What comes to mind when you hear the word “tithe”? Most of you probably s probably thought of the ten percent of our income God commands His people to give back to Him. (The actual idea stems from the Old Testament where the annual total was somewhere between 10-25% depending on which scholar you read.) Now ask the same question of anyone under the age of 21 and you will probably get puzzled looks.
The advent of online giving has made the idea of Christians giving back to God invisible to most children and teens. Sermons are rarely preached on the topic and many young people wouldn’t be in the room to hear them even if your minister preached one. We are raising a generation who may very well grow up believing that everything that is theirs is theirs, with little consideration given to gratefulness to God or the generosity God requires of His people.
Even if you attend a congregation where giving and generosity are in constant evidence, the emphasis is often only on the giving of money. The reality is that your Bible students need to understand all of the ways they can and should be generous in order to please God. (Not to earn their way to Heaven, but in gratitude and obedience.)
There is an activity you can do with your Bible students – first as a class and then individually – that can help start a key dialogue on giving to God. A great way to start the conversation is by looking at the ever popular story of the widow’s mites found in Mark 12:41-44. Note that Jesus was less pleased with the large gifts of the rich than the mites the poor widow gave. Explore the idea for a few minutes before moving on to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Discuss the idea that for us (in English) the word “talent” in this parable could mean both money and the gifts/talents God gives us to serve Him. Finally read Exodus 31:1-11 as an example of God giving talents to people that they then used to serve Him.
Explain to your students that there are actually four categories of things we can give to God and an argument can be easily made that God expects us to give from each of the four. They are money, material possessions like food and clothes, our talents/gifts and our time. As a group, think of lots of examples of ways they can give in each of the categories at their age now and in the future as adults.
If time allows, also discuss the three main groups we see examples of Christians giving to in the New Testament: other Christians, poor/people in need of something, and the Church/God directly. Once again, work as a group to think of ways your Bible students can be generous to each of those groups of people now and in the future.
End the conversation by giving each student a sheet that lists the types of giving and the groups to whom they should give. Have them capture their favorite ideas from your conversation. Ask them to commit to regularly giving to others. (Establishing a habit is easier if it is a daily or weekly occurrence)
We don’t have to raise a generation of people who aren’t grateful or generous. We just need to be a lot more proactive in teaching and helping them practice gratefulness and generosity now.