by Sharon Ely Pearson
The single best thing parents can do is to practice Christian generosity in the sight of their children. Children learn by example, and parents are their foremost teachers Particularly if you have a tradition of family giving, you should take care to make the gospel of Jesus Christ the main thing, rather than the family legacy. Family legacy, while a good thing, cannot motivate true Christian generosity. Parents must teach their children to be committed first and foremost to Christ and his kingdom. Anything else, family included, must take second place.
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
With that warning, there are certain steps parents can take to train up their children well:
- Teach them to associate money with labor.
- Teach them to save.
- Give them opportunities to practice giving.
- Take them with you to serve the poor.
- Teach them some basic financial planning tools.
- Teach them by example how to live simply.
- Show them how family finances work.
- Teach them that many things are more important than money.
At what age should children start learning about generosity? As early as they can understand. Of course, just when this time comes may not be entirely clear to parents. But the words of Moses from Deuteronomy to the people of Israel are relevant in this regard: “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” By the things parents say and do in the home, day in and day out, they teach their children how to live.
Of course, different measures will be appropriate to different ages.
- Toddlers may watch you put money in the offering plate.
- School-age children may give out of their allowance.
- Adolescents may give out of their own babysitting income.