Helping Our Children Learn to Be Content

Helping Our Children to Be Content

Years ago, several of us from Children Desiring God had the great privilege of going to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to visit with our ministry partners there. As many know, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. For those of us accustomed to western prosperity, it was an eye-opening and heart-transforming experience. One day of our visit we were taken on a walk through an area of the city that was built around the garbage dump—with people making their “living” by what could be gleaned from the trash. We saw dozens of children that day, including a group of children in tattered clothes playing with an old, dirty ball. What I found amazing about these children were the smiles on their faces and their giggles and laughs as they played together.

I wonder:  Would my grandchildren be content in this situation?

Would my children? Would I?…Honestly, would I be able to say with Paul,

 …for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)Honestly, there is a secret to contentment that I have yet to fully learn. This is probably true of our children, too, and the Christmas season often highlights this is a variety of ways. So here is an old post from several years ago. Consider using it with your children as a refresher course on contentment by reminding them of these foundational truths:

  • Our possessions are from God, belong to God, and are under God’s authority.

“I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,” (Isaiah 44:24b)

“…Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11b)

“Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.” (1 Chronicles 29:12a)

  • God knows all of our needs and graciously provides for our needs.

“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:25b)

  • God is good to all and will not withhold any good thing from His children.

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”(Matthew 7:11)

  • Possessions are temporary and cannot truly satisfy us.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:19)

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

  • The desire for possessions may become a dangerous snare.

…“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

  • True contentment comes from knowing, loving, and trusting Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)

The following are a few practical discussion ideas for applying these truths to the heart:

  • Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8. Did you bring anything into the world? Can you take anything with you when you die? What does verse 8 say that we should be content with? Why is this hard for us? If you lived in a very poor country where many people were starving, would it be easier to be content with having food? Why? How can you have this same attitude without having to be in that situation?
  • Do you often compare what you have with what others have? Why? Do you feel that you need what they have in order to be happy? Why? If and when you feel this way, what are you saying about what you think will make you truly happy? Is this what God tells us will make us happy? Is God your Heavenly Father? Do you trust Him to provide for you all that you need in order to be happy? Read Matthew 7:7-11. What kinds of things do you ask God for? Why do you ask for these things? Do you believe that God wants to give you good gifts? Do you complain about the good things that God has already given you? Why is it sometimes hard to be thankful? Is it because God is stingy? Or is it because our hearts are not grateful? How could you focus on thankfulness to God this week?
  • Make a “Thank You” list to God for His many good gifts. What should a list like this remind us of? When feelings of wanting more and more “stuff” start to creep into your heart, do you stop to think about how generous God has already been to you? Do you thank Him for life and breath and everything else? How could stopping and remembering this help you to fight against feeling discontent with what you have?
  • Is God able to satisfy your every need? Therefore, if He withholds something from you, like having your own bedroom or a new iPad, is it because He isn’t able to provide you with those things? Why might God choose to withhold something from you? What better thing might God have for you? Give a concrete example of this.
  • Read Philippians 4:12-13. What is the “secret” of being content? Why does Paul say that it is a secret? Are secrets easy things to find out? No, they are to be “found out” by actively searching for them. Can you be content through your own strength? Why not? Whose strength must you depend on?
  • What is the hardest struggle you have when you think of earthly treasures? What kinds of things “feed” this feeling? What do commercials, movies, books, and store advertisements tell you is worth “laying up”? How can you protect yourself from this in some measure? Do you do this, or do you continue to feed your appetite for earthly treasures?
  • Have you ever received something that you were really happy and excited about? Did you feel as excited about it a week later? A month later? Two years later? Why not? What does this tell you about earthly treasures and the happiness they bring? Will this happen to heavenly treasures? Why not?

(Discussion ideas adapted from the Children Desiring God curriculum To Be Like Jesus: A Study for Children on Following Jesus.)

 

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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