Allowing Our Children to Experience Sacrifice

At least once a year a packet is dropped into our mailbox with a large stack of photos. The photos are from ministries such as World Vision or Compassion International, photos of children waiting for someone to sponsor them. On the front, poverty is given a face. On the back, poverty is given a name and an age. Poverty becomes personal.

As I was looking through these photos, my then eight-year-old daughter, Christina, came alongside me. I decided to express my thoughts out loud. “Look at these beautiful children.  We can get so caught up in chasing after big houses and fancy cars, while children are just hoping they can have clean water and enough food to live.”  I may have been capitalizing upon a teachable moment.  I still meant every word.

I let the comment hang. My daughter said nothing while looking through a few of the photos of children her own age or younger. Then she left. About ten minutes later she came back into the room, piggy bank in hand. This sight was not uncommon due to a stuffed My Little Pony that Christina recently put on her wish list. She seemed to think that her money might just multiply by the simple act of counting it. Too bad it doesn’t work that way! This time, however, she spread out the pictures of these children across the kitchen table, and on each one of them she tried to divide her money evenly. Her money jar was left completely empty.

There are moments of pride we parents experience when our children learn or accomplish something. This moment was more than that. It was a button-bursting, knock-my-socks-off kind of pride in the character my daughter was displaying. This led to a surplus of hugs, kisses, and compliments.

Then there came a shift. As I was gathering the money that Christina wanted to donate, I began to feel bad that she was going to “lose” all the money that it took her so long to save. After all, I never buy her toys except at Christmas and on her birthday, no allowance, and I make her work hard for what she earns. Maybe I could let her keep her money and I simply donate what she offered? Maybe I could buy her the toy she had been saving money for? After all, it’s the thought that counts . . . and God says that if you sow generously then you reap generously . . .

Enter the correction of the Lord: “Am I not her God also?”

So many meanings in just one sentence. Does my daughter not owe God reverence also? Do I not believe that He’ll be faithful to Christina? Do I have a right to prevent her offering? I was reminded of a message by Ravi Zacharias in which he claimed,  “It is impossible to worship without sacrifice.” If we want our children to grow in love for the Lord, then they must experience sacrifice. There is no way around it.   Our children cannot live life through our faith, they need their own. If we prevent our children from experiencing sacrifice, then we deprive them of setting down any spiritual roots and, in turn, we keep them from growing any spiritual fruits as well.

It is ironic that the very characteristics I admire in adults, I tend to shelter my children from developing. Courage, for instance, is tested only when facing fear. As a mother, I’d rather keep fears at a distance from my children, especially lest I have to conquer my own fears for their safety! Perseverance? I’d rather not watch them have to suffer through anything for long. In this case, generosity can only be attained by being generous, not stingy. Imagine that.

G. Campbell Morgan states, “Sacrilege is centered in offering God something which costs nothing, because you think God is worth nothing” (Wherein Have We Robbed God? [Revell], p. 50). We can learn much from King David, who stood at a threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite while beholding the mighty hand of God in judgment over Israel.  The prophet Gad had given him the advice to build an altar there. Despite Araunah offering his property to the king free of charge, David replied, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

If it costs nothing, it means nothing. Jesus revealed a spiritual truth in Matthew 6:21 about the nature of our heart. He said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (see also Luke 12:34). There are two sides to this that are simultaneously true. First, what we count as treasures reveals the desires of our heart. We naturally put our time and money towards our own desires. Equally true is that we can make a conscious choice to utilize our time and money (and even words) in ways that are unnatural, yet it will direct our hearts over time. This is the principle of reaping what you sow.

God is always after the heart. Though Jesus looked upon many who offered up their large sums, it was not until a certain poor widow offered her two small copper coins that he declared in that moment, more was put into the treasury than all the others (Mark 12:41-43). She may have sown little monetarily, but it was with the riches of her heart. It’s a story worth telling over 2,000 years later.

So what did I do with my daughter’s money? I gathered it and, though the separate amounts were not enough to sponsor each child on the cards, I joyfully sent Christina’s offering to the ministry to spend on their greatest needs. I imagined that if I was proud of my daughter’s generosity at that moment, then “how much more will [her] Father in heaven” be also (see Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13).  His gifts are good, and unlike the temporal “treasures” that can distract us, His will never fade.

So to answer His question: Yes, He is her God also.

Allowing Our Children to Experience Sacrifice written by Lesley Rieland

Please consider sponsoring a child in need. 
Here are links to two ministries that I have long respected:
Compassion International’s Website  and  World Vision’s Website

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