How to teach kids economics through the Bible

“How much does a phone cost?” my 10-year-old asks me from the kitchen table.

He’s counting the money he’s earned from cat sitting and doing odd jobs over the summer. By now it’s come to almost a hundred dollars in cash. He keeps it in a little blue wallet that he manages to lose and find several times a day.

I bite my lip to avoid blurting out all the things I’m tempted to say about a 10-year-old owning a cellphone. For example: “When I was your age, I carried around a quarter for a pay phone!” Or “Owning a phone doesn’t mean you can play games on it all the time, you know.”

Or the most salient objection from a financial point of view: “It seems like a cellphone is a risky investment for someone who regularly loses his wallet.”

Thankfully, I don’t say anything that might stifle my son’s budding desire to participate in the economic world. Instead, I give him a ballpark estimate on a used smartphone. He nods understandingly and puts the money back in his wallet. He still has a ways to go.

Following parents’ footsteps

Children naturally want to do everything they see their parents doing. When we take them to church, they raise their voices to sing right alongside us. When we pray together, they put in their own requests for God. And when we read the Bible, they form their own opinions about where they fit into God’s story.

In the economic world too, children want to be able to do everything that adults do. They want to earn their own money and make their own spending choices. They want to contribute value to their household by doing work that other people see as important. And they want the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.

Adults often split up lessons about faith and economics into different classrooms of life. Church is where kids learn about faith, and school is where they learn about money. But the subjects needn’t be separate. What’s more, kids don’t need to wait to get into a classroom to start thinking about these things. There’s one book that can help kids grow both in their faith and in their understanding of economics: the Bible.

It’s easier than we think

Two years ago, I set out to write a book that connects the Bible to the work children do every day. Recently published by RoseKidz, Kids CAN! 28-day Family Devotional helps children apply the Bible to their questions about work and economics.

Here’s an example of what a work-themed daily devotion might look like in my house.

First, we’ll read Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:27-28 together. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…So God created human beings in his own image… Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’”

“Did you know,” I’ll ask my son, “this Bible verse relates to entrepreneurship?”

“What’s entrepreneurship?” he might ask.

“Entrepreneurs are people who make it their job to start a new business,” I answer. “Entrepreneurs may come up with new ideas for products or services, or they might bring products or services to new places.”

Then I’ll connect the concept of entrepreneurship to the Bible verse we just read. “People are good at creating new things and spreading into new areas because that’s how God designed people. God himself is creative. After all, he created everything, and God made people in his image. That means you’re creative, too. You can’t create the universe out of nothing like God did. But you can create something new out of the materials God gives you. Whether you create a product that makes money or a game that entertains your friends, you are being creative just like God. He created you that way.”

Connecting faith and work on their level

Since stories help kids remember new concepts, I’ll read aloud a story from Kids Can! about a child facing a money problem.

Blake and his dad were raking leaves together when Blake asked, “Can I get paid for this?”

His dad looked surprised. “You want me to pay you for raking leaves?”

“I want to buy a soccer jersey, but Mom won’t give me the money,” Blake said.

“I see,” his dad said. “Well, no one pays me to rake the leaves around here. But I’m glad you’re interested in working for money. I wonder if there’s something you can do that meets a need for someone else.”

“What do you mean ‘meets a need?’” Blake asked.

“People will only pay you money if you have something they need, like if they can’t rake leaves themselves. When I was your age, I used to get two dollars a house for raking my neighbor’s leaves.”

“Two dollars? That’d take me forever to save up for a jersey! There’s got to be something else I can do for money, something that people would pay me more for,” Blake said.

“I see you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. You’ll need to think up a product or service that meets someone’s need more than raking leaves does.”

“Hmm,” Blake thought. “At my soccer games, parents look cold. They need something to warm them up. Maybe I could sell them hot cocoa!”

Meeting needs at any age

After reading the story to my son, we’ll discuss it together. “Can you brainstorm entrepreneurial ideas by focusing on the needs you see around you? Think of people you see most often. What do they need that they’re not getting? Could you do something to meet those needs?”

Lastly, I’ll end our devotion time with a prayer. “God, thank you for making me creative. Help me see the needs of the people around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

That’s all. A quick five minutes brings both entrepreneurship and the Bible to the forefront of my son’s mind for the day.

My 10-year-old is eager to earn and spend money. He’s also eager to see his life and interests reflected in the Bible. It’s a blessing to see his growing participation in the economic world and his growing faith come together in the simple devotional practice of Bible reading.

I don’t ask where it ranks on his list of priorities vis a vis a new phone. Thankfully, the Bible is infinitely more valuable than a cellphone.

Topics: Basic Economic Principles, Christian Life, Family

About the Author

Leah Archibald is content development specialist at the Theology of Work Project (TOW). Her devotionals on topics such as "How to Make the Right Decision" and "When to Speak Up at Work" have been completed by more than 500,000 people. Leah takes inspiration from her previous career in marketing for Fortune 500 software companies.  She is the co-host of Making It Work, a podcast from the Theology of Work Project and Fuller De Pree Center.