Did you know that money can be one of the most destructive forces in the world? It can break up marriages, bring down powerful people and ruin lives. Yet, money also has the power to save lives, put people in a position to share the gospel and fulfill dreams. Whether money will be a destructive or constructive force in our lives depends on how we view it and what we think we are supposed to do with it. If we view gaining money as the goal, then we will become greedy and will hold tight to our money. If the only goal is to get more money, then money becomes a controlling factor in our lives, and not a good one. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
On the other hand, if we view money as a tool, given to us by God, to provide for our needs and to further His plans, then money is not the primary goal. With this viewpoint, we aren't owners, we're stewards. Everything we do with our money is then tested against God's plan. We control the money. The money doesn't control us.
Our attitude toward money makes a difference in how our children will view money. If we let the pursuit of money become a primary force in our lives, then our children will put the pursuit of money ahead of other things. If we teach our kids that money is simply a way that God provides for us and that our spending and saving habits should resemble His plan for money, we teach them to control money, not let money control them.
Summer is a great time to spend teaching your kids about money and how God expects us to use it.
- Take a few minutes to decide what you want to teach your kids about money. Where are they struggling? Do they struggle with generosity? Are they indiscriminate spenders? Do they understand the value of tithing? Do they save?
- If you want to teach your kids the value of saving, set a goal at the beginning of the summer. Plan to do something at the end of the summer. It can be a fun activity or purchasing something that your family wants. Set a jar or a bowl on the kitchen counter or fireplace mantle. Explain that when the bowl has enough money in it, you'll do or buy the thing you are saving for. Discuss how much each person will save toward the goal each week. When your kids get their allowance each week, put that amount of money in the bowl. Let them see mom and dad saving for this as well. When you reach your goal, talk about how saving lets us enjoy activities together without worrying about how we're going to pay for them.
- If you want to teach your kids the value of tithing, talk about how God provides us with everything we need. The Bible tells us that God is our Provider. He provides us with the money that we need to live. He simply asks that we give 10 percent to Him to help the church minister to people. Every time your kids get their allowance, help them figure out what 10 percent is and set it aside to give to God. Show your kids all the things that our tithes pay for, from the church building to the ministries that your church participates in that reach people in the community. Keep track of your child's tithe all summer. At the end of the summer, show your child how much money they tithed. Then talk about all the ways God has used that money.
- If you have older kids, start teaching them to budget their money. Having a plan for our money is vital. Otherwise, we have no idea where it goes. Summer is a great time to get kids used to living on a budget. Decide what things your child will be responsible for buying. Sit down and explain to your child that you are giving them more responsibility. Create a budget for your child -- it can be weekly or monthly. Write it down so your child can see how much money goes in each category. Then, give your child an envelope with that amount in it for each category. Explain that when the money in the envelope runs out, they'll have to wait until the next "pay period" to get more. This is a simple way to get your kids started on being good stewards of God's money.
- Work on your kids' attitude toward money this summer. If your child tends to lack generosity, spend the summer creating opportunities to give. Set a savings goal for purchasing an item that a local charity needs or to go on a mission trip. Show your kids how God can use our money for good if we are willing to give it to Him. While saving and spending wisely are important, being generous with what God has given us is an equally important lesson to learn.
Most of us will struggle with money and greed off and on all through our lives. Instilling the values of good stewardship, tithing and generosity into our kids early will give them a solid foundation from which to face those struggles. But, remember, no activity or object lesson is going to have nearly as much impact on your kids as your actions do. If you put your child on a budget but don't live on one yourself, the lesson won't have much impact. If you spend time talking about generosity, but your kids never see you give away any money, the lesson will be lost.
Be wise managers of your own money so your kids can be wise managers of theirs. Implement some of these ideas or create your own focus, but spend time this summer working on being good stewards of what God has given your family.
There's so much to say on this topic that I can't cover it all in one day. Look for a weeklong series of blogs on teaching your kids about money later this summer.