Children, Possessions, Worry & the Markets

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?"   Then he said to them,

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:13-15, 32-34

In the last post we noted how Paul taught in I Timothy 6 that wealth is uncertain. As a matter of fact, wealth is so uncertain and unstable that it cannot provide hope. Contemplate this biblical reality – wealth is incapable of providing hope because it is uncertain. Wow! This is a thought that is contrary to our world. Why is there such intense concern about the upheavals in the financial markets? Simply put, because people have placed their hopes in the wealth that these markets measure. When the markets fall significantly, worry also increases significantly. People are worried about their wealth because their hope for a secure tomorrow is tied to wealth, however little or great that wealth may be.

Financial markets are adult things. But worry about possessions in not the exclusive territory of adults. Children are concerned about possessions early in the game. Give one young child a matchbox car and give his brother two of them. I can safely predict that the boy with one car will not respond with joy that his brother has more matchbox cars than he does. So, how do you avoid the upset—give them each the same number of cars? While this may avoid a temporary clash, it fails to address a deeper issue. Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Yet, these two boys are very aware of the abundance of their possessions. I can hear someone saying, yeah, but you are talking about Matchbox cars, not 401K’s.  Yes, I am.  However, just try making that distinction with a 4–year-old!

You see, you may be careful to buy your children’s toys at yard sales where the latest and greatest toy can be had for a dollar instead $29.99. But to your child, it is still another possession. Toys are cool, but they are not the source of comfort and certainty. What is certain in life must flow from relationships, not possessions or situations. When Jesus says to sell your possessions he is not advocating self-imposed poverty. He is drawing a sharp contrast between the man who demanded his share of the inheritance and one who knows where true certainty lies. The one whose hope lies in financial instruments has the same quality of security as the one whose hope lies in the number of matchbox cars he owns. Wealth of any sort is uncertain. That is what you must teach your children. Certainty flows from your relationship with someone who has the ability to keep a commitment. Only God delivers this kind of certainty. You can count on God to be faithful in his relationship with you. This is the certainty that you must show to your children. God alone possesses and gives true wealth. This world can only offer purses that will wear out. But God offers true riches.

It is a good thing to plan for the future and to make investments as wisely as possible. Just remember that these investments are about as certain as next week’s weather forecast. The upheaval in the markets vividly illustrates Paul’s point to Timothy – do not place your hope in wealth and possessions. Help your children to value instead their relationships with you, their family, and God. Use this to teach about God and true riches. Relationships that your children form now, with God and others, have the capacity to last into eternity. This is life that is truly life!

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