How to teach your kids about giving

Before last Christmas, our pastor gave a sermon about giving. Pretty typical, you think. But he never talks about money. Our church doesn’t even pass the offering plate (a fact that surprises a lot of people). So it stood out that week, and he addressed it upfront. “I’m going to ask you all to do something at the end of the service.” And I was thinking this was not going to go well, but should be entertaining.

The end of his message comes, and he holds up a $100 bill and says, “I’m going to give you money today. No, not $100, I’m just holding that up so I have your attention.” The gist of it was this: During communion a basket of $1 bills had been placed next to the bread. We were all to take one and keep it with us to find a certain time to give it away. Or we could keep it or forget about it and be that guy.

I loved the idea. I had never heard about anyone doing this before, although I’m sure they have. Our pastor had everyone sweating that he was going to ask them to give, but then he asked them to give in this unique way, and they were all excited. (Jesus was really good at that, turning things upside-down for good. “The last shall be first, the first shall be last” and so on.) And when I put the dollar in my wallet, I could feel it in there. Sure it was just a buck, but the lesson was worth a lot more than that.

Call me cold-hearted, but I am notorious for staring down Girl Scouts at the front of the grocery store and saying, “No thanks, but good luck today!” I get terrible looks from people when I tell them this. I am also immune to Boy Scouts selling popcorn. I know, I know, as soon as my kids hit that stage, I will be a marshmallow on this one. (Or if they ever figure out that I can’t say “no” to hot wings, I will be in trouble and broke in a short time.)

But for now I think this saying “no” is some kind of super power. But probably the same super power the Pharaoh had in the story of Moses, so not one you particularly want to have. Wait, that makes me the villain.

Anyway, my kids and I are often confronted by various people outside of Albertson’s asking us for money for good things. Most of the time I just want to shop and use that as an excuse to exercise my super power. But now that I had this dollar I was mandated to give away, I needed to use it where at least one of my children could see.

So one day I was with my older son at the grocery store, and I gave him the dollar and prepped him to give it to the Christmas bell-ringer. He was really excited and ran up to the older man, who was actually a grandpa there with his whole family. My son put it in the container, but it didn’t go in all the way, so the man gave him a wooden stick to shove it in there. I told my son to say thanks and we were on our way, but he still had the stick in his hand. I asked him to give it to the man, but he misheard me.

Instead, he ran up to the guy and gave him the biggest, gangly little-kid hug, the kind with no abandon. It really caught the grandpa and his whole family off guard, but in a good way. (I was just glad my son didn’t hurt the guy.)

They laughed and Awwed and I was completely unprepared for this and got a little teary-eyed. But I was in public so I just nodded to them and ducked into the store with my son. I was really proud of him, but at the same time I didn’t want him hugging any more random men, so I phrased my praise carefully. “Doesn’t it feel good to give to others?”

Now obviously, our kids need to see us give away more than just one dollar, but it’s the moral of the story here. They need a lifetime of lessons and examples, but each one starts with just one dollar and how we let God use it in our hands.


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