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Giving Our Children Bread for Stones

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? ” (Matthew 7:9-10)

Children learn these things from ads: that they are the most important person in the universe, that impulse should not be denied, that pain should not be tolerated and that the cure for any kind of pain is a product. They learn a weird mixture of dissatisfaction and entitlement.    –The Shelter of Each Other by Mary Pipher

We live in a culture that offers children stones when they ask for bread. They come into the world wanting to love and be loved, wanting to learn and explore and create. They are met by a barrage of advertising. Susan Linn’s book Consuming Kids quotes advertisers describing how they design ads to make kids feel that buying the right products will bring them adventure, make them powerful, demonstrate their freedom, or bring them love and approval.

It’s hard for parents and mentors to compete with these flashy lies that come at kids through billboards, shows, games, websites and fellow students.  But as we try to teach the children we love to live faithfully and sustainably in this world, and seek to prepare them for what may be a harder future, we must teach them the basic truths that don’t help to sell anything: that pain is sometimes necessary and can be grown through, that real satisfaction requires patience and competence and self-restraint, that the best things in life cannot be bought and sold.

How can we get this message through? It helps if we understand how the lies of advertising work and can pass this knowledge on. It helps if we spend more time in our families hiking and volunteering and making music and telling stories rather than consuming messages designed to sell us something.  Most of all, it helps if we don’t buy into the lies of advertisers ourselves, and if we don’t let our unconventional lives become grim and fearful. If children see us living with competence and joy, and building meaningful connections with our neighbors, without buying the packages that are supposed to bring us happiness, then they’re more likely to believe that a good life is possible without all the stuff.  They’re likely to stop asking for stones and to enjoy good bread.

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Today in Christian History

May 22nd

1541 – In Germany, the Ratisbon (Regensburg) Conference ended, its mission to reunify the Catholic Church having failed. From this time on, the Protestant movement became permanent.

1740 – English revivalist George Whitefield wrote in a letter: ‘We must all have the spirit of martyrdom, though we may not all die martyrs.’

1868 – Birth of William R. Newell, American clergyman and devotional writer. He published expository works on the Bible, and is remembered today as author of the hymn, “At Calvary” (a.k.a. “Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride”).

1944 – The Gospel Mission of South America was founded by William M. Strong in Concepcion, Chile. An interdenominational Protestant missions agency, its headquarters moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1975.

1967 – The General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) adopted the Confession of 1967. It was the first major declaration of faith adopted by this branch of Protestantism since the Westminster Confession of 1647.

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Source for Today in Christian History: www.studylight.org

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