Carlie often watches House Hunters International on HGTV while I am in the other room building tool sheds and killing wild animals, both with my bare hands.  I overheard (ok, I was watching it by myself) a doctor from North Carolina talk about why he wanted to buy his family a vacation home on St. John’s Island in the Caribbean.  He said, “I just want to leave a legacy for my family.”  That little line really struck me hard.  It got me thinking about my son and my future sons and daughters and what kind of legacy I will leave for them.  This question was fueled a little more by my friend Steve’s comment on my last blog about giving.  He wrote:

“Today I looked in my daughters closet and she has 12 pair of shoes. I can’t blame her, she didn’t buy them! And can I keep them from her when I have 15 pair of my own? It does make me take a hard look at what kind of legacy I leave and what message I’m sending her (even at the age of one) about acquiring more than you need.”

This is a tough question that we must ask ourselves as parents or parents-to-be someday. We are told in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” That is a pretty dangerous verse.  What if we train our kids the wrong way? What if we train them that possessions are where happiness is found?  What if our kids see us scoff at a hungry homeless man then walk away with cash in our pockets?  What if our legacies our filled with exorbitant homes and unnecessary luxuries? Our kids will be watching us more than we could ever imagine.  And it would be difficult, to say the least, for them choose a lifestyle opposite from the one we “trained” them to live through our choices.

I completely see this in my life.  Growing up, my dad was a pastor at a mega church in Houston, TX.  We had a great house and a brand new leather clad Suburban with a VCR and TV in it.  Yeah, a VCR.  That’s how the Dodd’s rolled in the early 90’s.  Then my dad did something crazy.  He moved my family out of the Bible Belt to start a church for the unchurched in Pueblo, CO.  Our nice house in a cul-de-sac was exchanged for a tiny rental where my basement bedroom had carpet for walls.  Our cool maroon and luxurious Suburban became an old brown Jeep Wagoneer with wood paneling.  In that very moment, my parents left a legacy for my brother, sister, and I.  They never sat us down and said, “Kids, following God’s lead and reaching the lost is more important than earthly possessions.”  They never said that but we heard it loud and clear.

If we are completely honest, American parents spend lots of money on possessions “for the sake of the kids”.  We can use the excuse of wanting the best for our children.  But is a bigger house and a newer car really the best thing for our kids?  What if what they really need is to see us sacrifice our way of life that others might have their everyday needs met.  As Steve says, we are sending messages to our children with every purchase that we make.  And we are sending messages with every opportunity to give but don’t.  This is something that we must struggle through as parents.  We must take Haggai 1:5-6 to heart,

“Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over. You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it.”

That is not the legacy that I want to leave.  Possessions will break and become out of date.  But giving our children a heart for others over a heart for themselves will benefit them more than anything money could ever buy.  I surely will not come into your home and tell you how your newest purchase will eternally affect your kids.  But we should make sure to ask these types of questions to ourselves.

Luke 12:33: “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.”

Whether it is a sports team, an activity, or a lifestyle: Our children will surely treasure what we treasure.  So what can we do about this?  How can we intentionally involve our children in giving?  How can we teach them to treasure people over possessions?  How can we specifically train our kids to give?

Note: This is the second week of a blog series on giving.  Join in the conversation as we struggle through these important questions together.