I remember when I was growing up that my Dad said many times that he wanted to give to us boys because his parents could not afford much when he was growing up. I did not get everything, but there was not much I didn't get that I wanted. So what did I get that I just had to have?
I have no idea.
I got lots of stuff and I can remember some of the stuff I had, but I certainly can't remember any gift that made my heart swell and think, "Wow! My mom and dad really do love me!" I'm sure some of the stuff I got really made me happy when I got it but over time, the joy brought by that gift was forgotten. Why is that?
We are basically born selfish and prideful. What is one of the first words we learn? "Mine!"
When parents feed that selfish desire it grows. If we continue to feed this desire it soon becomes almost impossible to turn back. When we do try to say no, we risk being pulled into psychological warfare with our little loved ones and we discover that they are really good at it. (How do they learn to push our buttons like that?)
Before we know it, we are giving to our kids out of guilt or avoidance of conflict rather than out of love.
What if we had no money to give our kids anything? What if the children in the picture above were you're own children? How would you show them that you love them if you can't give them any stuff?
It's really an easy question. We'd hold them. We'd console them. We'd give them our portion of food. We'd pray for them and do whatever we could so they did not have to scrounge for food in the streets. Basically, we'd love them.
The problem we have in America is that even most of our poor are rich. For most of us, we can feed those selfish desires in our kids until they pop. It's an easy way for us as parents to attempt to show love. It's an easy way to keep the peace. What becomes increasingly difficult is saying "no".
However, saying "no" once in awhile may be the greatest gift you can give your children. They will already have more stuff than they will ever really need and any stuff you give them will soon be forgotten. But if you can teach them that the world is not about stuff, then you have given them a great gift that will not only always be remembered, but it may just save their soul.
Matthew 19:21-22 (ESV)
21 Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.