In our culture, we see many skewed views of work. On one end of the spectrum there are people who hate work and do anything and everything to try to get out of it. On the other end are the workaholics to whom their work is their life and it trumps everything, including God and family. Obviously neither extreme is correct. But what is the biblical view of work? How do we teach it to our children?
In the beginning was work
In the first chapter of Genesis, God worked. He worked to create the world and its people. In the second chapter of Genesis, before there was ever sin, suffering and death, God called Adam to care for the Garden of Eden and to oversee the animals. Eve was created to help him in this work. What can we teach our children from this?
Work is good. Work is not part of the curse and it’s not something we endure merely as a burden. On the contrary, needing to work is part of man’s nature, made in the image of God. God Himself works. Man was created for work before the fall and it appears
from Revelation and other eschatological books that there will be work in our perfect eternity with God.
So using this biblical foundation, we can teach our children that work is a good thing. It’s what we are created to do and we find most satisfaction in a life of good work. We should not avoid it, but rather revel in doing such an excellent job that, like God, we can say at the end that it is good.
Happiness in work is from God
Let’s be realistic. After the Fall, mankind was cursed. As part of the curse, work is now hard. It’s often not fun at all. And many times when we come to the end of the day, we don’t feel the accomplishment of a job well done, we just feel the depression of knowing we’ve got a job to do again the next day. This is because of the truth we are told in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20: It is God Who gives us satisfaction in our labor. Without His help, we can’t manufacture true contentment with our work.
Based on this biblical concept, we can teach our children to commit their plans for work to God and ask for His help to have the right attitude. We can teach them to keep work in perspective because work itself cannot fulfill us without God’s help. The true satisfaction of a job well done is a gift from God. We should ask for His strength to complete each task and thank Him for helping us when the task is finished. This will help keep us from false pride and guide us rather into godly satisfaction and contentment.
Work must be balanced with rest
Sometimes our distaste for work comes from a very practical cause: We are not balancing work with rest. Note that I did not say “balancing work with recreation.” There is certainly a time for recreation, but recreation is not generally rest.
God Himself set us the example for rest in Genesis by resting from His work of creation. On that basis, He tells us in the Ten Commandments to take a seventh day to rest and refocus on God.
Too many families fall into the trap of trading one kind of work for another on Sunday and thinking that is “rest.” Too many families also fall into the trap of thinking that every activity that is good must be done. I am reminded of a family who took music lessons with us for a while – when one child was having her lesson, the other invariably crashed into deep sleep on our couch because the poor kids never got enough rest in between lessons, sports, school and church.
There is no Biblical mandate to be busy all the time. In fact, the Bible has some specific injunctions concerning resting on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), being still so we can hear God (Psalm 46:10), and taking quiet time to pray and meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 131:2, Psalm 119:15). Jesus Himself set us an example of often going off quietly by Himself or with His disciples to rest and pray.
This is something parents can help their children learn by purposely planning the family schedule to include rest and quiet time. Then ensure that your kids really do use the time for rest. Go for a quiet walk in the woods. Sit peacefully by the fire with a book. Take some time to relax on the back porch. Turn off the TV, phone, computer and iPods for a while. You can set bedtimes and rising times to allow for a full 8 hours of sleep. Honor the Lord’s day by resting and focusing on God, not running frantically from one church activity to the next.
Work with an eternal mindset
Galatians 6:9 tells to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This is the real motivation for good, hard work. We know that if we work “as working for the Lord, not for men…[we] will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
We also have a solemn warning in I Corinthians 3:12-15, which tells us that God will test our work by fire at the end of the age. “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Working for the Lord is not one of many options. It is the only right option for a Christian to consider.
We can help our children have this eternal mindset by explaining how our mundane tasks should be accomplished for the Lord. After all, God is a God of order and peace so cleaning our homes to make them orderly and peaceful creates an environment that God loves. God wants us to set an example for unbelievers so as to possibly bring them to salvation, so doing good work on the job is part of witnessing. God wants us to love each other and doing a chore that will help mother or father or your siblings is a way of showing love to them. These are all lessons that can help your children have an eternal understanding of work.
Work is not bad. It’s what we are created to do. Neither is rest bad. God Himself commands it. Honest, hard work makes us appreciate godly rest times. And peaceful rest times rejuvenate us for accomplishing the next task of work. So let’s teach our children not to fear work, nor to take it to an extreme. Let’s teach them to work cheerfully as unto the Lord.
Heather Sheen is a homeschool graduate who also completed her college degree at home. She enjoys teaching and performing harp, reenacting as a living historian, and working for her father’s consulting business. You can read more articles by the Sheen family at www.homeschoolfamilyforum.com.