Not a Gumball Machine

Every commercial that comes on the T.V. lately is Christmas marketing mayhem! Each toy is this year’s must have item. Every dolly and truck and Lego set we see in the store is a necessary item that my kids CAN’T live without! My children will periodically and randomly ask, beg and whine for a variety of gifts, toys and gadgets.

As easy as it would be to go overboard and buy them every thing they ask for, I realize as a long-sighted parent that giving them whatever their whims dictate is not the best thing for them. My desire is to cultivate grateful, servants’ hearts in them rather than a demanding sense of entitlement. We’ve all seen those children in Wal-mart (some days “those kids” belong to me). And we’ve seen an entire generation of “those kids” become selfish, demanding, entitled adults. I refuse to have my children contribute to the problem our society faces currently. Instead, I hope to raise compassionate, selfless, problem solvers. Being mindful of that goal (and my finite budget), sometimes I have to tell them “no” or “not right now.” It doesn’t mean I don’t want to bless them with everything their heart desires or that I’m a “mean mommy.” It means the heart issue is more important than the things. Maybe they need to work to earn the toy so they will value it more. Maybe I can see that it’s a frivolous toy that won’t satisfy them for very long. Or maybe they need to soften their hearts towards those who have far less. Whatever the reason, as a loving parent, it’s my job to tell them “no” and cultivate a heart of generosity and community consciousness within them.

How often do we behave like entitled children towards God? We pray for financial blessings, a bigger house, a nicer car, and other luxuries. God is a good, good Father. He wants nothing more than to bless us. I believe that with all my heart. But maybe our perception of “blessings” is off track. I find myself often praying “I want… I want… Give me…” Meanwhile, God has provided a wonderful home, nice vehicle and plenty of food in my cupboards. Yet I catch myself wanting more, bigger, and better things. Things that may be frivolous in the grand scheme of things and will not satisfy my soul. Our heavenly Father is far more concerned with our heart and how we are furthering His kingdom. That is something I can take with me at the end of my life.

A friend of mine and I were having lunch awhile back when a similar conversation arose. She equated this behavior to treating God like a gumball machine. “Put in a quarter; get out a gumball. Put in a prayer; get out a promotion. Put in a prayer; get out a new car. Put in a prayer; get out a million dollars.” As though God, the Creator of the universe in all his infinite wisdom is nothing more than a genie in a bottle or a gumball machine just waiting to grant our wishes or spit out gumballs. It sounds ridiculous put in those terms, but isn’t that how we act sometimes?

In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, talks extensively about how the accumulation of things and pursuit of the world’s idea of success is as futile as chasing the wind. I suppose I’m coming to that realization. Nice things are great and I’m certainly not condemning affluence or suggesting you and I should sell everything and live in poverty. I’m merely pointing out that maybe when we pray and ask God for whatever tickles our fancy, sometimes He may say “no” or “not right now,” because He is a good Father Who is developing each of us for His high calling.

Today, be content and grateful for everything the Lord has blessed you with. And instead of praying for a Christmas wish list, ask to be used for His kingdom.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after thewind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11

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