I want to plant a thought in your mind, especially as we are in the midst of the Christmas season. Given the chance, my children would probably eat cookies and ice cream for every meal. But as their parent, I know better. They need to trust me and obey me.
As a pastor, I may know better about an issue that I’ve observed in families. You might not be a parent, or perhaps your kids are grown, but I invite you to consider what I have to say, anyway. And I don’t mean to be too radical or offensive, but just a little—enough to shake things up in your life.
Here’s what I want to challenge you with: we must not spoil our children materially, while neglecting them spiritually. Are you guilty? I can feel the stab of it, too.
Are you working your tail off to get your kids the latest material possessions, such as the right phone, clothes, comforts, and so forth? Do your kids constantly press you for more and more? What if they pressed you for junk food at every meal? Would you allow it? For whatever reasons, we think it’s “okay” to spoil our kids materially, while neglecting them spiritually.
But it’s not okay! Our children have a body and a soul, and we must not neglect either. To satisfy just their material desires leads to three problems. First, it keeps us from truly helping them. Humans have needs that no material thing can quench. If we only take care of our bodies, then a significant part of us remains empty and neglected. Just imagine the dad who thinks that he can merely “buy off” his kid with gifts and toys, neglecting to give her love? The same dad might even leave the family for another spouse, thinking that so long as he mails a support check, that everything is fine. Children don’t work like that; all humans are deeper than our surface needs, requiring love, affection, and commitment.
Second, when we neglect to care for our children spiritually, we expose them to the enemy without any protection. A captain would never deploy his soldiers without sufficient gear, protection, and weapons. To do so would be like homicide. However, how often do we send our kids out into battle, unprepared and unarmed, spiritually speaking? There are so many deadly lies that our kids breathe in every day. To deploy them unprepared is like homicide. How are they going to discern truth from lie? The world whispers to them “You’re no good unless you fit a certain size or look a certain way!” Who is going to help our young women fight against these sick lies? The world tells our young men, “You will be happy only when you have these possessions, drive this car, and can impress these people!” Who is going to tell our young men that these are lies? In the meantime, our kids are believing the lies, and inching nearer to their deathbeds, because they can’t live up to the whacked standards.
Third, to neglect our children spiritually, while spoiling them materially, we’re shrinking their capacity for joy, purpose, love, and fulfillment. We’re perpetuating a society of spiritual slugs. We’re diminishing their character, creating a generation of kids who are obese with dissatisfaction and totally unable to handle any amount of suffering. I’ve heard several times now that today’s kids are called the “enabled generation.” They get everything they want and are not used to the word “no.” As a result, they can’t handle trials, much less benefit from them. Yes, I said, “benefit” from trials.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, I know that I need to care for my kids spiritually, but I don’t know how. No one has taught me!” That’s no excuse. Figure it out. You’re a smart person. We figure out how to do the things that are important to us. If we think that caring for our kids spiritually is important, then we will find a way to do it. Talk with your pastor, find a church, read the Bible, pray, talk about spiritual issues, share your wisdom—these are just a few ways to care for the most precious part of your kids.
© Sam Kee, 2013
 I got this idea from J. I. Packer’s book A Quest for Godliness.