James Dobson in his book, "Home with a Heart", has a page I would like to relate to you with children or without. The principle is certainly true with children, but I find it to be true in the Christian experience for adults as well.
Adults don’t like be told “no” either. When we afford ourselves every conceivable pleasure, want, or desire, we may in fact be depriving ourselves of pleasure. Here’s what I mean: “It’s not easy to say no to children, especially in an affluent and permissive society. Toy companies are spending millions of dollars on advertising aimed at children — not their parents. They know boys and girls are the very best customers. But by giving in to this pressure, parents may actually deprive their children of pleasure.
Here’s why. Pleasure occurs when an intense need is met.
A glass of water is worth more than gold to a person who’s dying of thirst, but it’s worthless to the person who doesn’t need it. That principle applies directly to children. (I would say adults too!)
If you never allow a boy or girl to desire something, he or she will not fully enjoy the pleasure of receiving it. If you give him a tricycle before he can walk, and a bike before he can ride, and a car before he can drive, and a diamond ring before he knows the value of money, you may actually have deprived him of the satisfaction he could have received from that possession. How unfortunate is the child who never has the opportunity to long for something, to dream about that prize by day, and to plot for it by night, perhaps even get desperate enough to work for it. Excessive materialism is not only harmful to children — but it deprives them of pleasure, too.”
When my children were much younger they often had more want than work in their little hearts. Often after receiving a prize or a gift they would immediately move to this; “Now that I have this, I can’t wait ’till I get this next thing!” I knew very quickly that the prize or the gift was given too hastily, before they could truly appreciate it and derive pleasure from it. It can be a hard cycle to break but well worth the effort in the long run.
It is just as detrimental for adults when we receive something we want before we’ve earned it.
Instant gratification is the rule of our day and fuels many of our decisions about accumulating what we want. In the American religion of materialism, there are two words more sacred than any other: “Charge it!” Consider the following two scenarios in evaluating the intelligence of using plastic:
1. Ellen is 30 years old. She has a $3,500 balance on her Citibank credit card at 18 percent interest. She makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off?
2. Susan and Tom needed a new washing machine, so they went to Sears and found one for $299. They got a Sears charge card and made the minimum payment each month. By the time the washing machine was paid off, how much did Susan and Tom actually pay for that washing machine?
(Answers: 1. 70 years old; 2. $1,199)
Obviously, credit card purchases are not the wisest of decisions. In the midst of everyone shouting, “Charge it! Charge it!” without giving it a second thought, the Bible gives us another c-word to replace “credit” on our path to financial happiness, that word is “contentment.” The difference between seeking financial happiness through credit versus seeking it through contentment can be neatly summed up in this way:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5. The world tells us financial happiness comes by having what you want; the Bible tells us the key is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. Isaiah 55:2 reminds us, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and labor on what does not satisfy?” It is in the journey and the quest that when we attain a good thing we will experience intense pleasure, not in the mere accumulation worldly goods.
— Dirk Scates is senior minister at Tonganoxie Christian Church.