Ahhh...work. How do you look at it? Do we think of it as a necessary evil, unending toil until the end of our days? Or do we look at it as a way to express God's handiwork in us? I am convinced that our perspective on work---whether it be temporal or eternal---will make a huge difference on how we raise our children.
What God's Word Says
First, we see that God gave Adam work to do before the fall (Gen. 2:15). From this, I think we can say that work was not intended by God to be a punishment.
Second, work as an end in itself is an unsatisfactory goal. Solomon talks about the vexation and vanity of work (Eccl. 2:22, 23). If all we live for is our work, it is a god that will never satisfy.
Third, God has planned for His children a life of good works (Eph. 2:10). He has ordained these beforehand and His desire is that we walk in them.
Fourth, our goal, whatever we do, is to do all we do for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him (Col. 3:17). We are to do that work heartily, as a service for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23).
When we do this, work can become a blessing, not a curse. Solomon goes on to say that "there is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil." This is a gift from the hand of God. Without Him we will never find that kind of enjoyment in our work, but only "vanity and a striving after wind." (v. 26b)
I am sure there are many more passages that we could discuss. If you'd like to share some of those thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear them!
When it comes to work there are two things I want to pass on to my kids. First, I want them to do whatever God gives them to do for His glory. For them, their work is school. We call out their best because the habits they learn as students will carry over into their attitudes about the work they do later on. And if God desires us to do all our work for His glory, I am doing them no favors by letting them get by with slipshod work.
As a parent, I have had to make a differentiation between insisting on perfect versus aiming for excellence. I push my son for excellence because I know that one day, as a future husband and father, I don't want him to do the same kind of work for his boss. And more importantly, I don't want him to settle for that kind of work for his God.
I think this is what I want my children to "get" when it comes to school. My attitude and perspective about grades and school need to be colored by eternity. Every assignment, test, project, paper...all these are the opportunities my children have to train themselves to work with excellence---not for me, but for their Lord.
I do all this so that one day, my kids will be equipped and prepared to do the work God has for them to do. My second job is helping my children to discover their special place in the Kingdom of God and to walk it out as the Lord unfolds.
This year, my daughter (10th grade) and I spent a lot of time talking about her future. We spent a lot of time praying, seeking God and evaluating her interests, passions and talents to try to discern what God may have for her. We've had a lot of good discussions and are excited to see what God is doing in her. Janna is very artistic. I am not. But my job is not to force her into what I am comfortable with. My job is to look out for other opportunities, help her find other adults who can help her to hone her God-given skills.
This hasn't been easy for me for I have had to really do a lot of research and asking around. But as she enters into the last couple of years of school, we have been able to design a curriculum that is tailor made for her, allowing her to experiment with and explore some of the things she is drawn towards. We still don't know what that's going to look like yet, and I can't wait to see how God will continue to unfold her story!
What We Can Do
How we train our kids to look at work will, I believe, make a world of difference in their level of satisfaction they find in work as well as their effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. Here are a some thoughts to wrap up today:
- Examine your own attitude about work. What do you believe about it? How does it line up with how God sees work? Where will you need to make adjustments or changes? Remember that discipleship begins with us.
- Teach your kids about the importance of doing your best. Train your little ones to do their chores well (I am not saying perfectly here!). Even if the sheets are wrinkled and the napkins are askew, but it is their best effort, praise them for doing their best work.
- Connect your kids' work with their service to the Lord. When I receive a sloppy paper, I ask, "Is this something that you would be proud to offer to Jesus?" Again, it is not just so I get better handwriting. It is so they learn to see all they do in light of Christ.
- Study your children. Ask God to help you to see the many facets of their personality and their strengths, not just the things that irritate you. Every child is created to do good works. What can you see in them? What might God want to do with them? Be open to His direction and guidance.
- Pray that the Lord will open your eyes to the uniqueness of your children---even in traits that annoy or aggravate you (you know the ones!). Ask Him to show you if there is a positive side to it. For example, my youngest is very, um, how shall we say this...bossy. He likes to order people around! But I have to believe that God gave that to him for a reason. My job as a parent is to help train it towards a good purpose. I have no doubt that it's going to be crucial to his work one day.
- Provide your children with activities and opportunities that will strengthen those gifts. Knowing our kids' areas of strengths and weaknesses keeps me from overdoing their activity schedule. We are very selective and purposeful in the things we have our kids do. My goal is not well-rounded kids. They don't have to do everything. Activities become a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Choose wisely and set limits.
That's my two cents. I'd love to hear:
What do you want your children to learn about work?
How are you teaching them those values?
What have you done to surface and develop your children's God-given work?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!