There are a lot of things that I would anticipate having to defend—theology, philosophy, politics…
But I have to admit that I never thought that I would need to write a defense of sharing.
I started seeing this blog circulate around Facebook called “Why I Don’t Make My Son Share“. Currently it has been “shared” over 140,000 times (good for the author they learned to “share”. Sorry, bad joke.). When I Google “Teach Share” it comes up on the first page. Obviously, it has become quite popular.
In the blog post, the author gives her child’s preschool as an exemplar of “sharing policy”. She praises the policy because it avoids a child throwing “a giant fit when you tell them, ‘you can have it when Sally Jo is done.'”
She goes on to share two anecdotes about disgruntled parents, whose children had been victimized by non-sharers.
In the end the point she tries to drive home is that forced sharing is leading to an entitlement culture where people expect things to be handed out to them “just because“.
I don’t want to scrutinize everything the author says in her blog. As a blogger, I recognize that a lot of the things I write are very much “in process”. But here are my thoughts on her posts and on sharing.
1. She doesn’t actually say anything about the value (or lack thereof) of sharing. Her beef is really with the expectation that others are required to share whenever asked. I agree with her that it is wrong to expect or demand others share their things with us, but that does not mean that it’s not good for us to teach our children to share with others. Sorry, that was a little difficult to follow (especially the use of the double-negative). Let me state it this way: I can teach my own child to share and teach them to be OK when someone else doesn’t share.
Her logic essentially is this: since I don’t want my own child to expect others to share with them, I won’t teach them to share. But Christ says, “I came to serve, not to be served” (Matt. 20.28). I want to teach my child to be like Christ. Imagine if Christ used this same logic: “Well, since you don’t want others to expect that you serve them, I’m not going to teach you to serve.”
(I encourage you to go back and read the article, but replace the word “share” with the word “serve”. That may give you a little different perspective.)
2. Avoiding children “throwing a giant fit” is not the goal. By removing the point of contention, in this case having to share, you have removed a learning opportunity from them. I have three children (ages 3 months, almost 2 years, and 4 years). I know how wonderful it would be if my children didn’t throw “a giant fit”. But would actually be what is best for my child? It is actually a pretty selfish motive on my part to seek to remove all these points of contention. I am seeking my own peace more than looking for opportunities of discipleship. In reality, we should see each “giant fit” as an opportunity to teach our children about adversity, disappointment, and sacrifice.
3. And most imporantly, I want to teach my children that things are just things. Sharing our things shows people that we value them and/or The Lord, more than those things. Jesus says, “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (Matt. 5.40). In this instance Jesus is teaching us to love The Lord and his Word more than our things.
Exalting others above ourselves should be the default (Phil. 2.1-11; Rom. 15.2). Now are there exceptions to sharing? Certainly! But we can deal with those on a case by case basis. I can use those moments to teach my child important lessons. My son wants me to share lots of of my things with him, and do I share with him? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. When I say “no”, I try to explain to him why. For instance, yesterday, I was looking at something on a handgun. My son, of course, wanted me to share the gun with him (He didn’t use those words. He just wanted to play with it.). It led to a great conversation with him about safety around dangerous tools and objects. He understood afterward why he couldn’t play with the gun. He learned an important lesson as a result.
Now on the other hand, if my son (or anyone) asks me to share, and I cannot come up with a good reason why not… the “good reason” may simply be selfishness on my part.
So, in conclusion, is teaching our children to share really the problem? No. Sin is. Selfishness is. I didn’t have to teach them those things.
So, parents and future-parents, keep teaching your children to share. Their sinful nature is already doing a great job teaching them not to.
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
1 Corinthians 4.7