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Wants vs. Needs

I want that, she thought, as she saw the shiny trophy swaying gently on the branch before her. I really, really want that . . . and I am going to have it. It wasn’t the bite that she took out of the fruit but the thought that preceded the bite. And while sharing is usually something that is commended, when she insisted that he join her in consuming that fruit, the wholeness of God’s creation crumbled. The want for more started all the way back in the Garden of Eden, and “wantism” has been a struggle for people ever since.

Wantism is a consuming desire for things God has not given us. It is a gluttonous desire governed by lack of contentment or lack of trust that God can provide what we need. Wantism is seen in a little child who won’t let go of that toy at the store. Wantism is seen at the all-you-can-eat buffets. Wantism is seen in divorce courts. Wantism is seen on commercials. Everywhere one looks, one can see that wantism is an ever-present condition in our world. So the question is, how do Christians combat wantism, and specifically, how do Christian parents teach their children to fight against the wantism that teems all around them? The simple answer is to apply God’s Word to choices that are tainted with want. God’s Word warns about the danger of focusing our lives on our possessions (Mark 8:36). The hard answer is that fighting off wantism is a lifelong struggle, one with which the old Adam will be pressuring the new Adam until heaven’s glories dissolve any need for wanting more.

We parents have been given such a great responsibility. Caring for our children’s every need is an all-consuming task. The desire to give our kids the best possible is admirable. But the best we can give to our children begins with the realization that all we have is not really ours at all. The psalmist reminds us, “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Martin Luther aptly explains God’s providence in the explanation to the First Article: I believe that God created me and all that exists, and that he gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind and all my abilities.

And I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, cattle, and all I own, and all I need to keep my body and life. God also preserves me by defending me against all danger, guarding and protecting me from all evil. All this God does only because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it. For all this I ought to thank and praise, to serve and obey him.” What an amazing reminder of God’s great love!

It is easy to fall in line with the world’s way of thinking: “Wait, I work hard at my job to earn that paycheck!” True, but the talents necessary to perform the job were given by God. Try as we might, there really is no getting around the fact that all we are and have is from God. Once we recognize and embrace that fact, the task of teaching our children to fight off wantism is clearer. Simply put, we are given the task of teaching good stewardship to our children.

How does fighting off wantism relate to stewardship? Stewardship is defined as “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.” As a child of God, I recognize that the “something” I am responsible for refers to the things God has given me—everything. When we teach our children from a very young age that we are caretakers of the blessings God has given us, we instill in them a God-pleasing perspective of the things they want.

Different parents have taken different approaches to teaching their children to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives. Some approach stewardship by using an allowance. The child is given a certain amount of money based on age, and the money is designated for three categories: Savior, savings, and spending. Others avoid the idea of an allowance and simply provide for all that the child needs. Still others figure an amount that each child would need for a month’s expenses and then give that amount to the child at the beginning of each month. The child is then allowed to make all decisions as to where that money goes, but if the money runs out before the end of the month, there is no more.

Notice that in the first approach, the child is guided to set aside first for the Savior. Giving is a part of our stewardship. As parents, we have the wonderful opportunity to teach our children the joy of giving back to him who has given us all. Raising joyful givers is all about keeping a proper perspective as to the Source of all we have.

Like our stewardship in general, the key to joyful giving is remembering that none of this really belongs to us. Think of the caretaker of an orchard. He doesn’t own the orchard, but he tends the trees and picks the fruit. When the caretaker presents that fruit to the owner of the orchard, he is simply returning to the owner that which belongs to him.

Or consider a bowl with ten juicy, delicious grapes. If a parent were to give that whole bowl to a child and then ask for just one of those delectable grapes back, would the child cheerfully share? After all, the child will get to eat nine of the grapes, and the parent is asking for just one. Does it matter if the parent wants the best grape first, not the smallest, least desirable grape? Would this be a more difficult scenario if instead of grapes, ten dollars were given? The picture here is not hard to recognize. God gives us all that we have and then gives us the opportunity to thank him for his gift by giving part of it back.

Exercising good stewardship is a matter of faith, of trusting that God will take care of us with the majority of his gifts even when in faith we give the firstfruits back to him. Remember who we are looking to trust—God, our loving Father, who has given us everything we need and more. God, our almighty Creator, who spoke into existence the heavens and the earth, formed man with his hands, and breathed into him his life-breath. God, the righteous judge, who could have destroyed his wayward children with a nod, but instead offered a way to save them. God, the planner of our salvation, who sent his perfect Son to take away all of our wrongs and make us right with him. Yes, this God will take care of us!

It is amazing to think that our God recognized our struggle with wantism and solved it with “want no more”! Our loving Father knew our deepest need. He provided a Savior for us. Because of the precious investment of God’s only Son, we have an eternal inheritance that will neither perish nor spoil. Jesus has taken away from us the need to store up things on earth. Through faith, we look to him for the strength to fight off wantism and instead pray for the focus of “want no more.”

Parents can teach their children good stewardship by both example and guidance. The practice of good stewardship is a response of sanctification, a personal thank you to God for his goodness to us in taking care of us. Do we always practice good stewardship? No. As sinful beings, we will struggle against wantism during our entire earthly journey. Thank God that he wants what is best for us and has fulfilled our greatest need by sending us a Savior, who gives us the ultimate gift: eternal life with him in heaven, where we will want no more.


By Pam Holz, from Parents Crosslink © 2014 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Pamela Holz, a member of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, with her husband, Kent, and their four children.

Image by sylwia_dominik is licensed under CC0 1.0.

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