Materialism in Children

By Bill Cavender

“When our sons shall be as plants grown up in their youth, And our daughters as corner-stones hewn after the fashion of a palace; When our garners are full, affording all manner of store. And our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; When our oxen are well laden; Where there is no breaking in, and no going forth, And. no outcry in our streets; Happy is the people that is in such a case; Yea, happy is the people whose God is Jehovah” (Psa. 114:12-15, ASV).

The desire and dream, purpose and prayer, of all Godfearing parents is that their children grow up as “tender plants” (Isa. 53:1-2) before Jehovah, being instructed in the “right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10; Heb. 3:10), and raised and reared in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1-4). Knowledgeable and caring parents understand the truth that our children are really not ours but “are a heritage of Jehovah; And the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psa. 127:3-5), and the “gifts” from our God and Father (Gen. 33:1-7; 48:8-11). Our Heavenly Father grants us our children, perpetuating the human race in the honorable union of marriage, and instructs us that they, his offspring (Acts 17:26-29), shall be brought up in accordance with his spiritual, heavenly and eternal precepts (Gen. 18:19). God is the Father of our spirit; our earthly father and mother are permitted to procreate a human body of flesh (Heb. 12:7-11). At death our body will return to earth and dust, its original composition, but the spirit will return to God who gave it (Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; Jas. 2:26). After death, then the resurrection and judgment await all of us – parents and children – and heaven or hell for all eternity (Jn. 5:28-29; Matt. 25:31-46). We only have the children for a short time to accomplish this task our Father has given ~us in teaching the children about him who is their true and everlasting Father.

Jehovah created and made the heavens and earth and all things therein (Gen. 1:1-27; Acts 17:22-31). “The heavens are the heavens of Jehovah; But the earth hath He given to the children of men” (Psa. 115:15-16). The earth was created as the proper habitat for all living things and beings (except th4 angels). This earth, being material, and human having material bodies of earth, and being physically sustained by material food, drink, clothing and shelter, to a greater or lesser degree are going to be desirous of and influenced by “material things.” From the cradle to the grave we will have need of money, or other means of exchange, whereby we sustain ourselves, our loved ones, and others who have legitimate rights to and expectations of being wholly or partially maintained by us – family members, poor saints in Jesus, our fellow-citizens and fellow-human beings (1 Tim. 5:4-16; Acts 6:1-7; 11:28-30; Rom. 15:25-27; Eph. 4:28; 1 Jn. 3:16-18; Gal. 6:9-10; Matt. 25:31-46).

In Psalms 144:12-15, the psalmist (probably David, as this psalm bears resemblance to David’s last son in 2 Sam. 22 and to Psa. 17 and 18), sets forth the ideal circumstances we would hope for in life. We would desire our sons be giant oaks, “plants grown up,” straight and strong, tall and true, honest and honorable, masculine and mature in manhood, vigorous and virtuous in the kingdom of our, Savior, truly being young men and adults as “trees planted by the streams of water, that bringeth forth their fruit in their season, whose leaves also doth not wither, and whatsoever they do shall prosper” (Psa. 1:1-6).

We would will and wish our daughters to be a “cornerstones hewn after the fashion of a palace.” So much of the strength, security and happiness of the family, the church, and the nation is dependent upon the females. They are “corner-stones” in the building of orderly and godly societies, and in building the churches of our Lord. More women than men are faithful and true to Jesus, oftentimes better students of God’s word, and more devout and sincere in the personal and prayer lives. Godly women will determine the moral and religious tone of the family by their character and conduct even more than men. Home life is often a reflection of the women in the family, especially the wife and mother. A mother’s love and care are supreme in the hearts of children. The beauty of the wives, mothers, daughters and sisters is the “fashion of a palace” of purity of heart and body, modesty and discreetness of spirit, a gentle and quiet personality, a loving and kind nature, a gracious and godly demeanor. The hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world. One only has to know of Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, the Shunammite, Abigail, Elizabeth, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lois, Eunice and other women of the Holy Scriptures to see and recognize the “worthy woman” whose price is far above rubies (Prov. 31:10-31). One only has to be acquainted with men of history, leaders, powerful and influential men, who attributed their successes to their mothers and wives. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother.” Would to God that all our daughters and young women could be and would be beautiful ornaments, “comer-stones, ” in the temple and family of our God, and in their own families as daughters, wives and mothers.

Christians, who “set their affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:14), are not interested in becoming rich in the world’s goods and having an excess of money and the material “things” which money can obtain. We are not particularly interested in “full garners, all manner of store, sheep by thousands and ten thousands, and -oxen well ladened.” We appreciate enough material goods to meet our needs. We would be as the wise man said: “Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:7-9). Men and women who swerve from the paths of heavenly things and eternal values, who set their affections on material things of this present evil material world (Gal. 1:4) and are minded to be rich and superfluous in their needs, habits and desires, will “fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all (kinds of) evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). The men of God – brethren, deacons, elders, preachers – are to “flee these things” (i.e., the love of money among other evils, v. 11). People who learn to love money and things the money will buy have great difficulty in being “content with such things are you have” (Heb. 13:5), in living a life “in all godliness and honesty” and tranquility (1 Tim. 2:2), and in trusting in our God who richly gives unto us all things we need instead of the uncertainty of riches. Materialism and wealth breed a spirit of self-independence, a proud and high-minded heart, slow learning in sharing, giving freely and abundantly (1 Tim. 6:17-19; Lk. 18:18-27; 12:13-21). In forty-two years of preaching, I have known very, very few who obtained their wealth by unquestioned, truthful, honest, just means and who maintained an humble, dependent-upon-God, generous attitude and practice toward God and man in believing that it all belongs to our Father (Lk. 16:1-16). Very few of such people, and their children, are able to live moderate, unpretentious, quiet lives and give the greater portion of God’s wealth intrusted to them to the Lord, the church, the poor, and to many good works (Gal. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 6.17-19). Some few people can and do divest themselves of wealth in behalf of the work of God but they are in the distinct minority.

My assigned subject for this special edition is “Materialism in Children.” We are told by Webster that “material” is: “4. Pertaining to, or affecting man’s bodily wants, interests, or comforts,” He defines “materialism” as: “2. The tendency to give undue importance to material interests.” So “‘Materialism in Children” would be the children learning, developing and cultivating “the tendency to give undue importance to material interests, to bodily “wants and comforts.”

The children learn these tendencies toward and for material things, bodily wants, interests and comforts. We are speaking of “American” children. Children in Ethiopia, India, Uganda, Borneo, the Philippines, Nigeria, and most countries of the world do not have many problems with materialism. Just a bit of rough food for the belly, a bit of clothes for their nakedness, and a hut or shack to shelter them are about the best they can hope for. Yet our Heavenly Father loves them as much as he does our “American” children! They have no material things to speak of, and little acquaintance with or expectations of having them.

I like to think (perhaps wistfully and mistakenly so) that “material things” have not been too much of a problem with those of us who were born and reared “in the depression years” of the twenties and thirties of this century. Living without electricity, indoor water and plumbing, no automobile, no artificially air-conditioned schools, no school buses, no high school football teams, no radios, televisions, video and tape recorders, hi-fi records and compact discs, etc. in our growing years, and who ate home-grown fruits and vegetables from the family orchard and garden, then canned by mother, and the home-grown pork, beef, chicken, eggs and milk grown by father, didn’t seem to create too much materialism in us. Those “things” and conditions were the order of the day in the small villages, towns and country farms where many of us “grew up,” shared commonly by neighbors, schoolmates and friends. It has been most difficult to “unlearn” those days! People saved money, clothes and food; shared what they had; were frugal but not stingy; honest and truthful in their dealings; their word was their bond; lived simply and unpretentiously; paid their debts; borrowed money only as a last resort and paid it back on time; bought very little, because there was very little to buy and very little money to but it with. Many of us who grew up then look back upon those days, in our present older and maturer years, and see more of our fathers and mothers in ourselves, our attitudes and personalities and concepts about “things,” than we realize we were learning and imbibing in our young, formative years. Doing without, and not knowing about present “material things” then, diminished one’s appetites for such material things now.

Children learn, develop and cultivate their habits, tendencies, personalities and characters, fundamentally and basically, from their parents and other family members. Then influences from brethren and their families, from the schools (teachers, friends, classmates, peers), from the culture and society in which they live and grow up, and from what they read, hear and see, who they run with, and where they run to. The children in the materialistic society of the present American and Western World culture of money, gadgets and “things” are going to learn from and be influenced by this type of society and world. It is interesting at the present time (but saddening to the spirit) to observe the changes in the cultures of other countries of the world – China, Japan, Eastern Europe, Russia, etc. – as they imbibe the materialism and spirit of the American-Western World “civilized” culture of “things,” money, luxuries, affluency, styles, crimes, immoralities, drunkenness, divorces, dishonesty in high places. These “backward nations” have had all these conditions in a smaller, relative degree all along, just as America did in the “depression years.” Now all these nations are going wholesale and headlong into the “love of the world, and the things that are in the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-17) which always condemns any nation, no matter how large, rich or powerful, to the garbage heaps, and sand dunes and dust bowls of fallen civilizations.

But what about our children of believers in America, in an affluent (but debt-ridden, living high on borrowed money which we cannot and will not repay) society, a world of “material things”? There are some things we cannot do! We can’t ignore materialism, for it is here and around us every waking hour. We can’t deny materialism, for all of us – parents, teachers, friends, preachers, brethren, citizens – are all involved in it, practitioners of and participants in worldliness and materialism, far more than we are willing to admit or even to realize. We can’t run away from the world (1 Cor. 5:9-10), for if we “take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” (Psa. 139), there sin, worldliness and materialism will already be present -along with our God! So what shall we do?

Do what all true believers and dedicated parents have always done! The lot and task of the believer is to live in the midst of an evil, wicked world (Gen. 6:1-22; 12:6; 13:7), and to cultivate righteousness and true holiness while surrounded by ungodly people (Heb. 12:14; Eph. 4:24). We must not expect the children to be blessed of Jehovah if the parents are not growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:18). The inconsistencies of parents are the chief obstacles to conversion to Jesus and results in damnation of the children. Lack of reading the Scriptures and teaching in the home; no sincere living the truths of God’s word; no time for singing and praying in the home; no quietness, peace, kindness, gentleness and true affection; no putting God and his kingdom first in family life; no generosity of spirit which leads to good works, genuine interests in others, and deeds of kindness, hospitality and care of the poor; no times for family meditations and talks, recreation and togetherness; no emphasis on heavenly and eternal things but emphasis upon working, making money, buying “things,” and mothers and fathers both working to provide “things” and a “higher standard of living”: all these, and many more neglected practices and wrong attitudes in family life make for worldly minds and materialistic tendencies in the children. It all begins at home with the parents! Children are the true reflections of home and family life in most cases. There are some few exceptions.

Parents who will tell the truth, are moral, are honest in their dealings, have good marriages, borrow money sparingly, save some money from every paycheck, pay debts on time, live quietly and plainly and frugally, are peaceable in the family and in the church, love the truth of God and teach it publicly and privately, love the brethren and speak well and kindly of all the brethren, and go about doing good in sincerity before their children, will raise some good children to serve the Lord.

Our children must be reared by the Spirit of God as taught us in his holy word. If they have been hushed to sleep by the sacred psalms, hymns and lullabies about Jesus, sung by the sweet, angel-like voice of a devout mother, they will most likely follow Jesus. But if they are put to bed in fear, dread, anxieties and tears by words and shouts of anger, strife, lust, threats and profanity from the lips of their father, they will most likely serve Satan. Lives of fathers and mothers, lived in a “quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” and “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” will result in the children “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (1 Tim. 2:12; Tit. 2:11-12). If the parents sincerely and consistently do not “love the world, neither the things that are in the world . . . the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:1517), the possibilities are greatly increased and enhanced that the children will not do so.

We must try to save the children by our right standards of conduct and behavior. We should not neglectfully and willingly forfeit the fives and souls of our children to the devil and to hell. We can still rear a Timothy, a Titus, a David, an Abraham, an Isaac, a Jacob, a Samuel, a Joshua, a Caleb, a Paul, a Noah, a Moses. God has uses for all our children. They are his children! If we do not try diligently while they are small and while we can, chances are we will raise up a Ham, a Cain, a Hophni and Phinehas, an Esau, an Absalom, a Rehoboam, a Manasseh, or a Judas!

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 12, pp. 386-388
June 15, 1989