Some conversations are never forgotten! A poignant sentence at an impressionable time in my early teen years opened my eyes to the stewardship of my parents and the faithfulness of God. This single sentence challenged me to live responsibly as a steward of my finances.
I grew up in a large family. I was the middle child with three older sisters and three younger brothers. My mother came to know the Lord as a young girl when someone in her neighborhood noticed that her family didn’t go to church. She began to go to church with these neighbors, and eventually came to know the Lord. My grandparents later became Christians. My dad was saved as a young father in his early twenties. He grew up religious but did not know the Lord personally. So, my parents were first-generation followers of Christ.
Growing up in a large family meant that finances were typically tight. My dad was a lineman for the electric company, and my mother was a full-time homemaker. We didn’t have a lot of the “material extras” in our family, but there was always someone around to shoot baskets, throw a ball, or ride bikes. It was the joy of small-town living, with lots of backyard ball games, building castles in the sand box, playing hot wheels, and fishing trips to Big River.
My parents lived an exemplary Christian life and took our family to church every Sunday. Every Saturday evening and Sunday morning I would see my dad with his Barnes’ Notes commentaries finishing up his Sunday School lesson. Every other Saturday I watched my mother fill out her giving envelope and put a check in it. And each week we would have some coins in our giving envelopes so that even as children we could give.
As I began to cut grass as an older elementary and then middle school student, I knew that I should tithe. I watched my parents do it. I knew that I should too. So, I started to give at least 10% just like my parents. It was during these early tithing years that I was talking to my mom about giving. As she sat at her little desk filling out bills and writing their tithe check we were engaged in a conversation about giving. And that’s when she said it! She turned in her desk chair, looked at me and declared, “Buddy, there have been many months when we didn’t make it on paper, but God always provided!” I have never forgotten that sentence. It was a declaration of God’s faithfulness that has been etched in my heart and my mind.
There are a lot of things I have forgotten about childhood and a lot of conversations that I will never recall, but that one statement became unforgettable! The testimony of faithful giving and God faithfully providing. I believe there is a direct correlation! Through union strikes and all the typical adversities of a large family God consistently provided.
Then, I got married and sought to lead in my marriage. Through our early years of marriage and during our time at seminary our income was very limited. We decided that we would tithe no matter how tight our budget. And just like mom said, “God always provided.” Through the years of children in preschool, elementary school, middle and high school, and now through the college tuition years we say, “God always provides.” What a blessing to know that our God is always faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Christian parents must teach biblical stewardship and model Christian generosity in front of their children. Talk about giving at the dinner table, show the importance of giving to your local church and other ministries, and highlight lives that are being impacted. Our children need to know our hearts, hear our God-stories about His faithfulness, and see our example of stewardship! For parents who give online this may be more of a challenge, but the challenge must be accepted. Don’t leave it to the preacher to talk about good stewardship and giving. Teach your children to be faithful and generous givers! And maybe, just maybe, your child will look back and remember your testimony that “God always provided!”