Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teaching Children About Giving

As a child I was blessed to have been taken to the Lord’s worship services by an aunt and her husband. I can still remember lessons that I heard. I have no doubt that having early exposure to the church is part of the reasons I am a Christian. However, I learned little about giving. I saw adults give one dollar on Sundays. So what did I do when I first obeyed the gospel? I gave a dollar! It took time and teaching for me to learn the Lord’s instruction on giving.
How can we train our children in the matter of contributing on the Lord’s day? It isn’t really a difficult command to understand. However, a generous disposition must be cultivated in the heart. A person who fails give as required by the Lord reflects either an ignorance of what he expects, or deeper spiritual problems. A grudging giver is weak in appreciation for what God has done.
Parents ought to help young children learn about giving from the time they are very small. The reasoning behind having them place their pennies into the contribution plate is to develop a habit, but it isn’t enough instruction. As children begin to understand and are able to do a little math, they are old enough to learn about how to give. However, before children are able to “purpose,” they can learn to be grateful, which is paramount to becoming a “cheerful giver.”
Bible class teachers can help parents by teaching the many Bible history stories about people who were grateful, and who gave because of their appreciation for the Lord’s help and care. A series of lessons on thankful people would be a profitable study.
Abraham (Abram) learned of the capture of Lot, his family, and goods by marauding kings. After an exciting chase, Abraham and his 318 trained men, rescued Lot and his family and belongings.  On his way home, Abraham met Melchizadek, a priest of God, who declared that it was “God Most High” who was the true deliverer. With a thankful heart, Abraham gave a tenth of all of his goods. (Genesis 14.)
One of the few high points in the hearts of the Israelites after they were brought out of Egyptian bondage were their generous contributions to the work of building the Lord’s tabernacle and its furnishings inside and out. They gave out of “willing” hearts. They gave so much that they were restrained from giving any more! The heart is involved in contributing to the Lord’s work (cf. Exodus 35:21-29; 36:5-7).
When Daniel heard of the decree that prayer to Jehovah was against the law, he prayed and “gave thanks” even though he knew his life was at risk (Daniel 6:10).
Of course, we all know the account of the widow and her two mites. Why did she give the last that she had? Was it not that she was thankful for her life, and for the Almighty God? It surely wasn’t because she couldn’t have used those last coins in her possession. Else, the Lord would not have complimented her so greatly as being more generous than those who gave more than she (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4) (cf.
Paul concludes 2 Corinthians 9 with “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”  Paul connects a grateful heart to generous contributing to the Lord’s work as he urges the brethren to complete a previous pledge (2 Corinthians 9:5). 
From the time a child is in a cradle roll class, teachers need to be expressing thankfulness for Jesus in lessons, songs, and prayers. For none of us will obey the command to give out of selfless motives, unless we are thankful for the love of Christ for us, and the amazing gift of himself that he gave.
In his article, Giving As An Act of Worship, Wayne Jackson shows that God views giving as sacrifices of worship ( Since we are to worship in spirit and truth, we need to teach our students that the Bible does have some guidelines for giving. The new covenant does not demand tithing, as required under the Old Testament regime. It has been well argued that we are under a better covenant. So how can we give less? One may say they are unable to give a tenth. That may be true in the case of some poor widow who doesn’t have enough for her living. However, how many of us could cut down on luxuries? Those in affluent societies have become so accustomed to things/activities that are expensive luxuries, so that they are now viewed as necessities. Many of our children’s activities are expensive. Children benefit more by teaching them that giving comes before the extras. When God comes first, so does giving.
It will be beneficial for children to learn early in life that giving is to be done every first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2-4). (Note that some of the later versions include the word every translating the Greek word kata.)  Proportionate giving can be easily taught, using coins as visual aids, children old enough can grasp the idea. With effort, a series can be developed using several Bible stories, and the examples of Christians recorded in the New Testament (Barnabas, the Macedonians, the Philippians, etc), and providing some instruction on how and when to give.
If the children in our congregations were taught from early childhood about giving from thankful hearts, would not the church be able to do much more evangelizing in the next generation? May parents and teachers make every effort to help children grow in this grace also (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Recommended Reading:
Mac Layton - This Grace Also
Melissa Lester - Giving For All It’s Worth