As parents, one of the many areas of wisdom we’re responsible to impart to our children is in the area of finances. The problem? None of us is perfect, and many of us have blown it. Big time. But no sin of commission provides an excuse for a sin of omission; in other words, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just as pastors are required to teach the whole counsel of God, parents should not let their own failings excuse them from short-changing their kids.
If you’re still overspending and unwisely accruing consumer debt (Prov. 22:7), then you do need to turn from your ways before you can discuss the issue with your teens. Teenagers are quite adept at seeing inconsistencies and are quick to cry “hypocrite” when they see one. At the same time, God can use past mistakes in powerful ways. If you’re still paying for poor financial choices, then God can use your current financial problems to help your teen see the reaping and sowing principle in action (Gal. 6:7). By swallowing your pride and admitting your shortcomings, God can turn what has been a painful lesson into a safeguard for your kids.
Even if you have “money to blow,” consistently extravagant spending can have long-term detrimental effects on kids. Now, occasional luxuries are quite different; I’m talking about a lifestyle of excess, here, that can lead to an inability to live within “normal” financial means—or at least make it very hard to be content with such. I knew of one man whose salary was much higher than his lifestyle made it appear to be. When I asked him why he chose to do work around the house himself and to wear bargain-basement clothes, his answer came quickly: I didn’t want to handicap my kids. I want them to learn the value of hard work and realize its rewards. I want them to be prepared for whatever life God has for them. That kind of selfless lifestyle choice was also financially wise; living beneath your means may not be common, but it is beneficial in the long run.
Biblical financial stewardship doesn’t end with eschewing indebtedness or even emphasizing frugality: It includes contentment (1 Tim. 6:6), generosity (2 Cor. 9:6), and faith in God’s provision (Matthew 6:30, 31). The aim in living beneath your means is not to accrue wealth or be able to buy more stuff, but to give generously to both God and others. As you model this principle of giving, your teen will see the blessings attached to it (Acts 20:35).
Like any aspect of independence, if you keep the reigns tight until your teen leaves the house and is completely independent of your authority, you eliminate the opportunity to coach them through rookie mistakes. Give your teen the opportunity to work for certain unnecessary “wish list” items and experience the fruits of unwise spending now, while the stakes are relatively low.