Teaching kids about money is a tricky thing. The risks seem so high! Screw it up one way and your son will grow up to be Ebenezer Scrooge…or err in the other direction and your daughter will be jobless and living in your basement into her forties. So there’s a good chance many of you who are older and wiser will torch me for this post. But I’m wondering if—for those of us with first-world problems, anyway—teaching kids about money should involve raising them to believe they’re rich.
I know, I know…raising kids to believe they’re rich SOUNDS like a bad idea. You immediately think that you’ll be releasing yet another batch of spoiled brats into the world. But hear me out.
I was raised in what would probably be considered a lower-middle class family. My parents busted their tails, and we had enough through God’s provision and their hard work. Teaching kids about money was a job they took very seriously; we learned to save, tithe, and avoid debt. And they challenged my brothers and me to do better than they did. I wouldn’t change a thing about my upbringing.
My wealth gauge is incorrect, or perhaps altogether broken.
At some point as a young adult, however, I picked up and began to carry a false sense of scarcity and poverty. With it came the tendency to save (hoard?) beyond what I need…and I’m not sure that’s the healthiest thing. “What if I need this someday? Why don’t I keep an extra one just in case? What if I don’t have enough?”
I have a family of my own now, and we live comfortably in the American middle class. But the truth is that my “average” middle-class lifestyle is incredibly lavish on a global scale (check out GlobalRichList.com, by the way, to see where YOU rank among the world’s super-rich). And my “enough” is far beyond what the rest of the world needs to survive. I’m realizing that my wealth gauge is incorrect, or perhaps altogether broken.
A few things have caused me to rethink wealth and money. Several years ago, I was able to travel to Haiti for a few days to see poverty first-hand. I’m also part of a neat church that talks about money, global poverty, and what Christians should do about it. Oh, and I had a crazy eye-opening encounter with Big Mike.
“If you need money, ask my dad. A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s rich.”Big Mike
Big Mike is a high school student in our church’s youth ministry (yes, I’ve changed his name for the sake of this post). He’s big. He’s a close-talker. And he’s a hugger. Big Mike isn’t like any other kid in our group…and that’s a good thing. I had lunch with Big Mike and Anne (this isn’t her real name, either) a few years ago. Anne told us that she’d decided to start raising funds to go on a mission trip. I encouraged her to let us know how we could be involved. Then Big Mike said something that still echoes in my brain: “If you need money, ask my dad. A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s rich.”
At first I laughed…that isn’t exactly something you hear every day. But then the beauty of it started to sink in. Big Mike wasn’t bragging. He was being totally sincere. He knew that if someone needed money for something important, his dad could provide. And for those of us who are Christ-followers, doesn’t that model EXACTLY what we should believe…that our Father is rich and ready to provide when a need arises?
So my wife and I are telling our kids that we’re actually pretty rich. But it can’t end there, or else they’ll probably become complacent and self-entitled. Teaching kids about money (for us, anyway) involves teaching the repsonsibility that comes with wealth. Because we’re rich, we have a responsibility to help others (I’m not making a political point here as much as I’m encouraging personal action). And we’re hopeful that—like Big Mike reminded me—our kids will learn that they have a rich Father who can meet needs at a level beyond their wildest dreams.
“Tell [the rich] to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” (NLT)Paul, in his first letter to Timothy