sharing biblical truths as we experience life together. This process should be the norm for believing parents. There's no greater joy than experiencing the work of a sovereign God together with our children.
This principle holds true for teaching children values for financial stewardship. Melanie and I teach our kids about earning money through age-appropriate chores and honest work. Then we provide them with a method to divide their earnings among savings, giving, and spending whether through a special bank, envelopes, or even jars labeled in three parts.
Biblical stewardship is where God's ownership and our use intersect. Christians realize that everything we might call our own is a gift from God for our use to bring glory to Him. He's the owner (Psalm 24:1). We're the stewards (Colossians 3:17).
When we use what He has given us for His purposes, that's biblical stewardship. That includes our time, talents, and treasures. Our treasures so often control our hearts (Matthew 6:19-21). And our values control our behavior. God desires good things for us (Matthew 7:9-11), but we sometimes desire more than is necessary for ourselves. Spending cash we've earned illuminates our needs brighter than our wants. Clarity of God's provision for our needs is bedrock biblical stewardship (Philippians 4:19).
Dressing LessonsSo, what are the biblical stewardship values that we should be teaching our children? The following five values complement one another in earning, saving, giving, and spending money by good stewardship practices.
1. UtilityWhen should we get a new one? I drive a 1996 Saturn. My kids have stopped asking when I'm going to get a new car. Every time they did, I'd reply, "This car will be like the Israelites' sandals [Deuteronomy 29:5-6]; it won't wear out until God wants us to have a new one." Not having a car payment has allowed my family to do so much more with our money. My car models the value of utility. We use something as long as it's useful. We don't go buy a new fill-in-the-blank because it's cool or because we want to or even because we can (1 Timothy 6:6). We choose instead to steward our resources with utility that allows for savings and giving to long-term, generous, and kingdom endeavors.
2. Frugality"Do we have a coupon?" Our kids ask this question almost without fail when it comes to any purchase. Melanie and I are not cheap, but we do like a good deal, and we're teaching our kids to like the same. We buy things when we need them, and we buy them when they're on sale. My wise wife says, "Everything goes on sale sooner or later." Being frugal may not always mean waiting for a sale. It may be asking, "Would you take X amount for this instead?" It may be offering, "I'll give you Y amount in cash for it today." Whatever your means of frugality, do it. Frugality provides better utility and often better quality. And it allows for more generosity (Proverbs 13:11). Frugality is not cheap; it's wise stewardship.
3. QualityWhat's it really worth? This value becomes rooted in children when they must earn their own money. When a child has household chores to earn a dollar or when a teen sweats all day outside for a wage, that money means more. Hard work instills the spending pause to consider what an item is truly worth. Often children will handle their personal earnings with far more utility and frugality than they will money given by another. The value of quality may be slightly different for adults. We may buy a more expensive product knowing that an item will last longer and that it has a guarantee.
4. GenerosityHow much can we give? An 8-year-old friend gave my Miracle Whip kid a whole set of Mr. Potato Head toys. You should have seen the joy: one in the giving, the other in receiving. This same picture is mirrored by many in our church family as we share clothes and resources with one another. We're commanded to share with others in need (Hebrews 13:16). And we're promised joy in return. We must model generosity for our children. When we practice utility, frugality, and quality, this frees us to give generously. We model each of these biblical values for our children, and, most importantly, we tithe of the income God provides. God has promised that when we tithe, He will bless us (Malachi 3:8-10; Proverbs 3:9-10). Take this step of faith. See what God does. And take that step, as with all of life, with your children, that they might learn such life-changing faith, too.
5. SovereigntyWhat doesn't belong to God? It happens every year. God stirs the heart of a child in order to teach us adults. During a special offering at church, at least one child will give everything he has in his piggy bank. Everything. Like the widow offering her two coins (Mark 12:41-44), they demonstrate such faith. We adults might scoff in dismissal, yet we should be broken instead. God's sovereignty is the ultimate value. Everything belongs to Him. We are His stewards, and stewardship is a sacred trust. We trust in Him for everything (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Our children can learn big life lessons through little things like sandwich spread. Let's choose to live biblical values with them and teach those values every opportunity we get.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.
Aaron Householder makes sandwiches and does every other daddy-fied thing he can imagine in Lincoln, Neb., where he's the senior pastor of Southview Baptist Church. For more of his slice of life lessons, visit aaronhouseholder.net.