Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: This article talks about the importance of teaching children about the return of tithes and the giving of freewill offerings to God who is creator and owner of everything in the world and the universe (Deuteronomy 10:14).
Many times I have been asked this question in different situations and locations, “When can we start teaching children about tithes and offerings?” The fact that this question is asked frequently suggests an interest on the part of many parents and Christian educators to give children proper training in this very important aspect of their spiritual development. For church members to ask this question would indicate their awareness of the value of childhood education in the formation of Christian values and good behavior. There is also a consensus on the part of many that this process needs to be implemented very early in the child’s life, and I agree.
Whenever I am presented with this question, my mind always goes to this text of scripture, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, NIV).
There are several important Biblical principles from the Deuteronomy passage cited above that I want to share with our readers in the context of teaching children about God’s tithes and offerings:
1.Teaching children about God and His mercy, love, protection, provisions, and blessings is a spiritual responsibility on the part of those who are in a covenant relationship with Him (Deuteronomy 7:8).
2.The Deuteronomy text indicates that spiritual education is about loving God fully with “all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12; 11:1). Therefore, the primary task is to help the children to know and experience God personally.
3.Spiritual education includes the teaching of children about the return of tithes and the giving of freewill offerings (Deuteronomy 12:4-6) in recognition of God’s creatorship and ownership of everything in the world and the universe (Deuteronomy 10:14). Tithes are returned as an expression of one’s faithfulness to God while the giving of freewill offerings is an act of thankfulness.
4.The framework for teaching tithes and offerings to children is worship (Deuteronomy 12:4, 11, 12). Worship is acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God and also a demonstration of reverence and love for Him.
5.In the matter of worship and the presentation of tithes and offerings, God expects His people to comply; and He is counting on their obedience that is borne out of love to follow through with His commands (Deuteronomy 11:8-9, 13-15).
6.When returning tithes or in the giving of freewill offerings, God expects His people to demonstrate a heart of joy and a spirit of cheerfulness (Deuteronomy 12:7, 12).
7.Whereas tithes and offerings are given out of His blessings, God also promises to bless them more after the act of giving to Him (Deuteronomy 11:22-25; 12: 20).
The issue in stewardship education for children is not whether we should do it or not, rather it is about ‘when,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what’ is the best way to do it. For little children the best way for them to learn about financial stewardship is through their giving in Sabbath School or during the worship service. They obviously do not know the difference between tithes and offerings at this time but they can learn the value of giving to God through their participation during these important religious activities on Sabbath. At this age their actual doing and our modeling through our own physical giving on a regular basis will communicate to them the importance of giving as an act of worship.
How soon can we teach children? My view is that we can start with them as soon as they are able to see and hold something in their hand. We have done this with Janae-Grace since she was only a few months old, and today at the age of two she expects us to give her something to give when we go to church. What about tithes? I am convinced that we can also teach children about tithes very early in their lives once we as parents start to give them money for allowance or when they receive monetary gifts from other people. The little ones are quick learners and they can be taught to learn that money is a gift and blessing from God and with this blessing they are expected to return a portion of it back to God as matter of reverence and love for Him.