As a little girl, I only knew I was giving back to the Lord part of what was already His, usually as the basket was passed down the aisle each Sunday and I dropped in my two or three quarters, not thinking twice about it. I understood that giving was something the Bible encouraged a Christian to do, but I did not grasp the true meaning of my actions–why I was doing it or what blessings were available in that giving. I knew that it was good though. I knew that it was something my parents spoke of often and faithfully demonstrated themselves in a way that was not loud but that was still evident to me and my younger brother and sister.
It was because my parents explained to me the reason behind tithing, even when I was perhaps too young to fully grasp the concept, that years later as my spiritual understanding grew, I was able to take that knowledge and recognize more clearly what it meant to give and then truly begin applying it in my own life.
I am so very grateful to my parents for planting those seeds in my life at such an early age. Here are four ways you can begin instilling in your own children an understanding of what it means to give.
Talk with your children about the reason for giving –
Our reason for giving should be out of our desire to obey Christ. As believers we love God and want to honor Him and worship Him through our giving because He calls us to do so in His Word.
In Malachi we are instructed to "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it'" (Malachi 3:10). By the tithe that we give back to Him, we are given an opportunity to see God's glory and provision reflected in ways we may never have seen otherwise.
God uses the act of tithing to further His kingdom as well as to bring about change in the giver's heart.
Talk with your children about the heart of the giver –
Giving, initially rooted in obedience out of love for God, becomes an act of worship and an expression of thankfulness to His continued blessing.
I saw my parents in a time of strong financial stability, and I saw that they gave. I also saw my parents in a time of great financial need, and I saw that they gave still. It was an invaluable heart lesson for me as well as for them as Luke 6:38 was fleshed out in a beautiful display of faithfulness, both on the part of my parents and of God: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." The Lord was faithful to bless them in their faith in Him when they had every reason to doubt His faithfulness in provision.
The heart of the giver grows and thrives through such giving because an understanding is gained in knowing and seeing first hand that God is for us, and He blesses us, and He does not fail us. He is faithful to continue providing for us and strengthening our hearts in Him as we do so. In order for us to experience this harvest, however, we must have our hearts openly turned toward Him as we demonstrate graceful willingness to lay all that we have before the Lord.
Talk with your children about how to give –
God instructs us how to give in His Word when Paul encourages each of us to "give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). What a great blessing it can be to give of our resources if we are willing to do so with purpose, cheerfulness, and sacrifice.
An example of such giving is found in the book of Mark as Jesus sits and watches the rich placing their gifts in the offering box. He directs His disciples' attention to a woman who gives only two small coins and explains to them, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" (Mark 21:3-4). What little the woman had to offer is a stunning testimony of her love and willing obedience to the Lord and of her trust that God would meet her needs; she did not need to be afraid of exhausting what she had because she knew God would be faithful to provide.
Rather than storing up treasure on earth and finding confidence in financial security, it is of more merit to forego the immediate and tangible treasure for the treasure being prepared for us in heaven.
Talk with your children about what to give –
How sweet it is to watch and see that He is good as His blessings are generously poured out into us and through us as we give of ourselves through our resources. These resources, however, are not limited to money but include our talents and time as well.
Urge your children to give their time and to share their possessions and their life with other people. We read in the New Testament of Jesus spending much of His short time on earth with people–the sick and the hurting and the lost–and giving of Himself to them and to others in order to share the Gospel so that God's love for them would be known. What an example for us to follow and model for our children.
Giving in such a way presents opportunities to learn and experience the joy of giving in a very tangible way, allowing us to quickly and visibly see a portion of the blessings that are found in giving. Your child sees the beaming smile on the elderly lady's face when she is presented with a warm meal as she grieves the loss of her husband. Your child sees the wave of relief in the single mother's expression when she walks out her front door to find that her yard has been cleaned and cut. Your child sees the joy brought into the life of the boy at school who thought he had no friends until someone sat down with him at the lunch table. Through even the seemingly smallest acts of giving we become witnesses to something great in God's ever unfolding story–we become vessels of the furthering of God's kingdom as we allow His love to overflow from us and be poured out into the lives of others as Christ poured out His life for us on the cross.
There is much to say of giving–not just of the giving itself but also of the giver and the heart of the giver–of the seeds in a sacrifice given and the lessons learned in that moment of selflessness when we take a portion of what we have, hand it back to the Lord, and watch what great things He is able to do with those offerings we bring Him.
Generally, as parents, be encouraged to model giving and take opportunities to talk to your children at a young age about giving in such a way as to plant seeds. While this does not guarantee their perfect and immediate understanding or even application, those seeds are planted, and often, as children mature in their walk with the Lord, they mature in their understanding of giving and the bountiful harvest that it yields.