My husband and I have been heavily influenced in the area of finances from our families of origin and the teachings of Larry Burkett. We were both taught to earn, save, and tithe. I recall when my older sister got her first regular babysitting job. She earned $12 per week and divided her money into four envelopes. Written on the envelopes were Savings, Tithe, Spending, and Presents. I was amazed at how quickly she saved enough money to purchase a small black and white television set for our bedroom. On many occasions I was the happy benefactor of the Presents envelope. When I began babysitting I followed her example. My husband grew up on a farm in Nebraska and had the opportunity to manage his own business raising sheep, chickens and goats. Thus he also had opportunity to manage money and make money decisions. Larry Burkett was a strong proponent of training children financially beginning with preschoolers. The following are some of his guidelines:
- Pay them only for jobs that are completed.
- Pay for quality work. Have a strict work performance code for teenagers.
- Pay fairly, within your budget, but don’t overpay because you can afford it.
- Reward extra effort.
- Teach your children the “sharing” principles from God’s Word.
- Teach your children to save.
- Teach principles of budgeting.
- Get and use a checking account.
- Get and responsibly use a debit/credit card.
- There are no allowances in the real world.
As soon as a child is able to earn money they can also learn to manage it. Begin with a very simple system of envelopes or containers labeled with words or pictures for “Tithe or Church or God”, “Spend”, and “Save”. Because it is mathematically easy to cut an amount in half and then half again, we had our children use half their money for “spend”, and then halve the remaining half resulting in saving one quarter of their income and giving one quarter of their income. This meant I had to have on hand many single dollar bills and quarters so that the money could easily be divided.
We explained that biblically we are instructed to give a tithe or ten percent. A biblical tithe was just the basis for giving. It is the minimum. Tithes and offerings were given. “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.” Nehemiah 10:37
When people practice giving liberally in childhood, when they only have a little, a habit is developed which helps them be liberally giving people as adults with employment income. Giving a tithe and offering is reflective of a heart that is obedient and recognizes God as the giver and provider of everything. It also builds trust in Him to continue to do so.
In many homes financial details are kept very secretive. There is some wisdom in this however there is also value in not always keeping it all a secret. Children and even teens cannot comprehend all the bills and expenses a family incurs. Nor do they understand adult income. We also don’t want to needlessly burden them with money worries. But in financially tight times your children can rise to the challenge to live more frugally. They can learn much from hearing or overhearing some of the process and discussions about priorities in saving, spending and budgeting. I think this is especially true whenever philanthropy is concerned.
Matthew 6: 2-4 says, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Because of this scripture we did not involve or even inform our children anytime we would give to a need or make donations. We thought we were being scriptural in our secrecy. However we realized by our secrecy we were missing important teaching and modeling opportunities. If being generous was important to us, then we needed to model it. It was not a matter of bragging but of training.
One way we have found to contribute to others’ needs is ordering online gift certificates from major grocery stores or department stores to be delivered anonymously. We have also played ding dong ditch delivering bags of groceries at a doorstep. Our youngest son has participated in this “game” being our runner as we wait nearby in our car. This is a great way to involve children who can keep it a secret and still fulfill the principle of Matthew 6.