Christianity is actually an interesting mix of grace and work. Step outside of any preconceived ideas and take a look at the New Testament with fresh eyes. When you do, it becomes obvious we cannot save ourselves and we are saved only by and through the grace of God.
On the other hand, Jesus and the disciples worked like crazy. Yes, they attended the occasional dinner party and fished from time to time, but they also worked hard. They were constantly traveling from place to place teaching, healing and serving others. The Apostle Paul even continued to run his tent making business while he preached. Even the early Christians were so busy working deacons were created to help handle some of the work load that had fallen on the elders.
The problem in life is that most people ride the pendulum. If they believed work was required too much when growing up, then they preach only grace – Christians can sit back and have fun – no work expected. If you grew up in an environment with too much grace, then your pendulum probably swung the other way. The truth lies in the balance. We are saved by God’s grace, but God wants and expects us to work in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons – for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.
If you are a firm but loving parent, your kids probably don’t have many problems understanding and accepting grace. Those issues often appear later when people have made some really bad choices. Most children do struggle with the idea of work though. Let’s face it. Would you rather be playing outside or cleaning your room? Yet there are some fun things you can do to increase your child’s tolerance for work. If you are really savvy, you can also improve their attitudes and the quality of their work in the process. There are probably lots of ways to go about it, but here are a few that worked well for us:
- Make work an adventure. To me there is not much appealing about cleaning my house. Yet, Mary Poppins was on the right track. For kids to learn how to work well, they need to enjoy the process as much as possible. Instead of making cleaning their room sound like as much fun as a thirty mile hike in the desert, add an element of fun to it. Make it a game. Have a race. Turn up the tunes and sing while you all work together to clean the house. Work is only as dull and boring as we make it.
- Make work a privilege. Let your child know you are teaching him a particular job only because you realize his maturity and skills are special enough to earn the privilege of doing this work. Ask almost any kid who grew up in a house with a riding lawn mower and they will tell you this works – at least for awhile. I couldn’t wait to be granted the privilege of driving the riding mower. The privilege came several years before I was allowed to drive a car and in my mind the two were equally important. Don’t give your child a job that is too dangerous for them to handle, but do make it a mark of maturity in a positive way.
- Make work a learning experience. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but in the summer, it sure seemed like one. We had a huge garden and spent a lot of time planting, weeding, picking and preserving the produce. I enjoyed the preserving the most (okay except for the summer of the corn!) because it was a learning experience for my mom and me. How do you prepare vegetables to freeze? How do you make jams? How do you make pickles? Learning a new skill together and doing the work to actually succeed teaches as many work skills as just handing out more chores.
- Make work a hobby. Help your child discover a passion and a talent for a meaningful hobby. Knitting, art, baking, woodworking and more all produce important products that can also be used in service to God. They are also excellent ways to practice good work habits. To develop proficiency in a hobby often demands many hours of focused work, yet because it is your child’s talent and passion, the work will seem like fun.
- Make work part of your worship. There are so many calls in the Bible for us to serve others and share our faith. Anyone who has been on the mission field here or abroad, can tell you serving and faith sharing require a lot of work. Yet it is a way for us to show our respect and gratefulness to God and reflect His love to the people around us. Don’t settle for just attending worship services. Involve your family in the work of God’s Kingdom. You will be amazed at the growth it produces in your child.
Will your child hop out of bed a week from now and cheerfully clean her room without asking? Probably not, but over time and with practice, your child can become a productive worker for the Lord. So grab some sponges and a bucket of soapy water and have a water fight while you are washing my – I mean your- car! Work can be a good thing for you and your kids.