Christian Values in a Changing World
CHANGING TIMES BRING NEW CHALLENGES
Times have changed. Or maybe I am just
getting old. I look at my children and compare them with myself at their age. They
seem so much more savvy, confident, and better off materially
than I was.
The fact is, we live in more sophisticated
times. Our children’s standard of living and expectations are higher than our
generation’s. This can be seen in the fact that most children living in the West
are in households that have access to a wide range of consumer goods, private
transportation, and the chance to travel.
What were once luxuries are now
considered essentials. These changes should not surprise
us. It is inevitable that society and lifestyles change—we cannot expect things
to stand still.
However, as Christian parents, we
need to keep a watchful eye on the spiritual condition of our children. We have
children who are better off materially, but we need to ask whether the state of
their faith matches their physical well-being. In truth, I think that we live
in challenging times. The world has increasingly more to offer and to distract
our children by way of all that glitters.
To help our children grow up into
well-grounded Christians, we need to start young and give them the Bible’s
teachings about wealth and material possessions so that they have a set of
values they can use for the rest of their lives. The Bible reminds us,
Train up a child in the
way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
CHILDREN AND MATERIALISM
It seems we do not need to teach
our children about the value of money. They appear to catch on from an early
age that money equals spending power.
From a certain age, my two boys have
had a decided interest in all things monetary, especially the health of their
piggy-banks and when to cash in to buy some pre-determined goody. Like young
businessmen in the making, they have been known to eagerly negotiate the pooling
of assets to buy a sought-after game.
If we look in the media, school
playground, or home, we soon realize that we live in a time that prizes
material possessions. Children know about brand commodities—what cars and
clothes are cool and what gadgets their friends have that they do not. Whether
they let on or not, those little gray cells learn to appraise what’s “in” and what’s
“out”; and even “haves” or “have-nots.”
As parents we enjoy buying nice
things for our children. Who does not? But things need to be done in
proportion. We do not need to respond to the pressure to buy everything they
ask for, or to buy things that their friends have. Otherwise, we will be on a
slippery slope. Our children will learn that they can have everything, and will
be in for a rude awakening if one day we do not have the means to oblige.
Also, where would it all end? The
latest Gadget XP Version 6 usually lands on shop shelves before Version 5 has
even been taken out of its packaging. It is the business of companies to relieve
us of our hard-earned cash. No, it’s time to redress some of the expectations
of our children, as well as the influence exerted by the media and our
REDRESSING THE BALANCE
It is important that we give our
children God’s teachings about the priorities of life, and point out how
Christian values are fundamentally different from those of the world:
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we
eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these
things the Gentiles seek….” (Matthew 6:31-32)
As I look at these verses, I reflect
with interest that a message which was once undoubtedly targeted at an adult
audience now has to be shared with an increasingly younger one. Times certainly
We also need to instill in our
children a sense of self-worth that does not need affirmation from material
possessions, or comparison with others:
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s
life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Lk 12:15)
This all undoubtedly goes against
the grain, as society looks highly on material wealth and judges success according
to how much of it you have. We need to educate our children so that they understand
that God does not value them in the same way as the world. They need to know
that the Bible positively encourages contentment and a simple, godly lifestyle
(Prov 30:7-9; 1 Tim 6:6-10; Heb 13:5).
These principles will stand them
in good stead when they reach adulthood: they will have a better chance of
leading less stressful lives—lives without a compulsion to keep up with others.
How do we do this?
We can teach our children best if
we have a family altar where we set aside some time each day to worship God together.
The format is flexible, but could entail reading a chapter of the Bible
together, discussing what was read and its application for our daily lives, and
Some of us may think it is a lot
easier just to leave this work to the religious education teachers at church, but
we need to remember that our children’s time in church is limited, and
religious education should continue in the home. In fact, the Bible reminds us
that it is part of the job description of parents:
“And these words which I command you today shall
be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall
talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie
down, and when you rise up.” (Deut 6:6-7)
Personally, I find it hard to apply
the family altar consistently, as will probably many other busy families. There
always seems to be a hundred and one other things competing for our time. But
we need to persevere because the results will be worth it. Slowly but surely, we
are making opportunities for the words of God to take root in our children.
we need to communicate with our children. We need to talk to them:
about what they see in the media and what advertisements
to acknowledge their desire for products they
about trends and their tendency to change over
to let them know they can choose not to follow their
friends—they may not feel it, but it’s really okay to be different
about what is worth buying—to teach them about quality
and value versus brand names
to help them to understand the family budget
to help them to think through what they already have,
and if they really must have something new
about prioritizing purchases when there is more
than one choice
to help them make wise choices—is there
something more worthwhile for them to use their money on (like helping a good
about saving up for things
they really want.
Thirdly, I think that our
actions, as parents, speak louder than words. It is no use telling our children
what to do if we ourselves do something different. Children are very astute.
From my experience, they are quick to pick up on inconsistencies when we fail
to practice what we preach.
Therefore, alongside teaching our
children, we need to take a good, honest look at our own core values and how we
are living our lives. Do we try to keep things simple, or have we unwittingly
been caught up in a lifestyle where money or material things have shifted our
focus? We are our children’s role models—for a short time at least, and so we
should not lose the window of opportunity to set a good example.
I know of successful parents who consistently
apply the best parenting technique of all—prayer. It sounds simple enough, but
we may often neglect to pray for our children’s spiritual growth, focusing
instead on things like physical health or good grades.
Whether we realize it or not, we
are actually engaged in a spiritual battle on our children’s behalf. There is
so much in the world to tempt them and lead them astray. We should be mindful
that the devil is prowling round constantly (1 Pet 5:8), and his prey includes
our children. Therefore, we need to pray for God’s help and protection so that
we can raise children who will grow up in His grace and away from evil and temptation.
We also need prayers because bringing
up children can be hard work. It is not so much the feeding and clothing of our
offspring, because if it were merely this, it would be easy. The difficult part
is raising them to become decent, principled Christians. Fortunately, Elder
James advises us that we can all ask for a good dose of spiritual wisdom:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jas
Christian parenting is a real challenge
because the Bible’s teachings are often at odds with those of society, and we
may even find ourselves wondering at times whether our children will be at a
disadvantage for going against the grain.
But the Bible reminds us that
though our children live in the world, they must not love the things of the
world or conform to it (1 Jn 2:15; Rom 12:2; Jas 1:27).
We need to make it our mission to raise a new generation of spiritually wise and content children
who know what the more important things in life are.