Most every parent has been there. You are walking down the store aisle minding your buisness when your child spots a brightly colored new toy. You feel the tug at your heart strings. You love your little guy and can see that the yellow ball with an odd bumpy texture is bringing him unlimited joy. But at the same time, you had not planned to buy him anything. But then you look back into those little eyes, and his kindly, sheepish grin breakouts. What do we do?
Well if you grew up in a situation similar to my background and to my wife’ background, we simply tell him, “N..O… no.” Our parents had no quandary when we asked for them stuff because they had no money. “We can’t afford that right now,” was a common mantra for both of us.
But what if we do have money, what if we can afford to buy our kids a new toy or video game when they ask? Should we do it?
On the one hand, God says it is good to give gifts. And, we should seek to imitate our heavenly father by giving our kids good things (Matt. 7:11). We should seek to loving care for our children by sacrificing our wants for their needs.
But before we rush to the checkout line with our kid’s new ball, we also need to think about what our new purchase will teach our child. Often when our child becomes fascinated with a new ball, video game, or pair of shoes, she is coveting. She is seeking satisfaction in something other than Jesus. And when we buy our kid the latest copy of Madden or the new pair of Nike’s, we are helping him pursue his latest idol. We are enabling him for a brief moment to find his happiness and identity in something other than Jesus.
And of course our kids will love us when, we give them what they want. They will try to reward us with hugs, complements, and an occasional day of good behavior. They always like it when we help them achieve their idols.
But often giving our kids the things they want is not the most loving thing a parent can do. Satisfaction, happiness, and joy are only found in Jesus. As Psalm 73:25-26 says,
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever
Consequently, we want to parent in such a way that our kids are taught to find their satisfaction in Christ. We should not throw money and time behind their every desire. We should rebuke a greedy, covetous heart and redirect it to Jesus.
And here is another thing to remember. Even if our kids get everything they want on earth, they will not be happy. Life is found is God and not in video games, shoes, or travel teams. Earthly things will eventually disappoint. Games will become outdate, shoes wear out, and travel ball eventually becomes boring. If you doubt me, just think about how many of your kids’ toys you’ve already gotten rid of.
Now I am not saying that you should never give your kid a gift. And I am not saying that we can always prevent our kids from misusing the things we give them. What I am trying to get at is this: the decision concerning whether or not to buy our kids something is bigger than the size of our budget. It goes to a heart issue. We should be willing to lovingly deny our kids things for the sake of the gospel. Love is not fulfilling our kids’ dreams. Love is pointing them to Jesus. Are we doing this?