Work Ethic, Grace and Children

Work Ethic, Grace, and Children - Parenting Like Hannah

Photo by Andrew Osterberg

I am going to tell you a secret about me my closest friends probably wouldn’t believe. I am incredibly lazy. I mean if I had my way, I would employee dozens of servants and lay on the beach all day. Quite possibly every day. Unfortunately, my husband would probably not be thrilled at having to try and finance such a lifestyle and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make God too thrilled either.

In life, balancing the ideas of work and play are difficult. Most of us struggle with either working ourselves so hard our bodies rebel or spending so much time in leisure activities we neglect some more important things. The church has the same problem. How much does grace really cover and how much “work” does God expect from us? We can’t figure out how to teach our children the concepts, partially because we aren’t sure what to teach them.

I pulled out my Bible and its trusty concordance to see what I could find. Yes, in my Bible the word “grace” probably had three to four times more mentions than the word “work”, but work still had a healthy number of entries. When I looked more closely, I noticed something interesting. Grace covers our sins. Work does not cover our sins, but it is what Christians do. In a way, it is who we become because God’s love gave us grace.

The other thing I noticed was that the New Testament focuses on basically two types of work. The first is working in a more secular sense. There are scriptures talking about working to eat, working hard for your bosses and working as if you were working for the Lord. The other type of “work” actually involves good works, serving the poor, widows and orphans, supporting the Church and teaching others and making them disciples.

So what should we be teaching our children about work and grace? There are probably lots of things they need to understand, but here are some basics to get you started.

1. When you become a Christian, God’s grace covers your sins. Period. You can’t “work” your way into heaven. Yes, God does call us to repentance and baptism, but those are responses or answers to God’s call and not actual work.

2. Christians’ sins are forgiven by God because of grace. We, like Zacchaeus, may feel called to make some sort of restitution to those we have wronged in our sin. This is not necessarily required of God to be forgiven, but is a consequence of our sin. (An exception might be if you were holding a hostage, I believe you would need to release him or you would be continuing in your sin. In general though, we will assume you have stopped the sin and are dealing with the destruction it left behind.) Our restitution may indeed require some work, just like Zacchaeus had to track down all of those people and give them back their money. Jesus didn’t say he had to do it to be forgiven, but a forgiven person will want to try and make things right when they can. (Some wrongs can’t be righted, even if we tried.)

3. God calls us to work hard at any task we are given. There are plenty of scriptures commanding us to work hard, not to expect people to feed us when we can work for our own food and working for our bosses as if we were working for the Lord. Part of life is work. Whether you have a paying job or you are a homemaker or a student, there is lots of work involved. Doing our best is a witness to the non-Christians around us. Working hard at your job will not get your sins forgiven, only God’s grace can do that. It is an expectation God set for Christians though.  God wants us to be viewed as hard workers.

4. God expects us to do good works, including spreading the Gospel. Once again, this does not forgive our sins, but it is something God requires of us. There are so many passages in the Bible commanding us to help a huge variety of people who struggle in the world. There are even more people who aren’t Christians or sadly have never even touched a Bible. God equips Christians to be His hands and feet in our world. He expects us to take the blessings and love He has given us and in turn share them with the world. By showing people God’s love, we then have an opportunity to share God’s Words with them and help them find God’s grace for themselves.

Grace and works are actually a wonderful circle of God’s love. God’s grace saves us. The joy we have for receiving His grace, makes us want to share it with others. The best way is to show them we are hard, ethical workers and to serve and love them with our good works. This will give us the opportunity to share God’s Words with them, so they too can receive God’s grace. And then the circle can begin again.

We have talked about service a lot in past posts, but what does a strong work ethic look like? Employers, teachers and others complain that a work ethic is quickly disappearing in our society. How can we make sure our children are equipped to fulfill this part of God’s plan with their own strong work ethic? In future posts, I will examine the components of a strong work ethic and some fun activities to help your children become strong workers.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)