HAVE you ever found yourself reviewing a mental checklist when you're buying gifts for a child, and wondering if you have forgotten anything? I know I have! I've often thought, at times like this, ``What more could I give this child I love so much?'' But that's not such a hard question when I remember this fact: I can continually give my children spiritual treasures. Spiritual treasures are the bottom line when it comes to giving to a child. Clothing, though necessary, wears out; games lose their appeal; a wagon eventually rusts. The thought of rust on a material object reminded me of what Christ Jesus has to say in the Bible about ` `treasures in heaven.'' Matthew's Gospel records his words: ``Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.''
Because children are so precious, we naturally want to give them gifts that are good and valuable. These gifts -- because they are spiritual -- are freely available for each of God's children, big and small.
Among these ``treasures in heaven'' that we have from God to give our children are the love of God and the foundation for a growing spiritual understanding of who God is and how he creates man. Nothing could be more valuable or lasting to a child than a knowledge of his or her own Father-Mother, God, and an understanding that man's genuine identity is wholly spiritual! Such a spiritual foundation promotes the normal, healthy growth of any child.
Where can parents learn about the spiritual treasure worthy of a child's love? And how can they give it? It's in the Bible. And the more we learn about God ourselves, the more fully we convey that knowledge and love of God to our children. I know, for example, that my own children enjoy the times when Mom or Dad reads to them. But they love hearing the Bible stories!
Often, one of the first lessons a child -- or anyone -- learns from the Bible is the true nature of God. Knowing the truth of God is a priceless gift. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, based her discovery on what she had seen of the nature of God as a loving creator who governs His creation with this all-conquering love.
At one place in her writings, Mrs. Eddy tells of a deep struggle she had when she was twelve over the conflict between the theological dogma that presented God as severe and merciless and what she knew of God's love. In her book Retrospection and Introspection, she tells how this theological struggle was compounded by physical illness and a fever. Her mother, she relates, encouraged her to lean on God's love and to pray, as she was accustomed to doing. Mrs. Eddy continues: ``I prayed; and a soft glow of ineffable joy came over me. The fever was gone, and I rose and dressed myself, in a normal condition of health.''
As to how parents can give this spiritual gift to a child, nothing communicates the power of God's love to man as well as a parent's own love for and obedience to the spiritual and moral truths that Christ Jesus taught. A parent's own freedom from fear under the tutelage of the gospel, for example, encourages children to turn to the healing action of God's law in any danger.
And in the Sermon on the Mount, both parents and children find unfailing spiritual guidance that can bring each family member permanent happiness that reaches far beyond just being upbeat. Meekness, mercifulness, humility, forgiveness -- these spiritual qualities, nourished in each of us -- can provide a spiritual basis for the child's thinking that enables him to triumph over the ups and downs of daily life.
The real key -- for parent and child -- that unlocks the ``treasures in heaven'' is prayer. Parents can teach children to pray, and they can pray every day themselves. Jesus' simple instruction ``When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly'' can serve as an understandable guide for children when it comes to prayer.
What the parents themselves learn about God and man through prayer can be expressed in purified thought and action toward their children -- softer words, more consistent kindness. A deeper, richer love between parent and child is often the thing a child wants most. The way to such love is surely through the spiritual truths of the Bible.
None of these spiritual gifts costs money, but the inspired message of the Bible -- our true spiritual treasure -- is something that a parent can give freely that will last forever. It should be first and last among our gifts to our children.
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
What man is there of you,
whom if his son ask bread,
will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish,
will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil,
know how to give good gifts
unto your children,
how much more shall your Father
which is in heaven
give good things to them that ask him?