God Doesn’t Want Your Old Toys

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? – Malachi 1:8

old toys

Instead of retiring Woody and Buzz to Andy’s attic, Christian parents often take the toys to their church. But sadly most of the toys left on the church’s doorstep don’t resemble a freshly minted Buzz Light Year. Often the donations more closely resemble the freakishly destroyed toys of Sid’s bedroom. Nothing like a baby doll attached to a metal spider. (See the video below)  “Sally, the key is pretending that the baby doll is soft.” And if our kid’s ministries take on the feel of Sid’s room, we don’t just a have décor problem; we have a huge spiritual problem. 

The Big Problem

Every time, we donate a broken toy or drop off a stained couch at church, we declare God to be worthless. By giving God our leftovers, we are telling the world that the God who created the universe is second best. We get to Him after we take care of ourselves. Oh and God’s house, it’s nothing more than the closest Goodwill center.

God isn’t impressed by our casts offs. It’s not too hard to get why. You wouldn’t send your old couch to the Governor’s office or give his kids your broken toys in an effort to persuade him to increase teacher salaries. Why? Because the governor and his family already have nice things. Your junk will not move him to take up your cause. And your junk won’t impress God. King David expressly says that we should never give God that which costs us nothing. When we give God our worthless things, we declare him worthless. God takes offense at such actions.

The Solution

Instead of bringing junk to God’s house. Bring your best. Bring your first fruits. Drop off the new toy car at church. Bring the unblemished doll to the nursery. Go get your kids new toys, but bring the best new toy to Jesus. He is the great king. We need to treat him as such. We need to view of him as worthy of our worship, finances, and very life. To do anything else is to commit idolatry.

 We need to change our mindset by remembering what God has given us. First, we recall that God gave us physical life. And second we remember that he gives us spiritual life. In short, He gives us all things necessary for physical and spiritual life. And when we remember this truth, we cannot help but worship him with all that we have.

At the end of the day no one has to give anything to the preschool ministry. We are called to give joyfully as God moves us. But if we decided to bring toys to church, we need to bring the best toys not the broken and the discarded ones. Admittedly our best toys may not always be the newest or the flashiest. The widow’s mite brought God the more glory than all the money bags of the rich. And one of FBCE’s most popular preschool toy was used. But the toys was still a real and costly gift for that person. As such, it, like the widow’s mite, brought glory to God. At the end of the day, God is concerned with our heart more than the quantity or size of the gift.

What are we bringing to God?

Is your kid a Christian or a Materialist?

piggy bank blogIs your kid a giver? I don’t mean do they give 10% of their allowance to the church and put 10% of their $5.00 income into savings. That’s a great habit. But, the Christian is called to do more. We called to be free will givers, givers who regularly exceed their tithe to meet the needs of others. Do our kids have this heart within them?  Do we?

Why So Much Financial Debt?

I fear the answer for many of us is “no.” The average American household carries around $204, 992.00 in debt. Over $15,000 of that amount is credit card debt. This number is astronomical when compared to our average income.  The average American household salary is $55,192. If people stopped spending and devoted every dime to paying off debt, it would take the average family 3 years and 8 months to get right side up.

I mention these stats not to shame anyone but to remind us all that American culture is not about giving. It’s about materialism i.e. stuff.  The world says that joy is attained via trips to the Bahamas, kitchen remodels, and HD T.V.’s hung on the wall. And so, we Americans spend ourselves into debt, seeking meaning, hope, and value in the stuff of life.

Our kids’ world is no different. Instead of trips to the beach, stainless steal appliances and 90” T.V.’s, our kids find their value in vacations to Disney World, the newest Bratz Dolls, and the latest edition Madden. Because they come into the world as fallen sinners, kids have innate desire to like stuff. And not too surprisingly, our kids our great at encouraging us parents to buy things. According to Canadian researchers, kids directly influence everything from which cereal goes in the pantry to which software Dad puts on the computer. The natural kid excels at coveting stuff. But what about the biblical kid? What about the kid who claims to be a Christian? What should she live for?

Why So Much Giving?

The scriptures say that that the Christian kid is one who gives freely to others. Instead of using his limited income to fill his barn-like toy chest with stuff, he buys his classmate a new coat. The Christian kid counters the culture by living out the truth that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We read in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

                Our kids can tithe and save up money to fund well budgeted trips, Playstations, and concert tickets without doing anything to advance their own spiritual life and the proclamation of the gospel. The rich, younger lived for the law and missed Christ. The transformational grace of Christ should move us beyond budgeting to giving. We may not all be cheerful givers now, but this God’s plan for his children.  “God is able to make all grace abound to you.”

To be a Christian is to be a person who excitedly gives from heart as they are able. For our kids this may mean they joyfully give a classmate a pencil or send $5.00 to a missionary.  For us we may 4896996561_541b024452_obuy a homeless man a meal or donate a car to charity. The amount may vary but the heart attitude is always the same. We give generously and freely seeking to expand our faith by glorifying God through serving others.

But what if this is not our experience? What do we do when our kids struggle with giving? What happens if you struggle with giving? How do you become a cheerful giver? Let me offer 4 insights from Paul that have helped my heart.

What Do We Remember?

  1. Remember what giving is not. Giving is not an element of salvation. Giving is not to be done, “reluctantly or under compulsion” (7). No one needs to give to earn God’s favor. Nor do with give to earn the praise of our fellow men or to earn a deacon nomination. We are fully saved by the work of God on the cross apart from human effort. Giving is not a work of the law. It is an act of Grace. We don’t have to give to earn favor with God.
  2. Remember What Giving is: Giving is an act of faith. We give to reap bountifully. We give as much as we are able because we desire to grow in our faith and because we desire God to bless our lives. Many Christians have both depressed spiritual and physical lives because they don’t give. We can’t grow if we are unwilling to sow. If we our unwilling to submit our wallets to God, we cannot expect him to bless with more money. He will not encourage us to develop habits that lead us away from the throne room of heaven.
  3. Remember What God Gave: Ultimately, we are generous givers because everything we have was given to us. Giving in cyclical. We give because we have been giving things. If we have a pencil or a million dollars, we have it because God gave it to us. When we give things to others, we are handing over things that were given to us from God through other people. We aren’t giving our stuff away, we are giving away God’s stuff. Most importantly, the greatest thing we have and the only thing we can take with us after death, our salvation, is a free gift from God. God gave us the most awesome gift ever. He became poor so that we could live more abundantly (2 Cor. 8:9). If we get this truth, how can we not give?  
  4. Remember Who Gets the Glory: Often when people think of giving they think of the people getting the stuff. Biblically, this is slightly off base. Yes, we give to others because we care about people and their needs. But ultimately, we give so that God will be praised. Our giving is not based on the quality of the need. We give so that others will look at us and praise God for his work.

Giving is not a natural impulse. But it is a divine mandate. If we will stay at the foot of the cross and plead with God to change our hearts, we can and should be confident that we will become givers. Until that point, we keep reminding ourselves about the above for points.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25444930@N02/4877821682″>Babe</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Consumers or Servants

Consumers or servants“So, when do I get one,” was the perhaps most innocent and revealing questions that I have encountered from a kid.  Several of us had just spent about an hour running an energetic Easter egg assembly line consisting of hard candy, pencils, and chocolate bunnies. And as we were placing the bags and eggs back into their boxes, one kid naturally wanted to know how to get her share of the goodies. She was surprised and a touch disappointed to learn that we had been working to serve others. But on the upside, she learned an invaluable lesson: Church is not just about us.

As adults, we too need to be reminded that church is not about us.  Though we all recognize Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and know we should use our freedom in Christ to serve one another (Gal 5:13), we still at times look at church, wondering what we will get out of it. While we don’t see the church as the ticket to free candy, we see it as the ticket to free childcare, entertainment, and community.  We want other people to teach our kids, to sing for us, and to care about our problems without offering to serve those who care for us. Instead of asking, “What can we do for the body;” we ask only, “What will the body do for me?” In so doing, we downsize the radical service of the Bible to common, everyday service of self.

Love, community, and peace are not found in relaxing, fun actives or in cool worship services. They are found in radical, unnerving obedience to Christ. And being obedient to Christ means we have love God with everything and then care more about our neighbor’s needs than our own. We have to willing sacrifice for others, counting them more important than us. This calling is ridiculously hard. But to follow Christ as individual and as a church, we have to live to serve.

And, we need to teach our kids this Biblical mindset. Although I firmly believe kids’ ministry should be evangelistic (avoiding the common pitfall of training unbelieving kids to be missionaries,) I also think we need to practically demonstrate God’s love for others in front of our kids. We need to go beyond wacky Wednesday and Super Sundays. We need to include kids in mission trips, fundraising drives, and service projects. We need to help our kids see that true faith is not a call to consume but call to give.

I’ve been blessed to work with many teachers who have great ideas for serving others. What things or activities have helped your kids learn how to care for others?