You can convince a 4-7 year old child to do almost anything if you bribe them with candy. For parents with stubborn children, it's no secret that good healthy discipline and instruction strategies have to often resort to "If you clean your room, I'll give you a lollipop!" It's because it works. Candy is valuable currency in the mind of a child, and sugar is worth any amount of work.
Try that tactic on a tween- maybe between the ages of 9 and 13. They may fall for it, but chances are, you're going to have to "up the ante" a little bit. Instead of trading a lollipop for a clean bedroom, you might have to give them extra TV or computer time. Maybe you'll have to use their chores as a way of getting "un-grounded," so they can go play with friends. Kids those ages are beginning to realize that hard work is worth more than a mere lollipop.
Try bribing a teenager to clean their room... it just doesn't work. Trust me. I am one. I can't just be bribed to complete a chore. I either clean because I want to, or because I have been told to. My parents don't offer anything to me for my work, it's just a household chore. It should be common knowledge by this age that people shouldn't have to be paid for common household jobs. It's simply part of being a family.
However, to get a teenager to go the 'extra mile' in something other than the list of inherent household chores, it takes more than candy and TV privileges. They may ask that you fill up their car, if they don't want to pay for the gas. Maybe they'll ask you to run some of their errands while they complete the task you gave them. You'll be trading work for work, basically.
Take a look at adults, now. They work for pay. They work for fair wages. By the hour, by the day, by the client, by the sale, whatever it is... real jobs earn real rewards. Not only do they promise money, but most laborers make sure that their new job also offers health, dental, etc, etc. Insurance is also important to adults of all ages.
Did you notice that, as the ages went up, the things they valued became worth more and more? A task we would have completed for a candy or a sticker at age 5 would take 5 dollars at age 10. And what 7-year-old, when told to clean the bathroom, will do it in exchange for free dental care? That would be one strange child.
As we mature, we experience and learn different life lessons. In this case, as we grow older, we begin to view prizes and rewards from a different angle. Instead of looking for momentary pleasure, we begin to look deeper- like how the prize will benefit us in the long run. We begin to think about our future, and we see the worth in the things that last, rather than the things that vanish quickly.
This change in maturity and vision is obvious when comparing typical Christmas Wish Lists from different age groups. A generic 6-year-old's list all scribbled in crayon may read something like: Lego, chocolate, a scooter, a Barbie, paint, teddy bear, and a water gun. However, compare the worth of the items on a typical 10 or 12-year-old's wish list: an Xbox 360, a remote controlled helicopter, a bicycle, a camera, and an iPod. Moving up in ages, how about your average 14-17 year old's wishlist? Most of them probably have similar items: Gift cards, an iPad or a laptop, a car, and money. Giving gifts to parents has got to the most boring of all, as their list seems to be filled with practical, household objects- like cleaning supplies!
What I'm trying to show you, is that we naturally grow up and mature in our desires and wants. We learn to want the things we "need," and we learn to look for value in the usefulness and long-term benefits of the item. We acquire an eye for worth, which our desires mirror.
Although the majority of people do grow up and learn to save their money for things of value and of usefulness rather than sweets and toys, there are very few of us who mature completely. I fear that the number will grow less and less as our world continues to modernize, industrialize, and promote consumerism and capitalism.
But these groups and individuals, some famous, others forever unknown, have lived scattered throughout history as significant lives. Why? Because they understood what mattered more than anybody. These are the people we call martyrs. These are the people who have actually put into practice Matthew 6:33; "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
People like Joan of Arc, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, John the Baptist, Stephen, Abel... they had it figured out. They understood priorities. They all knew that God came first. Always. No matter what. Even unto death. They understood their place. They were like you and me, who are still growing and learning to save money and spend on needs, not wants, but they went further. They disciplined themselves and realized that any earthly possession will fade away, unless it is poured out as an offering to God. That fact is first demonstrated by Abel's offering in the book of Genesis.
That gives a whole new twist on the matter. Imagine if everybody realized that it is not possessions that have any value but what is done with the possessions that does? A million dollar painting, in all honesty, has no value when it is simply hanging on somebody's wall. It's value can only truly be unlocked with the money that it is worth. That painting has value when it is donated to charity, sold at a fundraiser, or given as a gift to the poor. This is true value. The worth that God puts in things. The worth that God puts in us.
"Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven!
And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes.
Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and
no moth can destroy it.
Buying gives us momentary happiness. Giving grants us everlasting hope. Why save up for things that will give you pleasure for a few years, when you could be saving up treasures that will last for eternity? We are all growing, day by day, and hopefully learning to distinguish between what is valuable and what is not. But maybe it is time we looked around our homes, looked in our wallets and in our bank accounts, and figured out what things are truly being used according to their value, and what items are simply fading away, doing nobody any good.
A true servant and friend of God is someone who pours our their lives as a living sacrifice. But that point of love and dedication doesn't simply come straight from a heart that clings to technology, toys, food, games, and money. It comes from a generous heart- a heart that has learned that giving is better than receiving and, because of that, has come to terms with the truth that their life belongs to God.
I want to start living my life as though I will die tomorrow. There are thousands of things in my house and in my life that, if I were to be gone tomorrow, would collect dust and eventually erode into nothingness. They are worthless. Everything my consumerist, teenage mind has deemed valuable are really worth nothing... unless I do with them what God would do with them.
If you were to die tomorrow, how much junk would you be leaving behind, and how much treasure would be awaiting you in heaven? Even two small coins, when given with a cheerful heart, can be worth millions.
I will wrap this up with the story of Jesus and the rich man. I beg you- read it all. Because nothing says it better than God's Word.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?”
Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’c and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”