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Giving: Needs, Wants, and What Seems Best

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During this season of giving, we are all aware of that fine line between enjoying the season, and becoming indulgent. Last time I challenged you to examine your motives behind giving, particularly when it comes to giving to your child’s wants.

What did you discover?

Most parents don’t intend to spoil their children, so is there a formula to follow to avoid giving too much?  No, but there is a biblical principle:  “While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (Hebrews 12:10 MSG).

Yes, there is a certain amount of guesswork in parenting, but I believe Hebrews 12:10 is assuring us who follow Christ that we can trust Him to guide us in doing what is best. As the Lord trains us in what He knows is best, He trusts us to use a certain amount of plain-old common sense as we seek to train our kids. So as we seek to give to our kids “what seems best,” we must sort out the needs and the wants and make some decisions.

None of us likes to disappoint our children. But we must keep in mind the greater lessons our children need to learn. Life is full of disappointments. What are the ramifications for our children if they go into adulthood not having learned how to deal with disappointment? Might they go from one job to another in search of one that doesn’t disappoint? Might they leave their marriage in the face of disappointment in search of the perfect relationship?

Furthermore, what lessons are we teaching our children when we spend beyond our means…or even when we spend within our means but to the point of indulgence?

Too much giving can make children extremely selfish. Proverbs 30:15 tells us “the leech has two daughters,” named “Give” and “Give.” We must guard against our children becoming “slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites” (Romans 16:18).

Make it a priority to teach your child how to delay gratification. The real gift you can give your child is not gratification by getting another toy, but learning to delay gratification by not getting what he wants. Remember, if your child lacks self-control, it is you who is being controlled.

Rather than getting caught up in buying tons of gifts, give the priceless gift of time. Consider making memories simply by being together. A man wrote to me about how his family did not have much when he was growing up, but his dad made the most of it: “Every once in a while he would take the family on ‘surprise outings.’ He would only tell us to get in the car. We didn’t find out where we were going until we got there. These were good times together...” Let a spirit of generosity engender a sense of family, which leads to good times together.

As you sort out giving to needs and wants in your family, keep in mind that the best thing we can give to our children is the intangible example of faith in God to supply all their needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. You cannot give your children any greater gift than that!

Sarah and I wish you a blessed Christmas season reflecting on the greatest gift of all – Jesus!


Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider