My 4 year old granddaughter told me this week that “all she wants for Christmas” are two toys, advertised on television at a combined cost of nearly $300. She is convinced that these items will satisfy her totally, and is of course oblivious to what their purchase might do to our budget.
Her request reminded us that for the past 30+ years child-rearing has been revolutionized by the theory called permissiveness. Out of this parenting style has come a philosophy that goes something like this: If children are not allowed the things they want to have, their creativity and individuality will be destroyed and they will be hindered in their development. Not only that, they will think that they are not loved. In other words, give them the things they want - or you don’t love them.
Most thinking parents realize that giving a child all they want is not the best for them, nor does it really satisfy the child. In fact, most adults admit that the satisfaction from a new possession lasts only a short time. Then a new hunger develops, fixes itself to another object, and desires it.
But what I believe is the most serious error in the permissive philosophy is this idea that children “deprived” of the things they want are unloved. Obviously, someone has interpreted that ownership or possession of a desired object is somehow equated with love. Using that definition, some parents will even say, “Of course I love my children - I buy them everything they could ever want.”
The children might enjoy that brand of “love”, up to a point, but it doesn’t take long before they realize something is missing. One day they may say, “My parents never really loved me... oh sure, they bought me lots of things, but....”
Biblically, love is giving, but it is not necessarily the giving of things. In fact, God says that when people pray for things to satisfy that desire to possess, He denies their requests... “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
What God wants us to realize is that the having and owning of things no matter the size, shape, or price tag, only distracts us from finding genuine contentment. Instead, He challenges us to “seek first the kingdom of God” and He promises that if we do, He will take care of our needs in the material realm, and teach us how to be content with what He gives.
So how does anyone seek His kingdom? Is it a place? A sphere of rule? Jesus says that it “begins in the heart” but “unless a man is born again he cannot SEE the kingdom....nor can he ENTER it.”
Therefore, if anyone is going to seek God’s kingdom, become recipients of His supply and learn contentment, they first must become a new person through faith in Jesus Christ. This new person, re-created through the power of God, will find that the empty space that things would not satisfy is suddenly filled - Christ has become the possession that satisfies.
Not only that, faith in the wisdom and love of God enables Christians to yield their desires, hopes, and dreams to Him, trusting Him to provide that which will be best for them.
Hearing “no” might bring temporary disappointment, but I would hate to give a little child whatever they wanted if it damaged their childlike ability to trust someone else to take care of their needs... and perhaps later make it more difficult to trust God - who wisely sometimes also says “no”.