Scripture assumes that parents know how to (and would want to) give good gifts to their children. If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11) In fact a parent’s desire to give good gifts to their children is the reference point we use to understand God’s giving of good gifts to us, as His children.
Good Gifts are not something we hold in our hand nor are they defined by a lack of angst. Here’s what good gifts are NOT:
- Giving your children everything they want
- Giving your children what they want as soon as they want it
- Making sure your children are always comfortable
- Taking away all inconveniences and criticisms
Good gifts are defined by knowing what is good; they have much more to do with our perspective on life than on possessing any tangible thing. “Good” is what we know more than what we have. Aristotle, Plato’s student and a Greek philosopher who lived 384-322 BC, believed that a good life is a happy life. Helping our children be happy is teaching them to know and think upon what is good and then, how to use what they know to be good as the foundation from which their life is built. Only in this, then, will our children ever truly be happy.
What can we learn from Aristotle and Scripture in helping our children have a good, and thus happy, life?
Point 1: Live Purposefully
Aristotle believed that as we grow in wisdom and understanding of ourselves and life, our choices are all part of an overall plan which leads to an ultimate goal. In other words, all that I do is thoughtfully considered and all my choices lead to achieving my life’s purpose. If you want to be happy, you must NOT live aimlessly, but live with intentional focus. Aimlessness kills any chance of human happiness.
Aristotle is correct in that research supports the idea that achievement of our goals makes people content. We experience peace, wellness, and yes, happiness, when we go after what we want. “What we want” we have usually deemed good. Have you ever heard of anyone going all out for what they don’t want or what they believe is not good for them? Even self-destructive choices are made because what they will give the person is what that person believes is necessary for them to survive or thrive.
OUR RESPONSE: We need to question, as believers, what we understand is our purpose. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When we know God’s purpose for our life, we find what is good as He is then working out our life for this good and we then experience happiness. Scripture actually talks quite a bit about happiness and whenever it does, it always aligns with who God is; we are happy when our lives reflect the character of God.
TEACHING OUR CHILDREN: We do not live for ourselves but for God. God has given us life, not to indulge ourselves, but to live for Him. God is good and when we think about Him and live a life of faith which reflects His good character, we will find happiness.
Point 2: Our desires determine our purposes
Aristotle proposed that the purposes we strive to achieve are determined by what we desire; some of our desires we all share in common as people (natural desires which are good for us whether we like them or not, like green vegetables which are a part of healthy nutrition) and some are unique to who we are as individuals (acquired desires which are wants or preferences more than needs, like desiring a vacation on an island vs a mountain). We need to watch over our desires to make sure they are achieving for us our ultimate purpose for which God has called us.
OUR RESPONSE: Natural desires are most reflective of our everyday lives and what we all need to survive. Scripture gives many mandates regarding how we live out and figure out these mundane matters. For example, paying our bills, our taxes, and how we run our careers are all important responsibilities that need to reflect our commitment to God. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7, ESV) Living responsibly as believers is good and again, we will experience happiness when our choices reflect this.
Acquired desires are reflective of our individuality. These desires will conform to our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our wants and dreams. God is interested in what we want and if we delight in Him (we are preoccupied with who He is), then what we want aligns with what God wants for us and we will have the desires of our hearts; “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
TEACHING OUR CHILDREN: We need to consider our desires and make sure that what we want aligns with how God has revealed Himself in His Word. When we pursue our desires which are aligned with God’s Word, we will achieve the purpose for which we were created which is to know and love God. Only then can we truly be happy.
Dear Reader, as parents, we all want our children to be happy and now, we know that they can only be happy when we give them “good” gifts. The best gift you could give them is to help them align their thoughts and choices with the Word of God. In doing this, our children (no matter their age) will fulfill God’s purpose for their life to know and love Him. And in that, they will truly be happy.
Proverbs 16:20 Those who give heed to instruction prosper, and HAPPY (blessed) are those who trust in the LORD.
May what you think and the gifts you give reflect who God is and make you and your children happy. Praying for your pursuit of godly happiness.
Blessings (Happiness) Abundant! Elizabeth