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How to Raise a Philanthropist

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2011 Jul 05

Posted by Jim_Daly Jul 5, 2011

A recent edition of the Wall Street Journal featured an interesting essay on how to teach children about the importance of charitable giving. According the author of the piece, some notably wealthy parents are growing concerned that their kids, who stand to one day inherit their family’s sizable fortunes, are unprepared to be multi-millionaires.

Imagine having such worries!

All kidding aside, there is a telling twist in this story. Afraid their kids will either lose the incentive to work and recklessly manage the assets, high-net worth families are turning to philanthropy advisors for advice on how to properly instill in their child a spirit of charity.

But curiously, there was no reference in the piece to God or the influence He has on charitable giving in general and people’s generosity in particular. From my perspective, and that of the few philanthropy advisors with which I'm friendly, talking with a child about giving without mentioning God is like talking about nutrition without mentioning the health benefits of a balanced diet.

There are over 800 references to money in the Bible, and for good reason. The pursuit of money, wrote Paul, is the root of all kinds of evil. But if we’re to properly teach and instill in our children an understanding and passion for sacrificial giving, we can’t simply teach them a formula by which to measure a charity’s worthiness. Rather, we must help them look inward, examine their own heart and help them come to see giving as God sees it.

We want to give to others because it was the Lord who first gave to me. After all, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). In both the Old and New Testaments, we’re encouraged to pray for opportunities to witness in His name, and when we find a need, we’re to simply do all that we can to try to fill it.  Sometimes that help comes in the form of a financial gift, other times it comes in the form of our time, talents and energy. In every instance, our hearts are drawn by the Holy Spirit’s influence.

In the past, I’ve suggested that parents of very young kids can help them manage their money by putting three jars in their room – one for giving, another for saving and the last for spending. I still think that's a good idea.

And don’t forget, the best way to teach our kids about giving is to give – but as you’re giving to your church or Para church ministry, don’t forget to share with them the reason why.

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