I’m on a plane. As I boarded a few minutes ago, I noticed a brag-line by the door that caught my attention: “The youngest fleet in the country”. The airline promotes the fact that they slash frills “to save you money”. Translation: “We nickle and dime to save our bottom line.”  But I’m ok with that. The plane ticket cost less than a night in the motel where I’m heading. I packed light (baggage costs extra), declined the in-flight snack (hunger costs extra), and saved some green for us both.

We’re both happy in our frugality, and I’m getting exactly what I paid for, nothing more or less.

When I was about half my age, I had (and still have) a friend named Josh who talked me in to loading up a shopping cart at WalMart and then abandoning it somewhere short of the checkout (I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to WalMart for having been a teenager). We guffawed all the way back to his dad’s car, certain we had pulled the last of the great practical jokes. I’m certain we owe some poor store associate for the time it took to reshelve the toys, sports equipment, stuffed animals, and small appliances we loaded up that day. However, I’m pretty sure WalMart gets me back now every time I approach the checkout, cart brimming with toys, clothes, and groceries.

I can practically hear them cheering upstairs as the self-scan hums the praises of dollars and sense dropping in the coffers.

They are definitely on the winning side of the ledger as I head back to the minivan and load up the goods I certainly (albeit grudgingly) paid out the nose for. Gone are the goofy days of leaving the stuff behind and scampering for the exit, especially now that I’m on the paying end of the buggy. After all, who would pay for a cartload of valuables and then leave them by the door on the way out? Crazy, right? But I think we do it all the time, both literally and figuratively.

Here’s an example: It’s part of my job to decide when the weather outside is frightful. So in the great state of Michigan, it’s pretty common for us to get plenty of snow, and we can usually count on several snow days each year. However, it’s ironic to me how much pressure I’m put under to call snow days…and I don’t mean pressure from students. It’s often the parents who are the lobbyists for snow days, not the kids. And I’m o.k. with that; I like a day off of school as much as anybody. What’s odd to me is that it is parents who have paid hefty tuition dollars, and yet it’s moms and dads who sometimes get a little snippy when we forge through the snow and keep classes in session.

Essentially, parents have loaded up the cart, scanned and bagged the goods, and then left the shopping cart sitting at the door.

I’m only trying to give them what they’ve already paid for!

O.k., so it’s a silly illustration, and there are of course times when school should be canceled. But here’s the point:

As parents, we sometimes fail to take advantage of things we know deep down are best for our kids. And what’s worse, they are often things that come at little or no cost.

In Matthew 7, Christ paints this picture: Which of you fathers would give your son a stone if he asks for food? Or which of you would give him a snake instead of a fish? The obvious answer is that only a bad parent would withhold goodness from a child when it’s in his or her power to provide it. But worse, only a foolish parent would dole out injury to a child instead of benefits. Here’s a few practical things I’ve seen wise parents doing that show they are giving their kids food and guarding them from “snakes”:

  • They never (and I mean never) miss church. These parents don’t plan family time, friend time, or fun time during church services or church activities. Their family time, friend time, and fun time is church time.
  • They encourage (and sometimes require) their kids to be involved and faithful in aspects of church service and teach them to be contributors, not consumers. These kids play in the orchestra, sing in the choir, vacuum carpets, and stack chairs. They are the kind of kids people just want to be around.
  • They release the grip of materialism in their kids’ lives through giving. These parents model giving with their finances, with their time, and with their lives. They create givers, plain and simple.
  • They provide a lens for their kids to view themselves accurately. These kids are not convinced they are always right–they are teachable. These kids are sure of themselves but not full of themselves–they are confident. These kids are defined by what they can contribute, not what they dream about–they are realists.

Failing to take advantage of the opportunities ministry provides would be like paying for a full shopping cart and then leaving it by the door on the way out. Crazy right? But we do it all the time.

Church attendance: $0

Good preaching: $0

Serving others: $0

Raising Godly kids: Priceless.

Fish anyone?