My first allowance—25 cents per week—came with both obligation and opportunity, in that order.

My parents usually gave my allowance in some combination of nickels and dimes. It was easier that way, they explained, to take a nickel from those coins and save it to put in my offering envelope every Sunday.

Having been in church all of my life, I knew what a tithe was. I could also do the math, and I knew that a tithe was only 2.5 cents of that quarter. “That’s right,” my parents explained. “That is a tithe. But an offering goes beyond that.” I somehow understood that both were important, and giving both allowed me to help others through my church.

After the initial instructions I received, I don’t recall much discussion or debate about giving part of my allowance every week. It was simply the right thing to do. Along with their Sunday morning checklist that ensured we were clean and properly dressed, my parents regularly asked my brother and me if we had our Bibles and our offering envelopes. And we often heard one of them ask the other, “Did you write the check to the church this week?”

Eventually my allowance was raised, first to 50 cents, then a dollar, then five dollars. By then this pattern of giving was deeply ingrained in me. When I began to earn my own money, giving a tithe and an offering to my church was as natural as anything else I did.

As simple as this seems, it nonetheless helped me set some priorities that have not changed since childhood. It also taught me some valuable lessons:

· Children are natural givers and want to help. They can be wonderful models of unselfish giving.
· Giving can be learned just as easily as selfishness. The earlier we establish patterns of faithful giving, the more likely we are to continue those patterns.
· Faithful giving fosters unselfish living and inspires genuine caring. The reverse is also true: being unselfish and caring leads us to give.
· People who give are generally much happier and seem to enjoy life more than people who live only for themselves.
· Every person in the church has both the privilege and the responsibility of giving, and every gift matters.
· Giving is one way we can express gratitude to God for all God has done for us.
· While we can never match God’s gifts or completely reflect God’s nature, we can become more like God when we give selflessly and faithfully.
· Our giving patterns reflect our values, priorities, beliefs and commitments.
· Giving ourselves is often much more difficult than giving money. God expects total life stewardship.

A quarter in the hand of a child challenged with commitment and exposed to faithful Christian models has value far greater than 25 cents.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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