As Christian parents, we want our children to have a compassionate and thankful heart: firstly, toward Jesus’ love and sacrifice on the cross, and secondly, to the grace that gift affords. There are many ways that we, as intentional parents, can instill a heart of compassion and gratitude in our children like choosing to give thanks for our many blessings, especially as the holidays approach. But, perhaps even more effective in providing our children with a healthy perspective shift would be to actually see, touch, and taste the opposite of our over-indulgent and extravagant gift-giving season; to actually put a face and a story to the plight of the poor in our world.
The Bible has a lot to say about the poor. They are mentioned almost 200 times in scripture. In our own comfortable daily life, we are not usually confronted with the reality that nearly 689 million people in the world live on less than $1.90 a day. And our children will not consider this reality unless they see it with their own eyes. If Jesus said, “blessed are you who are poor…” (Luke 6:20), maybe we, as believers, should be aware of and involved in caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. And what a time of year to get involved and learn more as a family!
Several years ago I took my boys to an in-person Compassion Experience, where the volunteers had set up a living situation like might be in a poor community in South America. As we walked through each room, we listened to a child tell his story over an audio recording and share with us a little bit about his life. Getting to see, smell, hear, and taste that level of poverty brought it to life for my boys. We walked through where he slept. We listened to a riot take place outside his school. We got to touch and see the small room where his family cooked their sparse meals. We had a good conversation afterwards about how his life was different than theirs and how Jesus met that boy in the midst of his situation. So, even if you cannot go to a Compassion Experience in person, I encourage you to check out The Compassion Experience online as a place to introduce your children to poverty.
Going and seeing poverty will make a lasting impression upon your kids. But you don’t have to go to begin to have that conversation. Has your family ever filled an Operation Christmas Child shoebox? Filling a shoebox is simple activity that your whole family can get involved with to provide a few necessities and fun toys to children in need. It is also a great opportunity to introduce your children to God’s world and His heart for the poor!
Whether you decide to fill a shoebox or check out a Compassion Experience, or just start to have a conversation about how there are those less fortunate than your kids in the world, download my Let’s Pray for the Poor Prayer Card to do together during your family devotional time.
Jesus cared for the poor, He didn’t want them overlooked. The law of Moses contains many instructions for how the poor were supposed to be cared for and protected in the Jewish society. As a family, read Luke 14:16-22 and discuss how this story of the great banquet is an example of what Jesus came to offer us.
Who is the man (v. 16) and the servant? Who was extended an invitation by the man and his servant? What were the excuses offered by the wealthy? Discuss what an excuse is and how the wealthy are tempted by these excuses. How is the great banquet better than their excuses? Who are the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame (v. 21) in our lives and how can we make sure they know that they are invited to the great banquet?
Then, together, pray for the poor, both in the world and in your community:
- Pray for the poor to know that they have been invited to Jesus’ banquet table, to know that they are not excluded because of their lack of possessions or physical handicaps. Pray that they would “Come, for everything is now ready” (vs. 17).
- Pray for physical provisions for the poor: that those receiving OCC Shoeboxes would become sponsored, that their families would be able to get out of poverty, and that they would see that Jesus did this. Pray for ways to break the cycle of poverty that persists in many areas of the world today.
- Pray for believers in this holiday season to remember the poor, to look for ways to be a Good Samaritan and point those far from the Lord to Him. Pray that our hearts would be like God’s heart, as ones who “proclaim the good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
After this activity, you may decide to find out how to get involved in serving or giving to your local food bank, a local homeless shelter, or another local ministry that serves the poor in your area. Always check and make sure, when inquiring about serving in person, what protocols they have in place for your children. Some ministries won’t allow young children to attend while others will. If your children are welcomed, ask the ministries if they have any information for you to use to talk to your kids about the work and to help you explain what it is they do. If they don’t, ask in our Facebook Community! Together we can help you think through how to have that conversation with your children in an age-appropriate way.