Have you seen the series of television commercials for an investment firm, with toddlers as the main characters? In the ads, one bright little guy in a high chair extols the virtues of online trading. The ads are humorous and, apparently, effective; one even ran during the Super Bowl. These ads illustrate that one way to leave a memorable impression is to connect an idea, in this case online stock trading, with an image that is both pleasing and absurd. So, while no one truly expects a toddler in a high chair to be discussing the benefits of online trading and 401Ks, a positive association is made with this company. These ads also illustrate an important biblical reality, though probably unintentionally . What matters most in life to parents will leave a powerful impression upon their children.
No, I don’t mean that you can expect your toddlers to engage in online trading, just because you do. However, if you are preoccupied with securing wealth and financial security, this mindset will certainly impact your children. Remember Christ’s exhortation that failing to be rich toward God will have disastrous consequences, no matter how much earthly wealth one possesses. The point of Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and Luke 12:34 is this–where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. And where your heart is will leave a lasting impression on your children.
The treasure that captures your heart will also influence the hearts of your children. A parent who is dominated by the need for financial security (as opposed to being rich towards God) will leave tell-tale indicators of this craving with his children. A young child who is unhappy when he does not have control has at least two sources for this unhappiness. The first source is, of course, his own heart. He does not need any training to learn selfishness; he was born that way. But the other source may well come from his parents. Parents–even those who don’t have much money–can be dominated by the drive to be in control.
In Philippians 4, Paul notes that he has learned to be content regardless of the circumstances. This means that, unlike the man demanding his inheritance, and unlike the rich fool of Luke 12, Paul is seeking first the kingdom of God. Paul’s heart treasure is of a different sort than the world offers. This contentment is contagious; children can catch it–just as they can catch a craving for control.
Christ is encouraging his disciples to live for things that are more valuable than worldly treasures. He wants them to have purses that will not wear out. He is exhorting them know the riches of living for God. There is an urgency to Christ’s words. He knows that in just a few days’ time he will no longer be with his disciples in the flesh. So he challenges them to be different than the man who was chasing the illusive goal of financial security.
Toddlers know their parents. While they might not be able to write a biographical sketch about mom and dad, they nonetheless know whether they are content in Christ. A toddler will know where the hope of his parents lies. The tender picture in Psalm 131 of a young child with his mother conveys contentment in both parent and child; both understand what true wealth is.
My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.