Sunday, December 6, 2015

3 Gifts to Give Your Children This Christmas

3 Gifts to Give Your Children This Christmas
During the holiday season, our children are inundated with magazine ads and TV commercials depicting the newest, coolest toys and gadgets, all with the intention of encouraging children to convince their parents that they absolutely must have it.  In the midst of all the commercialism, which seems to start earlier and earlier with each passing year, the spirit of Christmas has lost its true meaning, replaced by the spirit of the "gimmes."  

The Heart of a Child
In truth, none of us are immune to the spirit of the "gimmes" however, children are particularly vulnerable--which is exactly why advertisers go after them in the first place.  Proverbs 22:15 says that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child."  According to Ellicott's Commentary, what is meant in this verse is "self-will."  Ellicott states that "children must be taught to yield their will to others."  In other words, a child's natural inclination is to focus on themselves--what they need, what they want, and when they want it, and to foolishly [thoughtlessly, selfishly, unwisely] work to get it.

As parents, it is our duty to "train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6.  I like how The Living Bible phrases this verse, "teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it."  Children, by nature, are prone to selfishness (aren't we all?), and they need to be taught to be giving and self-less.

This task of instilling selflessness in your children may seem impossible, especially during the Christmas season.  Don't lose heart, it can be done.   This year, give your children three meaningful gifts.

3 Gifts You Should Give Your Children This Christmas
There are three very important gifts that you should give your child this Christmas--and every Christmas.  These gifts never lose their importance, they won't wear out, your child cannot outgrow them, and they last forever.  What are these gifts, you ask?

1)  The gift of a giving heart
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35.

"Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  Luke 6:38

The Bible talks a lot about giving and sacrifice.  In fact, the Father gave His only Son for us so that we might be reconciled with the Father.  Christ gave Himself up for us so that we might have eternal life. Scripture teaches us that when we give, we receive in return.  The point of these promises isn't to give in order to get, but to show us that by giving, we receive so much more in return.  More than earthly possessions, those who are givers reap contentment, pleasure and joy as a result of their giving.  When we teach our children to be givers, we teach them to value the person who receives their gift, and to be grateful and content with what they have.  And, a grateful heart, is a happy heart.

Which leads right into the next gift you should give your children for Christmas...

2)  The gift of a grateful heart
"Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:20

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever."  Psalm 100:4-5

We all know children, and adults, who whine and complain about everything, lacking gratefulness for the blessings that they do have in their lives.  Lack of gratitude breeds discontent and bitterness.  I am sure many of us have had to endure our children whining and begging for candy or toy at the store, and have been tempted to give into their demands in return for some peace for ourselves.  The problem with this is that by giving in, we train our children that such behavior leads to self-gratification, and they don't have to opportunity to "learn to be content," as Paul says in Philippians 4:11.  Contentment and gratitude are learned traits, which means our children are not born with them, they must be taught.  When we teach our children to be thankful, we give them the gift of a grateful--and content--heart, which means our children will always be satisfied and fulfilled.

The last, but certainly not least, of the gifts that we should give our children this Christmas, is...

3)  The gift of a servant's heart
"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."  Hebrews 13:16

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's grace."  1 Peter 4:10

"Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

Teaching our children to serve others, along with the other gifts, is teaching them the very heart of Jesus Himself.  He loved people and spent His life and ministry, in service and sacrifice to others.  As Christians, we are to be Christ's hands and feet, going out to care for those in need.  Our children learn so many lessons  when they serve another person in need.  It may be bringing a cup of juice to a sibling who is ill.  Visiting the elderly in a nursing home.  Color a picture for a friend who is in the hospital.  Help Mom cook a meal for someone who is sick or a family who just lost a loved one.  Write a thank you note to a pastor or teacher.  There are so many opportunities for our children to serve others.

Really, all these gifts are intertwined with each other.  You simply cannot have one without the other.  What values and characteristics do you want to instill in your children as they grow and mature into adulthood?  Those who are truly happy, content and fulfilled in life are those who learn to be givers and servants, thankful for the bountiful blessings the Lord has given them.  Other than our salvation in Christ, these are the best gifts of all!

Crystal Niehoff

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