“Mine, mine, mine!”
With four kids, my house can easily sound like the scene from Finding Nemo where the birds are claiming the fish. It is easy to see in our children how quickly entitlement can take over. Sometimes I wonder if I may be partly to blame, because from the time one of them showed up on the scene a lot of my world reoriented to revolve around them.
Even in a young child, it is easy for a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality to take over. They want the toys, the birthday parties, and the experiences other kids have. When their viewpoint is limited to their close circle, they can believe that everyone has it all. My children need to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that my world doesn’t completely revolve around them.
The number one way we’ve chosen in our family to battle entitlement is to focus on service. My children need to see this modeled in the lives of their parents and they also need to participate alongside us.
In scripture, we see time and time again that God wants us to see the needs in the lives of those around us and to serve them. In Matthew 25, Jesus praises the righteous who saw the hungry and fed him, who saw the thirsty and gave him drink, who saw the stranger and welcomed him, who saw the naked and clothed him, who saw the sick and visited him, and who saw those in prison and visited him. In Luke 10, Jesus describes a good neighbor as the good Samaritan who saw the need of someone else, had mercy, and cared for him. In James 1, we’re told religion that is pure before God is one that will visit orphans and widows in their affliction. There is a link between loving God and serving others.
I’m currently raising children ages 7, 4, 2, and 6 months; therefore, finding meaningful service takes some creativity. I’m searching for opportunities that don’t place them in childcare, but that allows them to participate. In addition to serving each other inside our home, we’re training their eyes and hearts to look for opportunities to meet needs in the world around them.
I’ve always loved that in John’s telling of the feeding of the 5,000, in John 6, he includes the detail that it is a boy who is offering his bread, loaves and fish. It was a child with a small amount to share who offered to Jesus what he had. This gives us a model for children being able to make a difference.
Their purpose is not to just exist on this earth or pursue their own pleasure. God created them to glorify Him and to participate in His work of bringing the Kingdom to earth. Even the littlest hands can make an impact with their work. This gives them a purpose and builds their confidence. Service is an invitation into holy work that can make an eternal difference.
Our children do not have to reach a certain, critical age in order to serve those in need. It is probably easier to train them to recognize need in others while they are young. Take some time over the next few months and find one way to serve together. To figure out what you can do, start by reading some of the verses above together. Then, plan together.
Look. Who is hungry? Who is thirsty? Who is a stranger? Who is naked? Who is sick? Who is in prison? Who is in need? Who is an orphan? Who is a widow?
Think. How can we meet the needs of one of those people or a group of them?
Act. Do it together. Even better, invite some friends and do it with them.
Here are a few starting points to get your ideas flowing:
- Make homeless care packages to give out in your car.
- Assemble lunches for a church downtown that gives out sack lunches to homeless men and women.
- Assemble lunches for a ministry that feeds children or food bags for students to take home for the weekend.
- Call your local pregnancy center and ask if you could assemble the gift bags they give to new clients who are pregnant.
- Portion out bulk rice and beans into bags for your local food pantry.
- Make cards for a nursing home and deliver them personally.
Through service, we can raise children who focus less on themselves and instead, love Jesus by looking out for the needs of others.
Ali Smith loves Jesus and sharing Him with others through her words and actions. She is married to JR and together, they are raising four young children. She co-leads an organization called Little Lights in Houston, Texas, which creates service opportunities for preschool and elementary aged children.