Two children plus one toy equals trouble. No, this is not the beginning of a new math word problem. But it is a scenario that leads to disruptions in families every day. In this case, both children each want the special toy that came from Grandma.
What is the typical question, the fair question to ask? Who had it first? Or, who had the toy most yesterday? You see, the problem is not fairness, but the selfishness of little hearts.
“Who had it first?” This type of question is based upon the assumption that being fair is the underlying principle for settling disputes. However, suppose you were to ask God to treat you fairly, based upon your actions and thoughts. In this case, fairness is the last thing any Christian would want. Jesus was unfairly declared guilty for my sake. So, no, you do not want God to treat you fairly. Thus, making fairness a cornerstone of your parenting obscures the gospel message. Human fairness and the gospel don’t mix.
Now, let’s go back to the special toy. Mom realized that it was time to give some instruction about fairness and the gospel. As she was holding the treasured toy she said, “So, you both think that this toy is a good gift from grandma.” Both children nodded their heads enthusiastically. Then mom said, “Do you remember when we talked about where good gifts come from?” Both children agreed that good gifts come from God.
Mom then reminded them, “I know that Grandma bought this toy and gave it to you, but God is the one who determined that you would have this special toy.” Mom then asked her next question with a big smile and an almost playful tone, “Do you think that God brought this toy to you because you are both just SO good and wonderful ALL the time?”
Both children looked up a little sheepishly and acknowledged that they were often less than wonderful. Mom continued, smiling, and said, “That is absolutely right. God does not give us good things because we are good, or to be fair, but because he loves us.“
Mom then said, “We know that Jesus wants you both to have a good time playing with this toy. So let’s see how we can begin to do just that. Let’s pray and ask God for wisdom in playing with this toy. I’ll pray first.”
After praying together, the children, with mom’s help, thought of some fun and creative ways to use the toy together as well as individually.
Now, before you accuse me of living on another planet, this way of handling this situation was no accident. Mom and Dad have given much thought to making the Gospel an integral part of their parenting. They had prayed and planned about how they would handle situations when selfish desires would tempt their children. Jesus and his love are part of the everyday discussions in this home.
The benefit is that these children are being raised in a home where fairness is not the bottom line – the gospel is. They are being prepared to live in a world where life is seldom fair. They are learning that the lovingkindness of God is better than fair.
They are learning practically that the question should not be “Who had it first, ” but “Who loved first?”