When our children were much younger our dear pastor gave a very practical message at Christmastime, warning us of some very easy gift-giving traps that we can fall into, especially when buying gifts for our children, and also giving us some help and encouragement to choose gifts that would be guided by the principles in God's Word. He mentioned that to "train" in this verse means "to narrow" and comes from a word that meant "to throttle". Just as a throttle regulates the flow of fluid, as parents, it is our responsibility to "regulate the intake" of our children, and not just leave it to chance. With that in mind, here are some very practical tips as you choose gifts for your children (and others!) throughout the year.
1. Avoid the bigger & better trap. Did you ever notice that often your children (and you) were doing just fine with an older model or edition until you saw a new and improved one?
2. Avoid the popular & flashy trap. These items are usually high impact, but low interest. Like the plastic life-size kitchen we bought for the girls when they were little. They played with the box much more than the kitchen!! Rather than spending an outrageous amount of money on the kitchen, an inexpensive set of child-size pots and pans and a large box would have pleased them just as much, and encouraged much more creativity.
3. Avoid "Christian" traps. Just because something is labeled Biblical or Christian does not mean that it lines up with the Bible. This is especially noticeable in Children's books, movies, computer games and toys. You only have your children for a short time. I would encourage you to be sure that the things they are learning are true and accurately represent God's word. For example, while Veggie-tales may seem harmless, do you really want your child to think that there were purple slushies at the battle of Jericho? If the proper respect for the authority of God's Word is not shown, our children have no reason to believe it is not just another nice fairytale like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
So what do you do????
Develop your philosophy by God's Word.
The world is flashy. The Christian should be modest.
The world is self-centered. The Christian should be others-centered.
The world promotes destruction. The Christian should be constructive.
The world is mindless. The Christian should be thinking.
The world has a preoccupation with death. The Christian should be filled with life.
On a personal note... many of the gifts I received when I was growing up were necessities or very practical. Things like notecards, new pajamas and a bathrobe were always welcome, but I must admit that getting something "fun" was - and still is - an extra treat. We usually only got one "fun" gift - and maybe some Silly Putty in our stocking - but I can still remember some of my favorites... a nurse's kit and 2 Breyer horse models. As an adult I can see that even though they were "fun" gifts, they also served a purpose - expanding my mind and encouraging creativity. Also, because the "fun" gifts were rare, I think I appreciated them all the more.
In closing, I'm going to leave you with a few questions to ask as you consider your purchases. Perhaps they'll help you as they have helped me...
* Is it educational?
* Does it teach a discipline? (i.e. orderliness or saving money)
* Does it encourage godly character development?
* Does it develop creativity?
* Does it encourage God-honoring male / female roles?
* Does it promote unity and sharing?
* Is there a less expensive alternative that will do the job just as well?
May you be blessed and be a blessing this week!