“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us…!” 1 John 3:1
It’s no coincidence that we started this week’s look at generosity with a story about a little boy. Children are often our best teachers.
Years ago during the week of my birthday, our family decided to go for a leisurely stroll through our local shopping center. Ryan, who was eight at the time, opened his piggybank and took out five dollars he had been saving for something special. As we walked along, window shopping and enjoying being together, Ryan announced that he wanted to have some time alone to go to the toy store and pet shop. We set a time and place where we would meet, and off he went. In about thirty minutes, he came walking up with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
Ryan said, “Here, Mom, this is for your birthday. But you can open it right now!” By the look on his face, it was obvious that he felt strongly about my opening the gift right there in the middle of the mall. So we found a nearby bench. He announced his present had cost a lot of money. (He had spent the entire five dollars on it.)
As shoppers filed by, he watched excitedly while I carefully unwrapped the package. Gazing down at its contents, I was suddenly filled with emotion. His present wasn’t anything he could have found in a toy or pet store. It wasn’t even something you’d expect to receive from an eight‐year‐old boy. There in my lap was a lovely desk set. The ostrich‐feathered white pen looked like an old‐fashioned quill that Ben Franklin might have used to sign the Declaration of Independence. The stand was padded in matching white, with a spray of pink flowers delicately painted around the edges.
My eyes brimmed with tears as I hugged and thanked my son for such an extravagant gift. It has been many years since that day, and I still treasure that pen as a reminder of Ryan’s spontaneous gift of love.
Most of us are too inclined to keep our purses or wallets shut tight against the opportunities for giving that are all around. Or when we give, we give what’s convenient or interesting to us, not to the recipient.
In our marriages, we have so many chances to practice childlike, unrestrained generosity—with no ulterior motive, necessity, or expectation in mind. The more we give and receive that kind of love, the more we will experience the love of God in our homes. I think the apostle John had something like “unrestrained generosity” in mind when he wrote, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
“Blessed is the man…whose confidence is in [the Lord].”Jeremiah 17:7
Matt, visiting his parents with his wife and two young sons, was in a reflective mood. While taking a walk with his father, he remarked, “You know, Dad, while I was growing up, I sort of had the feeling that you didn’t have a clue about this parenting stuff. But now that I’m a dad myself, I’m starting to change my mind. You’re getting smarter every year!”
Raising healthy, educated, self-disciplined children who love God and their fellow human beings may very well be the most challenging responsibility in living. It’s an unbelievably complex assignment. And of course, the job is even tougher in a culture that tries to undermine everything we do at home. Yet too many moms and dads today are complicating the task by taking on unnecessary guilt, fear, and self-doubt. I don’t believe that is what God has in mind!
The Scriptures clearly tell us that children are to be considered a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3–5), and that the privilege of raising them should be a wonderful, joyful experience. He has granted parents the authority to raise their sons and daughters: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). And when parents depend on Him to teach and lead their families, they can act with confidence: “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:4–5).
We will make mistakes in bringing up our kids. Fortunately, however, we are not asked to do everything perfectly as moms and dads. Our children usually manage to survive our mistakes and failures and turn out better than we have any right to boast about. They may even figure out that we did know what we were doing most of the time!
When problems flare up in your family, I know how easy it is to second-guess your parenting decisions. But God did not entrust you with this job by accident. As long as you choose to obey the Lord and dedicate yourselves to raising your children according to the principles outlined in Scripture, no one can better fill the role of parent for your wonderful sons and daughters than you. When you are confident in Him (Jeremiah 17:7), you can be confident parents.