When I was in school and worried about a test, my parents would usually say, “Just do your best.” I knew they meant study, get help from my teacher if I needed it and try to answer the test questions in the best way I knew how to do. No one called this being a perfectionist or worried about our mental health.
Yet at some point, someone noticed there were a few people who took things to an extreme. They expected themselves and everyone around them to be perfect all of the time. So we started being told to “chill” a bit and not worry so much about being “perfect”.
Ironically, I never saw any articles about the negative aspects of being too “chill” – bad grades, lost jobs, reduced performance in companies, failed relationships and more. As these negative consequences of being too relaxed started to take root in our culture, the pendulum didn’t swing back to a balanced view of a good work ethic.
Instead, we saw even more articles warning of the dangers of perfectionism and actually celebrating all of the problems not really trying hard created. People who tried to encourage people to put effort into every aspect of their lives were scolded and mocked. Educators and employers became increasingly frustrated as they were expected to achieve results with people who had been told not to do their best because it could harm them emotionally.
As Christians though, we shouldn’t really care too much about what other people think regarding anything. Our main goal is to please God. So what does God have to say about trying to do our best or asking our children to do their best? There are actually quite a few scriptures to help us.
- Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24) I don’t know about you, but if Jesus is my boss, I’m putting in my best efforts. How depressing to have to look our boss in the eye and admit we weren’t really even trying to do our best work for Him.
- For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8 Notice words like striving and increasing? Those are words describing someone trying to do their best, not someone who is content just coasting through life.
- All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Teaching, correction, reproof, training – these are all actions of people who are trying to improve at something.
- Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. Philippians 1:27-28 Phrases like “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” and “striving side by side” once again point to someone who is learning, growing, trying to get better at something – to reach their godly potential.
- What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:1-2 Yes, Christians have grace, but this lets us know we are still to try and get rid of the sins in our lives.
And there are plenty of other verses like these. Does God’s grace cover the sins of Christians? Absolutely! Can we earn our way into Heaven by doing enough good things or avoiding enough sins? No, Jesus’ death and resurrection provide salvation for Christians.
Does God expect us to do our best to obey and serve Him? Does He expect us to teach our children to do their best to obey and serve Him? Does God want you and your kids to work towards reaching the potential He gave you? I believe the Bible teaches us that God does indeed expect that of His people.
The next time someone tells you not to be concerned about helping your kids become more godly, or that it’s not important to teach your kids about God in your home – ignore them. A little striving is indeed good for the soul.