God’s Gifts Won’t Make Our Kids Happy

Regardless of their budget, culture, or age, parents enjoy seeing their kids happy. They take them to Disney World, build those ridiculously hard to assemble Little Tikes Toys, and even buy them a goat. They do all this and more becaue they love their kids. Jesus put it this way,

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

In a very real sense, we love giving our kids things because this reflects the heart of our creator. It’s a natural impulse because God create us to follow him. god's good gifts

But as with all human impulses, this impulse can become tainted by sin. As we try to give our kids good things, we can sometimes miss the mark. We can sometimes give them things that actually lead them away from Jesus. So how do we ensure that we give them the right things all the time?  We look to Jesus.

Look To Jesus

In Mark 3:7-10, we discover that Jesus is really popular. He was more than trending on social media. His ministry blew the roof of the media world of his day. The stories of miraculous healings and exorcism had reached a fevered pitched. People from all over the ancient world were flocking to Jesus. They were all desperate to touch him and be healed. And what did Jesus do? He withdrew. He got into a boat and sailed a little way out to sea. That’s right, Jesus put an end to the healing frenzy. He stepped away from some of the neediest people of his day. And why?

He wanted to offer them something more. He wanted to give them eternal life. While Jesus knew that healing was a blessing, he also knew that his blessing did not save. God’s good gifts of heal and wealth did not fix people’s sin problem. And so, Jesus withdrew to preach, to teach, and to offer them that which never expires. He offered them himself, eternal life, peace with God.

As parents, we need to learn from our Lord and savior. We need to realize that good gifts do not equal God. We need to understand that paying for a kid’s college education, buying them a car, or sacrificing everything for their sports career does not equal their salvation and happiness. And we need to come to grips with the reality that it is possible to focus on and enjoy God’s good gifts and yet miss God.  As Jesus later said in Mark 8:36,

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

From Gifts Back to God

So how do we keep our kids focus on God? How do we be like Jesus and make sure our audience knows that Jesus and not cars, careers, or trophy’s satisfies? First and foremost, we preach the gospel. We teach our kids at home via family devotions, conversations, and our actions. Second, we pull back worldly gifts when we see them leading our kids away from Christ. If the gift of a great education leads our child to sloth, if a car makes our child irresponsible, and if focusing on their sports career leads them to boasting, we pull all these things back. Again none of these things are wrong or evil or bad. But if they lead to sin, we should pull them back in hopes of refocusing our kids on Christ.

At the end of the day, we will all reach a point when God’s good gifts stop having value. We will all die. And when death comes, what will our kids be trusting in? Will they be trusting in God’s gift or the savior who came to seek and save the lost?

The Depressing Reality of Kids’ Sports

depressing reality of kids sports 3Having spent most of my high school and college years coaching or being a Little League umpire, I have witnessed the power of freshly cut, chalk-stained grass to transform soccer moms and carpool dads into rabid lunatics. Sadly, even Christian parents get sucked into the screaming, chanting, (and occasionally throwing things, too!) and coach criticizing until Mr. Jekyll has completely transformed their once sweet smiles into snarled anger.  Why do we fight with officials, other parents, and coaches? Why do we go nuts at our kids’ sporting events?

The answer is easy. We have lost our God-centered perspective. We have begun to worship our kids’ sporting successes. We find happiness in tournament wins and batting averages. And because no amount of MVP awards can make us perfect and complete, we become bitter, snarky people, willing to win at all cost in hoping to feel warm inside. To experience a joyful and fulfilled life, we need to continually remember the true value of sports and the awesomeness of God.

The Depressing Reality

According to recent studies, approximately 2,000,000 girls between the ages of 12-18 are playing softball. Once they graduate from high school, there are only 30,175 available roster spots on college and junior college teams and 36 USA national team spots. This means that about 1 to 2 out of every 100 girls has a chance of playing collegiate softball at any level (http://www.scholarshipstats.com/softball.htm). And only about half of those who play in college will receive an athletic scholarship. And only about 2 of every 100,000 girls will get to play for the USA team (Ibid).

Guys fair little better. Of the 5 million guys playing baseball between the ages of 6-18, only 1 out of every 1000 will have the chance to play in the MLB or the minor leagues (Wallerson, 2014). Of the 3.2 million boys throwing footballs around only .0005% of them will ever walk into an NFL stadium as a player (Ibid). And only .00008% of those guys dribbling the b-ball will sport an NBA jersey (Ibid).

In short, unless a kid has the talent of a Kerry Wood or a LeBron James, the probability of him or her becoming a professional athlete is next to none. Regardless of how many tournaments a kid plays in or how much we scream, most kids will never make it to the “next level.” Most will walk away from their bats and balls before the next ten years are up. Let’s take a deep breath and enjoy our kids’ amatuer sports, remembering games are just games. But if we make our kids’ sports career an idol, we will be disappointed and will frustrate our kids by placing unrealistic expectations on them. Most kids won’t go pro even if they truly wanted to play in the NFL.

God Is Way Better Than Little League

footballMore importantly, we need to always remember that God is way better than a Little League World Series title. Instead of shady hotels, hot metal benches, and bug infested hotels, God offers us joy, life, and hope. Being the creator of the universe, he delivers every time. He proves his love for us by sending his son to die for us. He responds to our prayers, giving us more than we could ever dream of. The God who created Venus and Mar loves you and me enough to bless us with houses, cars, good churches, and beautiful families! If we begin to think that a room full of plastic trophies or that the fame that comes with being the parent of a professional athlete is better than God, we are crazy. Jesus gave us the money to buy those trophies and our kids the skills to play. Let’s worship the Creator instead of the creation.

Ultimately, whether we have a pro or just another “good” player on our hands, we always need to keep Christ first in our family. Our children can be great athletes, become famous, and still go to hell (Mat. 16:26). Sports are not bad, but we need to always place them second behind Christ.

Let’s engage kids’ sports with a heaven-centered perspective. Let’s focus first on living for Christ. Let’s pass on Sunday tournaments, let’s speak kindly to coaches, and let’s spend more time in the Word than on the road trips. Then, let’s point our kids to Christ, actively teaching them how to be godly men and women. Our kids are watching us and will pick up our values: good or bad. As Pastor Art Murphy comments,

It saddens me when I see parents who have made time to volunteer for Little League…but have not made time for their children’s spiritual or church life. This speaks volumes to children about what their parents value the most. – Murphey, p. 95

If we do not sacrifice softball for Christ, we cannot but help sacrifice Christ for softball, exchanging eternity for a slim chance of fading fame.

Works Cited

Murphey, A. (2000). The Faith of A Child: A Step-By-Step Gueid to Salvation For Your Child . Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Stats, S. (2013). http://www.scholarshipstats.com/softball.htm. Retrieved September 22, /2014, from NCAA.com: http://www.scholarshipstats.com/softball.htm

Wallerson, R. (2014, 1 31). The Wall Street Hournal . Retrieved September 24, 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579350892629229918.