truly safe? (what we want for our kids: financial security)

My first post in this series, on wanting a great career for our kids, threw up a whole load of complex ideas and thoughts – so much so that I’ve broken them down into three main areas. The last post was on status, the next will be on gender roles – and, right now, I’m looking at financial security.

I think probably many of us are happy to admit we want ‘financial security’ for our children as they fly the nest and become independent – but when we stop and question what our definition of ‘security’ actually is, we might find ourselves becoming unstuck.

For example, we may think of things like: having a job which pays the bills, being able to buy a house, paying into a decent pension scheme or having a savings account. But are these things actually ‘secure’? The financial crash of 2008 is not so far into our history that we should forget that these things can and do go wrong. Financial ‘security’ in this sense can never be 100% secure.

However, when Jesus said “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19), I’m not sure it was so much a comment on how insecure these treasures are, but on how secure Kingdom treasure is. He goes on to talk about wordly treasures being destroyed by moths and rust, or stolen by thieves. Well, in this age of online banking and increasing numbers of cashless payments, the first two dangers aren’t so relevant, and the third is certainly a lot harder than it was in Biblical times – but the point here is that however secure we make our worldly treasures, however advanced our technology and alarm systems and police presence – still Kingdom treasure is way more secure. Why? Because it lives with God, untouched by any of the threats that could endanger earthly treasure.

So, if not placing our security in finances, then in what? I take “treasures in heaven” to mean a variety of different things, all with the common strand of being an ‘investment’ in our relationship with God. It could be an ongoing prayer relationship, a moment of revelation through Scripture, a word or a prophecy over our lives, a deepening of our walk with God, a powerful worship experience, a fresh idea for enabling God’s blessing to be poured out in a community, the unity of a group of Christians working together for good, the delight of seeing a friend come to Christ for the first time, or draw closer to Christ, the joy of addictions being broken, debts paid off, abusive relationships come to an end, the triumph of good over evil…and I could go on. Any investment in our relationship with God is safe forever – 100% safe, 100% secure.

So onto our children…do we really want them to have ‘financial security’? I certainly want mine to have security, but it seems that this probably doesn’t come from finances. Indeed, it seems that in trying to aspire to the wrong sort of security  for our children, we may actually expose them to more danger. Whilst we try to protect our children from financial failure, we may be opening them up to temptations and distractions which may draw them away from Jesus. Is that what we want for our kids? Or do we want them to know and enjoy a life thrown onto God the Rock, knowing His security and trusting in His provision?

At this point, the financially prudent amongst you will be saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s all very well – but how does faith pay the bills?” Well, I could tell you about our friend who worked two years for our church unpaid. It was tough – but God sustained him through free accommodation and the occasional financial gift from others. I think this friend would tell you that one of the things God was crafting in him during this time was a simpler, more sacrificial lifestyle, and a greater awareness of the value of material things, having grown up in a fairly affluent home. I could tell you about my friends who raise their child on one less-than-full-time salary – but still make ends meet. Their story is one of rejecting what the world tells them their child ‘needs’. I could tell you about my friends who, due to great generosity throughout their adult life, entered their 70s in a rented property, unable to buy their own home for all they’d given to others. God provided them a fantastic home with low rent, guaranteed till they go to be with Jesus. Their story is that when you seek God’s kingdom first, ‘all these things will be given to you as well’.

Do you see? When Jesus asks us to invest in heavenly treasures, He doesn’t just abandon us to it, but comes good on His promise to provide everything we need. Perhaps the reason we don’t teach this to our children is because we’re not quite sure we believe it ourselves.

I hope you know of stories like this in your own life, or the lives of your friends. If not, perhaps you need to make a few new friends! In any case, as I raise my kids, I know I need to be very careful about what sort of ‘security’ my lifestyle promotes. Here are some ideas to avoid this:

  1. Read the gospels. OK, so I’ve said this before. But there’s no counter-attack to the values of our society than Jesus’ radical lifestyle and claims. As we get to know better the Jesus who had nothing, yet wanted for nothing, and as we read about the topsy-turvy generosity of the Kingdom (a young boy giving his packed lunch for a crowd of thousands, a widow giving her last remaining coins), we can’t help but be transformed into Kingdom-investers.
  2. Practise these values with your kids. Consider carefully your material purchases for them. Kingdom kids will not have everything their friends have. Model this yourself, and nurture it in your children. My kids see me wearing second-hand clothes, and know that there’s no shame in preloved!
  3. Tell, and re-tell, the stories of God’s generosity in your life – to your kids as well as to yourself.
  4. Hang around with others who have faith-filled stories to share. Let your kids see that Jesus is 100% secure, and totally unshakeable. He will not succumb to a financial crash!
  5. Practise generosity. Kids are SO good at this – they just can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t give all their money away to kids who need it! (They don’t have to pay the bills – this probably has something to do with it!) Research charities and missions around the world. Watch the news with your kids, so they can see true suffering. If opportunities arise, take them to places where they will experience those who are suffering, first-hand. I was shaped by such trips in my teens.

Friends, we do this together. I fall into the trap of wanting salaries, savings and pensions as much as the next person. These things are not sinful in themselves – of course they are often the main way God provides for us – but they’re not what we prioritise. I’ll say it again, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). We don’t need to worry – He has it all in hand.

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7 Replies to “truly safe? (what we want for our kids: financial security)”

  1. Totally agree with storing up treasure in heaven, rather than here on earth & and societal pressure is hard to move against.

    However, and maybe just to be contrary, yes we hear of amazing gifts of Gods provision – but that has got to come from somewhere! Somebody else is achieving worldly security in one form or another or perhaps coupled with heavenly security to give generously and provide to another individual in need.

    Or perhaps, because they are seeking heavenly security they are able to give it away with ease…

    Proverbs has in an interesting take on security – teaching about the wise housewife who’s not worried about the winter, or the house saving for the future., rather than being rash.

    Overall some great thoughts to mull over. Also, in terms of great examples of Gods Provision / no interest in worldly security is George Muller ( I’m biased having lived in a community house for 2+ yrs in Bristol), but what he achieved on prayer alone is stunning.

    W.

    1. I do believe that when we ‘seek God’s Kingdom first’, God will give us everything we need – and, for some, that will include great riches which, in turn, are used to resource other parts of His kingdom here on earth. But I also know that wealth can be distracting and blinding, and seeking it first, above heavenly treasures, leads to hearts which aren’t bent towards Jesus first and foremost, and God doesn’t work as dramatically with us in this state. Some of the most generous people I know are not wealthy by the world’s standards – and we all know that there are some stupidly rich people in our world who, proportionally, give very little of their income! So – God’s logic is not ours 🙂 I love the little I know of George Muller – must look him up and get to know him more! Thanks for your comment.

  2. On the flip side, I come across an awful lot of Christians who are so keen not to make a god of mammon that they demonise financial security and those who have it. There are many wealthy Christians who are very generous. And instances of poorer Christians who use “living by faith” as a cover for, frankly, laziness, not using their talents, and irresponsibility. I think these are as sinful as greed, especially when you have a family. Why should someone else provide for you when you’re perfectly able to? To extend the argument, I also know of Christians giving up work or opting for low paid work when they’re capable of more, and surviving with tax credits and other benefits. That means that those handouts can’t benefit someone else who is really in need. But as the church, we applaud them for this!

    Money – or financial security – doesn’t command a particular value in and of itself. It’s the heart attitude. I know you know and say this, but I can see all too often examples of excesses on both sides (whilst it is usually just the greed or lust for money that we talk about).

    1. I agree that we shouldn’t be lazy or sponge off others just because. The Bible says to avoid laziness and to do the ‘good works’ God has intended for us to do. But, personally, I haven’t seen many examples of this happening, so I would imagine it’s a minority of those taking advantage? The people you know who live off faith – presumably they DO something with their time? Christians who give up work and live off a lower salary and/or benefits may well be doing something with their time which is of incredible value to their communities (not to mention God’s Kingdom!), e.g. running voluntary groups, connecting with vulnerable people, leading ministries, and other things for which there is no salary. You’ll have noticed that my three examples of those who put the Kingdom above their financial status are all hard-workers – none of them are sitting on their backsides!

      Yes, there are problems with both excesses – but, quite honestly, do you see a large number of Christians doing nothing and sponging off others? Or are we more-than-slightly influenced by the culture around us when speaking negatively of those who collect benefits/work fewer hours than they could/work in a lower position than they could?

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