Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal… Matthew 6:19
Before I had children I was not a woman known for generosity. I stayed safe within my comfort zone and did not budge. However, when my oldest was about five, I was awakened to the fact that if I wanted her to know generosity I would have to introduce her. It was an uncomfortable beginning, like one of breaking in a new pair of shoes, but with each decision to give of our God-given resources, it got easier.
Parenting is a daily challenge to live a life of intention rather than one of mere hope and if you desire to raise a generous child than the teaching begins now and it begins with you.
This lifestyle of giving is not one which my family acts out perfectly by any means, but here are some tidbits of raising generous children we have learned along the way:
1. Pray. Our children are not our own, so we must remember to first ask for their heavenly Father’s opinion on how to teach giving and where to give.
2. Introduce children not only to the needs around them, but also to their own excess. As children see how much they have, whether it be family finances, food, time, loving community, etc, it becomes easier for them to live a of giving. And let’s be honest, it’s not just children who need these reminders.
3. Know their giftings and passion. Children will have different causes or needs that will burden their heart and give them life. One of our children was passionate about missionaries, so she raised money for missionaries from our church. Another talks to complete strangers with abandon (which often causes my heart to skip a beat), so the homeless outreaches are a perfect setting for him… as long as he understands that the free meal is not intended for him. When encouraged in that gifting or passion, children will naturally begin to fill their thoughts with that cause and will be more apt to sacrifice for it’s good.
4. Get them involved. Children who feel their effort in giving is invaluable will gift more quickly than those forced to give or those who are thought “too young”. Get them involved early! Children as young as two can visit the dollar store and choose the cans they want to bring to the local food drive. For children three to four, the lesson of sacrifice is huge when they help pick out a really cool toy for Toys for Tots and is encouraged to give it up rather than bring it home. Five and ups can sell crafts or services to raise money for the need they want to fill. Older children can volunteer in soup kitchens and at non-profit organizations. Families as a whole can be serve together at functions for the homeless or walk together in a Pregnancy Help Center event. Brainstorm as a family on how to raise money for the needs they see in other’s lives. Some ideas might be to hold a yard sale, set up a lemonade stand, or fast from something, like dinners out, in order to give that “saved” money away.
5. Let them do the giving. Having the children do the actual act of giving challenges them as they give away that which is physical and are rewarded with the “laying up for treasures in heaven“. And as children are involved in the process of praying, thinking, sacrificing, and giving, the process becomes easier and the process, we pray, becomes a lifestyle.
… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21
What are some things your family does to act out generosity? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section.