The Child And Money

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 9 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Children)

Man's responsibility to his child is not to leave him to live a life of idleness, but rather to equip him to live a life of service. Money is only a certificate that represents service. When a man performs a service he is to receive the appropriate amount of money. When a man has a service done for him, he should pay the proper amount of money representing the value of the service performed. Hence, basically money is simply "time." It represents the amount of time occupied by the service which earned it. No child can develop good character unless he has the proper attitude toward money. Several truths must be taught if this attitude is developed.

1. Money is not a means of happiness. A little child is often led to believe that happiness increases when wealth increases. This belief must be combated, for it is exactly the opposite of the truth. Quite to the contrary, usually the happiness in man diminishes as his wealth increases. To a man who is very rich, no amount of increase can bring him more happiness. Just a few dollars a month increase in the salary of a poor man may bring him much enjoyment, whereas to a millionaire thousands of dollars added to his estate gives him little enjoyment. One who is going to acquire a lot can have more happiness by acquiring it gradually and by earning it himself. This way he enjoys each step of the trip to success whereas the one who suddenly accumulates much wealth jumps over many steps of enjoyment.

2. Money should be a servant, not a master. There are many perils involved in wealth. One of the greatest of these is the ease with which money can become one's master. Often it possesses the possessor. A little money one can control; it can be his servant. On the other hand, if one has much money, it often controls him and becomes his master.

3. The important thing in life is not how much one is worth but what one is doing. It is more important to serve than to increase. What has he done? What is he doing? These are the important questions. How much does he live for others? How much has he given to others? How much has he done for others? How much has he helped others?

Once a man asked John Bright, the English statesman, "Do you know that I am worth a million sterling?" whereupon Mr. Bright replied, "Yes I do, and I know that is all you are worth."

Themistocles said, "Rather a man without money than money without a man."

Marden said, "Be a millionaire of character instead of a millionaire of money."

4. The important thing in life is to serve, not to make money. Money is incidental. Service should be predominant. Most of the truly great men in history have not been men of wealth. Once the country of France voted to determine who was the greatest Frenchman who ever lived. Napoleon and others were bypassed and the French elected Pasteur as their greatest man. Of all the men who received votes not one was a millionaire. Great men such a Lincoln, Washington, Franklin, etc. cared nothing for what they got out of life, but rather for what they put into it and what they could do for others.

To be sure the workman is worthy of his hire, but money should not be the supreme thing. Many years ago when I was just a preacher boy I had to settle this matter in my own heart. I went alone with God and spent an entire evening in prayer. I promised God that I would never discuss money as far as the Lord's work is concerned. I would never ask for any particular remuneration. I would never discuss salary with a church. I promised God that I would trust Him to take care of my needs. He has done so in a wonderful way.

Many great people have turned down more money in order to do more service. Robert E. Lee refused the presidency of an insurance company and its big salary to become President of Washington College with a small salary. Spurgeon refused to come to America to lecture fifty times at $1000 a night. He did this because it would have taken him away from the work God had called him to do. Emerson set his income at a fixed amount and refused to accept anymore. The same has been done by other great men such as Chinese Gordon, Pitt, Wellington, Burbank, and others.

One of my dearest friends offered me an apartment house with seven apartments as a gift. The love behind the offer was worth more to me than the apartment house. I politely rejected the gift though the apartment house id probably worth $100,000.

Once a relative offered me a great sum of money and I rejected it. I appreciated the love behind the offer, but did not accept the money. Upon hearing of these two offers and of my rejecting them a friend once asked why I rejected them. I replied that I have always been poor and have always been extremely happy, so I know that I can be poor and be happy. I do not know that I can be rich and be happy. Hence, the safest thing is to retain my poverty, for then I can be sure that I can retain my happiness. Otherwise, it would be a gamble.

In the Koran we find these words: "When a man dies they who survive him ask what property he left behind. The angel bends over the dying man and asks what too deeds he has sent before him."

These truths are pictured so beautifully in the words of Christ Who said, "I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

5. A child should be taught the dangers of betting and gambling. Show him that the injustice lies in obtaining something for nothing or obtaining money without giving in return an equal amount of service to others. This is the worst thing about gambling. No return is rendered. The prize comes from the pocket of the loser into the pocket of the winner and the loser gets no proper return, allowing the winner to receive that which he did not earn.

Of course, there are other wrongs in gambling, such as the fact that the owner of the establishment arranges it so he is sure to win. There is also the awful tragedy of poverty caused by money wasted and squandered through gambling. Millions of children have gone hungry and millions of families have gone without proper provisions because of this sin.

6. Much stress should be given to the fact that stealing any item is stealing money. Children should be taught that when one steals a book, a garment, a toy, or any other item he steals not only the amount of money equivalent to the value of the object, but he also steals the amount of time it would normally take to earn the corresponding amount of money.

The parent should think of as many instances and illustrations of this as he can; for example, the taking of a book, chalk, etc. at school; slipping into an entertainment without paying; taking money from his mother's drawer or his father's billfold, even if he plans to replace it etc. The parent should think of practically every possible way the child could steal or be dishonest and explain to him that he is stealing money and time from another.

The penalty or punishment inflicted for such offenses should follow the offense quickly. The punishment should never be omitted, should cause more discomfort than the stealing caused comfort, and should be consistent with previous punishment so the child will affix the crime to the penalty and have a definite connection between them. Much emphasis should be placed upon the fact that the sin is the stealing, not how much is stolen or what is stolen. An old saying reminds us, "He who steals a pin will surely steal a greater thing."

The child should be taught that he has been dishonest, for honesty is justice and respect for the rights of others.

7. The child should always be paid what the service is worth. Suppose Johnny mows the yard and it takes him thirty minutes. His dad pays him $5 for doing this task. Johnny's labor was not equal to the money he received. He received more money than the service he rendered. He is being taught an unbalanced sense of values, and he will always want to receive money in excess of the service rendered. The father thought he was doing Johnny a favor when in actuality he is doing Johnny a great harm. Such excessive payments are usually not prompted by Johnny anyway, but rather by the parent so as to gain favor with Johnny. Such favor is ill-gotten and exceedingly harmful. The child has a right to the money for the service rendered, but no more.

8. Excessive allowances to be spent on pleasure, etc., are dangerous. It is far better for the child to earn what he gets. If a child receives a stipulated amount each week from his parents, he should have regular, routine duties to perform in return for this amount. Now perhaps this allowance should not be spent on food, clothing, etc. when the child is very young. At that age his allowance should be minimal and he should be encouraged to save much of it. However, with proper guidance he should spend it as he chooses as is mentioned in the chapter on independence.

9. Children should be taught to tithe. The giving of at least 1/10 of one's increase should be taught to the child from his infancy. He should give at least 1/10 off every dime that comes into his possession and should from at the earliest possible age the habit of tithing.

The first money that I ever made was on a paper route. When I was ten years of age I began throwing papers for the Dallas Morning News. I would get up at 3:30 in the morning, go get my papers, throw my route, and bet back home about 5:00 in time to sleep a bit before going to school. The first week I made $3. My mother sat me down for a conference. She explained to me what she had taught me through the years, that 30 cents of that money was God's and that I had not really given Goad a penny until I had already given Him His 30 cents. Hence, I laid 30 cents aside and said, "Dear God, this is Yours." I had become a tither. What an ecstasy I felt. What a thrill to be a co-laborer with God and a partner in His wonderful work. This should be the heritage of every child.

10. Every cent should be spent carefully, preferably on that which is permanent. A good rule is to spend it only on that which lasts. Candy, chewing gum, cigarettes, carbonated drinks, ice cream, picture shows, etc. shortly pass away and leave nothing in one's hands to show for his money. This is not to say that all of the above-mentioned are wrong; it is simply to say there are things that are more right. Of course, the child will not waste his money as frequently if he earns the money himself. This is why he should have to earn the money so he will spend it more wisely.

It is also wise for a child to be taught to spend the money for that which gives delight and help to the most people. Bryan wrote, "If thou joy would win, share it; happiness was born a twin." This is just another way to say we should use our money for others.

11. Children should be taught that they must provide for their parents when they are aged. This one fact marks one of the main differences between the uncivilized and civilized peoples of this world. When their aged are no longer able to be of service to the uncivilized family they are turned out to die. As civilization increases they are treated with more humanity until among the most civilized people care is provided for the aged.

When my son was two or three years of age I began to drill him to take care of his parents when they become aged. This is the proper thing to do, the Christian thing to do, and yes, the manly thing to do.

12. The child should be taught to make his own way. This often presents a problem for the rich child or the child of the successful parent, and of course, there is always the temptation for this type of parent to lead the child to follow in his own footsteps. It would be far better for him to start at the bottom and work his way up. In most cases it is best for the child to enter another profession other than that of his successful parent.

In some cases this is not wise or practical. My son, for example, is going to be a preacher, but I have insisted that he make his own way. A few years ago he was asked to bring a message on a radio broadcast. This was his first sermon. Several folks who heard it told me that it was a good message and that he is a splendid preacher. One dear brother asked if I were going to let David preach for me now that he had preached his first sermon. I replied that I was not going to do so. He then asked, "How do you expect to make a preacher out of him if you don't let him preach?"

I replied, "I am not trying to make a preacher out of him. I am trying to make a man out of him. If I can make a man of him, God can make a preacher of him." It is far easier to make a preacher out of a man than a man out of a preacher.

By all means a child should not be taught that the world is his. He should not be coddled in his infancy and allowed to lean upon others. The child that does this will not develop stamina. He is born with a silver spoon in his mouth and will become a weakling.

Someone has compared life to a gymnasium. One never becomes strong or develops strong muscles by looking at the weight, the parallel bars, etc. He must use them for himself.

Napoleon once said that he was concerned about the luxury of the young nobles. He went on to say that nobody could be successful in life without the habit of independence and suggested that even the wealthy be required to clean their own rooms, groom their own horses, and have their own hardships. It is tremendously important that every child earn his own way, make his own mark, be his own man or woman, and be responsible in a large measure for his own success.

The Lord Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21) How true! If we would have the hearts of our children become right, we must have them use their treasure properly. Alexander Pope once said, "An honest man is the noblest work of God." Don Quixote said, "Either live or die with honor. The man without honor is worse than dead." May God help us to lead our children to live and die with honor, honesty, and integrity. May they be taught to make their own way and not to become parasites on the government and society for support.


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"I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years." óBilly Sunday