Children and Money
“There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale:
because while he liveth he hath cast away his bowels.” – Ecclesiasticus 10:10
“Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all
these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the
kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:31-33
I grew up like many Americans do with respect to money. As a child, I had a weekly allowance, starting at 25 cents when I was around seven years old. As I grew older, I was paid for doing chores around the house and, eventually, the farm. There were always some chores that were exempt, though – we boys did them just because we were part of the family. I saved up money working in the orchards one summer, and at age 14 bought my first vehicle for five hundred dollars – a ’61 Chevrolet pickup, straight six cylinder engine. I worked on our own almond farm, my grandparent’s farm, my cousin’s farm, and I worked for many of the other farmers in the area. I earned thousands of dollars before graduating from high school, was always proud of that fact, and I remain grateful for the lessons learned in the process.
But I do remember feeling kind of guilty when my grandmother would pay me. I adored her and felt a sense of obligation to her after my grandfather died. She was extremely generous and always paid a little more than I expected. Sometimes I tried to refuse, but she would insist and that was that.
Years later, when our children were old enough to work around the house, we considered paying them for chores or paying them an allowance. But my thinking had changed considerably by then. I really didn’t want them making such an explicit connection between work and money, or even thinking about money at all. Nor did I want them adopting the ubiquitous American error of confusing price with value: i.e., “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”. We’ve never given them an allowance, and only seldom paid them for chores. Although we do encourage them to save the money they earn from music performances and odd jobs, money is not one of their priorities. That may sound bizarre to American ears, but let me explain.
What is the highest Christian motive for work? It certainly isn’t money. A Christian works because he has an obligation to work, to do something useful, to serve God and his fellow man. Christian family life, in particular, ought to have a strong communal element. Marx, the son of a Jew who had converted to Christianity, wasn’t entirely off base with his dictum “from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”. As a matter of fact, he was paraphrasing Sacred Scripture:
“And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them. And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.”
Now Marx, as we all know, took a little bit of Christian truth and used it for evil ends, creating a monstrous materialistic ideology. But every heretic has hold of some bit of truth, and in our combat against heresies the danger is that we lose sight of those truths. Family life ought to be lived communally, with every member contributing what he can, working not for his own private benefit, but for the good of his family. Children raised thusly will not lose sight of the common good of society when they leave the nest. Certainly, it may be prudent that children earn and save some money, and learn to handle money independently. The “real world” demands that adults be wise and enterprising with respect to Mammon. But the more important thing is that children are raised with the highest possible motive for work, which is essentially love – love for God, love for neighbor, and love for the goodness of work itself.