Our children are born into a financial world of income, taxes, loans, creditors, investments—and even church contributions. Sadly, few are prepared to take the challenges of managing their finances at all, much less according to biblical principles.
Note some staggering statistics: Eighty-five per cent of divorced couples indicate financial problems were a contributing factor to the erosion of the marriage. The average score for a financial I.Q. test administered to high school students was 42%. Last year there were no less than one million personal bankruptcies.
Does the Bible address financial concerns? Absolutely! Families, and the church as a whole, would be better off if we managed money according to biblical principles. Let us note some of these principles that we need to pass on to our children.
The Bible has much to say about our disposition towards money. The love of it is a root of many evils (1 Tim. 6:10; cf. v.17). The Bible is not a get-rich-quick guide. It warns that the insatiable desire to have “things” is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Many have a strike-it-rich mentality that demands more time and attention than do spiritual concerns.
Our children need to learn from us that money, and the things it can buy, are a means to an end. They help us live, so that we can serve God.
In addition to having the right attitude about our money, we must practice biblical principles regarding management, and teach them to our children.
It is time for the cloak of secrecy to come off in our homes. We cannot expect our children to live in a financial bubble, detached from the “real world,” and then be able to become an adult, almost “miraculously,” at the age of eighteen, navigating through the financial maze.
It is our job—not the school’s nor any other’s—to ensure that our children have proper training in this area of life. Here are some biblical principles that we ought to be training our children to believe and practice.
One must work in order to earn money. Parents do their children a disservice by handing dollar after dollar to them for years, without the child ever earning that income. It is no wonder that employers are finding it more difficult to hire individuals with a good work ethic (2 Thes. 3:10).
“There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man swalloweth it up” (Prov. 21:20).
Our children need to learn the value of both short—term and long—term saving. On the short—term side—dishwashers go out, new tires need to be purchased, and clothes are outgrown. These are the kinds of expenses that often create difficulties as they “take you by surprise.” (See Mary Hunt’s suggestion in The Complete Cheapskate, Colorado Springs: Focus on the Family Pub., 1997.)
On the long—term side of saving, teach your children about Joseph, who prepared for seven years of famine—over a period of seven years—by saving. Our children should have the same kind of conviction about saving as they do about giving into the church treasury (and hopefully we have taught them to give). Charles Schwab writes that the biggest mistake people make about saving for retirement is—they don’t (Charles Schwab’s Guide to Financial Independence, New York: Crown Pub., 1998, p. 39).
There is nothing wrong with spending. Money management is not in telling your kids, “Don’t buy anything.” Rather, we must educate them on what it really costs to live. Teach your children how to spend wisely (Prov. 22:7). Shop for clothes out of season, compare grocery stores, mind the sales, etc. (Jonni McCoy, Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two Income Economy, Elkton, MD: Full Quart Press, 1996).
Teach your children that the idea of “some for the Lord, and the rest for me,” is not a scriptural view of life. Help them develop a life—like budget, on a child’s level, that will in some way imitate what they can expect later in life. When they receive an allowance, teach them to give, to save, and to help pay for things they need and want.
Read Malachi 3:8—10, 1 Corinthians 16:2, and 2 Corinthians 8:7—9 with your children. Do they know what you give to God as a family? If they don’t, would you be embarrassed to tell them? Sacrificial giving is the best investment about which you can reach your children. (See Larry Burkett’s book, Financial Parenting, Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Pub., 1996.)
Train your children to avoid financial pitfalls, with the focus on being a faithful steward of all with which God blesses us.