When our children were younger and our finances were tight, Patricia and I agreed to buy them three Christmas gifts: a book, clothing, and a toy/game. Although they were disappointed at times because they did not get the “gift” they wanted, they were generally happy and learned to handle those times. On the other hand, we noticed that birthdays (when they received all the gifts) produced some pretty stinky little attitudes. More was not necessarily better.
This verse shows that a good father will not give a bad thing if a good one is asked for; but it doesn’t promise that he will give exactly what is asked for.
John Piper gives this illustration: “But what if we ask for something that is bad for us? My little son Benjamin once asked for a cracker, and when I opened the box, they were moldy. I told him that they had fuzz on them. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about and said, “I’ll eat the fuzz.” But I didn’t give them to him. He got some other treat that day. Maybe not what he preferred. But it was good for him. He asked. I gave. But not the exact request. I love him too much for that.”
The point is that our children are not mature enough to really know what is good for them. The popular toys are not always the best. Did Barbie ever model realistic womanhood? Godly womanhood? Wholesome womanhood?
Ryan and Elita Friesen shared with us that when their four-year-old son began to ask for all the gifts that he had seen, or item after item that he saw in the store, they knew that they had to do something. This is what they did. Every time he asked for something, they told him that he would have to give away one of the toys that he already had. At four, he began to change his tune and temper his words so that he no longer asked for things. Instead of saying, “Dad, I want that,” he began to say, “Dad, look at that!”
Television and advertising plant seeds of need and greed in all of us. We begin to think as if we simply cannot get along without a certain phone, a particular toy, or the newest fashion. As impressionable as children are, it is no wonder that they succumb to the pressures of professional advertisers. Then the problem really becomes worse when we as parents allow ourselves to be shaped by the ads working through our kids. We give away what we know is best and just give our kids what they ask for. I think a little parent rebellion along this line might be good for our kids, our families, and our society.
Perhaps the best gift we could give our children is to teach them how to give.
Turning our attention from ourselves to others is a big part of maturing and a basic aspect of love.
This year, in addition to giving presents to one another, we are all chipping in some money and a pitch for our favorite cause. After discussing the worthy charities, we will attempt to arrive at a consensus on which one is the most worthy (or needy) and award our donations to that one.
Phil Tuttle, from Walk Thru the Bible, tells how his dad used to pick a needy family and involve the kids in a secret mission. They would scope out their schedule, deliver gifts to their porch, ring the doorbell, and run, diving into the car, squealing tires to make an exciting “get-away” just as the people opened the door. What a way to make it fun.
Christmas is a great time to turn our children “toward others.” Give some thought and prayer to how your family can be a blessing to someone else this Christmas. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth . . . good will toward men.” Involve your children in the process, and you will reap great dividends.