“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:4-6)
When you were ten years old, did you have any idea of how capitalism or trade works? Did you know that people had bank accounts and investments? Did you have a way to save money? I did not, and I know that many of my peers didn’t have this knowledge. However, as a teacher and trainer of teachers in the twenty-first century, I know that children now have the opportunity to learn about finances in most math and social studies classes. However, God’s Word instructs us to teach our children at home, responsibly and biblically. This is one of two critical aspects of personal financial stewardship that are often neglected. The other is accountability for our financial management as adults. If you are married, you have a built-in accountability process with your spouse, with whom the Lord has knit you together as one (hopefully). If you are single, widowed, divorced, accountability will need to come from another source. I have a Christian accountant, a Christian investment broker, and a few close friends with whom I can discuss my finances.
Proverbs 22:4 teaches that humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches and honor. When we are humbled by our sense of sin and submit ourselves to God’s accountability with reverent fear, we will be blessed with the wealth of spiritual wisdom and the honor that comes from God. Likewise, spiritual wisdom leads to practical discernment in every area of life, including our finances. It is impossible to teach the younger generation how to be good financial stewards unless they know what God expects of them. Young people cannot learn to be good financial stewards unless they have the faith that comes through Jesus Christ. I used to remind teachers that children who have not come to faith in Christ still need the Law of God because they do not yet personally know the grace of Christ. The Law is our tutor until we are adopted into the Body. Therefore children need to learn self-control, patience, and saving for later to fight instant gratification and impulsiveness with material possessions. When we have the Holy Spirit working in us, these fruits of the Spirit grow out of our new nature, rather than having to work at them with so much effort. “Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.” (v. 5)
Verse 6 is well-known and embraced by Christian parents. How we would love to take it literally, as a promise that every child taught rightly from Scripture will grow up to be a Christ-follower! However, we do know that the more biblical knowledge and wisdom we pour into our children, the better off they will be. We have a duty to teach young people what is good and right for Christian living; they will have this knowledge throughout their lives, even if they don’t live by it. Later they will be accountable for the knowledge they have received, and there is a greater chance that when they hear biblical truth, they will be convicted by it. We also need to rehearse the gospel for ourselves, so that we remain under conviction to live by its wisdom continuously, rather than occasionally or infrequently. This familiarity helps us to share more easily and naturally with other family members.
How can you help your younger family members to be better financial stewards? What basis do they have for their stewardship and discernment in a world that is always pulling on their impulses and desires? Who can you turn to for greater financial accountability?