What do our kids value? What will they hold onto as they grow up and leave our homes? What will be the things that drive their lives and ignite their desires? While we can get a small glimpse of what they might become by looking at them now, looking at ourselves will probably give us a better picture of how they'll turn out. What we value will likely become what they value.
Don't Value This World
If we care about our kids’ souls (which I'm sure we do!), then we need to teach them not to love this world, but the promised kingdom.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:35-36
And that starts by us living for Jesus. Now I could easily just sit here and tell you to focus on the next life, don’t live for the now; YOLO is wrong; etc etc. But the problem is, we still live in this world. We still need to operate and exist here. How do we both live in this world and ‘lose our life’ at the same time? Well Paul said it quite well:
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 9:29-31
Although we do need to buy things, as Christians we've got a perspective that stops us from being consumed by them. They’re not ours to keep. They are gifts from God that we can receive with thanks and then look after. But they are here today and gone tomorrow. And so we don't become engrossed by the things of this world. That means we will say no to the majority of comforts that we (us personally, not someone else) would otherwise get. And if you're honest with yourself, this is really hard!
And Our Kids?
But how on earth do we teach this to our kids? Our kids, that is, who are yet to learn, or still coming to terms with, the idea of delayed gratification. A future kingdom that they cannot see now! How on earth can we help them capture this concept? Well it begins with us and what we value. We need to be training our hearts to yearn for Christ. To long for glory. We need to remind ourselves that the things of this life are ash compared to the fruits of heaven. And then, we can aim to train our kids. Here are a few ideas as we go about that:
Help your kids realise that the stuff that they love, be it toys, pets or guitars, really belong to God. They are just on loan. Rather than talking about this thing as ‘mine’, refer to it as ‘borrowed from God’. Another thing you can do is talk lightly of the things you’ve got. I’ve got a friend who refers to his possessions as his ‘junk’. He wants to help his family keep their hearts in check when it comes to their stuff. You can care for things, but help your family keep them in perspective with the way you talk about them.
We want to help our kids view and use money appropriately. Repeat to your kids that money can’t buy happiness or make them special. Introduce your kids to money, and help them see that what they buy can be good, but won’t ever fulfil them. Oh that toy you bought broke? Another friend of mine would use the phrase, ‘it’s only money’ when giving it away generously. He’d be training his family not to think of money higher than they should. And then we can help them to use their money for things that will last.
Here are some questions to ask yourselves: Do you have time for soccer training, but not the Bible? What will win between rep sport and church? What do your kids think gets you more passionate; sport or singing about Jesus? When sport takes priority over our Christian habits and responsibilities, we are training our kids to value their sport over their soul. Talk about expectations at the start of the season. Explain why church will always win. Explain why going pro isn’t an option they really want anyway, because going pro will require a commitment to the sport that ought to be reserved for Jesus. And this goes for us in our own adult sport too! What training nights, fun-runs, competitions, one-off events are you putting before church or Bible Study? Your kids will see that and value those kinds of things over church as well. (They likely won't understand the concept that it is a one-off, or that you are at church 51 other weeks of the year - they will only see you put something else ahead of church that week).
Do your kids have FOMO? One of my sons freaks out at the thought that he might miss seeing either of the garbage trucks on Thursday mornings. How do we help our kids not so desire that excursion, that concert, that playground, that overseas trip without experiencing misery if they miss out? Help them long for Jesus. Talk more excitedly about the forever with your saviour king. Talk about experiences as good, but temporary. Regularly speak of eternal glory with a glint in your eye and a wild smile crackin.
5) Check this out
Colin Buchanan has a cracker song on this topic called The Things of the Lord. Have a listen with your kids (even if they're older). Here is an old school video of the song:
There are so many things we can do to help our kids live for the next world. But ultimately, we want them to see Jesus as of supreme value. So help your kids to keep everything else in perspective next to him.