I’ve had my fair share of jobs over the years. I’ve mowed lawns, bused tables, and painted houses. I’ve worked at a purse factory, the Pottery Barn, a pest control company, and even trained to be a home inspector. And then almost twenty years ago, God called me to be a pastor. That’s what I have been doing ever since.
On average, most Americans will have seven to eight different jobs in their lifetime. Some more, some less. If the research is right, a large percentage of Americans won’t like their jobs! Some estimate close to 80% are currently unhappy in their line of work. This dismay overworking, often starts young – which I learned not by doing research, but by being a dad.
Just about six years ago, I was out raking the leaves in the backyard with three of our children. We had what felt like a mini-forest lining our lot. Resisting the temptation to let the leaves blow into the neighbor’s yard, I rallied our crew one afternoon for a “work day.” As you can imagine, that went over about as well as a surprise trip to the dentist. Then and there, it occurred to me, we need to do a better job of teaching our kids a biblical view of work. This is a gift that will serve them well, long after they leave our house (and yard) someday.
While there is a lot we could say about the value and meaning of work in the Bible, here are three important and practical truths we can teach our children about how God views work.
- God is a worker
One of the very first things we learn about God when we open the Bible is that he works. Genesis 1 and 2 describes the act of God creating the world as working. He is active. Creative. Shaping. Forming. Producing. And if that is not enough, Genesis 1:31 tells us that God takes great joy in his work. He doesn’t grumble or complain his way through creation. He actually takes great delight in his work. There is something inherently good and important and meaningful about work because God works.
- God created us to work
Not only does God work, but he has created us to work. In fact, work existed before sin entered the world. Work was a part of God’s original and good creation. I know, I know, trying to get a seven-year-old or fourteen-year-old to believe that work is good can be challenging! But there is something deeply rewarding and meaningful about work – even if it is harder now this side of the Fall. While our kids might not fully understand or appreciate it when they are younger, one of the best things we can do as parents is to help our children see the value and reward of work. Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are made in God’s “image” and “likeness.” Because God works, we work. Work, no matter what we do, can be an act of worship. Not to mention, there are plenty of warnings in the Bible about those who don’t want to work (Ecclesiastes 10:18; Proverbs 19:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:10)!
- Work is not just for us, but for God and others
And finally, work is sacred because it comes from God and ultimately is for God. While work is of incredible value, meaning, and dignity, work is never meant to be an idol. It’s not for us only. It’s not just about making money. It’s not about promoting ourselves or trying to prove ourselves. God has given us work to bring him glory and bless others. In other words, work is far more outward than it is inward.
As our kids continue to grow and discover their unique gifts, experiences, and education, let’s help them to see that work is not primarily for them. In God’s eyes, our work is meant to love, serve, bless, and point others to Jesus. God is looking for people to live for his purposes in all spheres of life. We all follow Jesus, but we will all follow Jesus uniquely in our chosen field of work.
God is at work in the world and he invites us to join him. He has created us to experience the goodness and meaning, and significance of work. Work will not always be easy or fruitful. But in God’s hands, work can be an avenue for loving God and loving others. No matter what we do, that’s the kind of work that lasts for eternity!
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.