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A few weeks ago the girls were bored on a glorious sunny day. I could see their need to be outside, so I told them I’d give them each a dollar if they would wash the family mini-van.

My kids will do a lot for a dollar.

The girls were quite excited, and looking at the three cars in our garage or driveway, they sensed a bit more cash to be had. So they wrote up an ad and set it outside in the alley for passersby to see. When this produced no new clients, they went straight for a sure thing: grandma.

The girls offered to wash my mom’s car, and she kindly agreed and dug eight quarters out of her bag. After an afternoon of elbow grease and soapy buckets and bickering and fun, the girls each had two dollars in quarters to show for their efforts.

Which is when the real work began.

Maddie’s been receiving an allowance for about a year now, but Cora doesn’t really get any disposable income; any cash she receives for gifts goes straight into a bank account. So we’ve never had the whole tithing/charitable giving conversation with her about her own money. And it was time.

Cora and I sat down on the couch snuggled up with her eight shiny quarters, and I explained that everything we get is a gift from God, and we thank God for that gift by giving some of it back to him. I told Cora that our family doesn’t have a rule about how much she needs to give to God – just that she needs to give something to Him.

Cora looked bewildered.

“But this isn’t God’s money – this is mine! I worked hard for it!” she cried. (Oh, kiddo, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that same thing as I write the church a check.) “Why can’t you give him a quarter out of your purse and say it’s from me?”

I patiently and gently explained that we give back some of what we get. Cora’s expression of bewilderment turned to rebellion, and I could see the stubbornness setting in.

Before it went completely out of control, I tried another approach.

“You know how sometimes we go shopping for a friend for a birthday present, and we spend a lot of time at Target looking for a really great gift, and we finally find something super cool and really pretty that we know she’ll like? And then we bring it home, and you want to keep it?” Cora nodded.

“But you know that the gift we bought was never meant for you – it was never yours in the first place to keep. So we wrap it up and give to a friend, and it’s a little easier to give away when we know it was never really ours in the first place.”

Cora nodded again.

“Well, our money is like that. All the money is God’s, and He gives us some to use to take care of ourselves, and some to use to take care of others. And since it was never really ours in the first place, we can give some of it back to Him, even while we say a big ‘thank you’ to Him for allowing us to keep ANY of it! Can you imagine buying a big Barbie house with lots of rooms and furniture and clothes, and you give it to your friend, and she says, ‘Hey, that’s so nice, but you keep most of the rooms and I’ll just take one of them to play with! You can play with the rest!’ Wouldn’t that make you feel great?”

Cora nodded one last time.

And when we went to church the next day she happily plunked a quarter into the offering box, then walked away to find a seat, very proud of herself.

I’d say she was almost as proud of herself as her momma was.


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