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Nurturing a Biblical Work Ethic in Children

How do we foster and nurture a strong work ethic in our kids, which will be pleasing to God?

W-O-R-K – for many, the ultimate four-letter word. Some cheat and steal to avoid it. Others exert and exhaust themselves to finance the finer things. Some work several jobs just to feed the family. More than a few end up anxious, ailing or even incarcerated!

In the beginning, even work was good. God gave Adam and Eve a vast plot of land with outstanding soil. All they had to do was harvest the perfect produce. Then sin entered the garden — and it brought weeds.

After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God told them “…the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18 NLT).

Work isn’t what it used to be. But our Master is still a loving God who blesses and supplements our meager efforts. The trick is getting that message through to kids in a culture that exhorts us to make loads of money fast by looking out for number one. How can we help our children discover a profound sense of value and accomplishment in honest labor? Here are a few suggestions for helping your kids develop a work ethic of Biblical proportions.

Keeping Work in Perspective

Work, like anything else can be destructive if taken to extremes. Working too little, numerous Proverbs tell us, leaves folks poor, hungry, weary, destructive, and enslaved to others. The apostle Paul urged gossips and meddlers to settle down and work with their hands (I Timothy 5:13, II Thessalonians 3:11-12).

On the flip side, people who work too much are warned against wearing themselves out (Proverbs 23:4) or chasing after quick riches (Proverbs 28:20). These behaviors often draw people away from God and cause them significant grief (I Timothy 6:10).

A key aspect of a Godly work ethic is balance. As we train our kids to live well-rounded lives that include work, family and hobbies, we can show them that even the aspects of life requiring the most effort can be extremely rewarding.

Why Work Is G-o-o-d

Below are just a few of the “perks” that accompany honest labor.

  • WORK PERK #1: Work allows us to be self-reliant and respected.

Read It: Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (I Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Model It: Tell your kids about your job. Better yet, take them to work. Let them see you interact with coworkers. Help them understand how you accomplish your daily tasks.

Teach It: Assign chores and enforce their completion. Teach responsibility by making kids accountable for their own items. Encourage youngsters in entrepreneurial efforts, like running a lemonade stand or starting a lawn care venture.

  • WORK PERK #2: Work entitles us to an honest earthly reward.

Read It: When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned (Romans 4:4 NLT).

Model It: Tell your kids Dad and/or Mom go to work so they can pay for food and other necessities. Explain that you have a certain amount of money to spend based on your earnings; if you want something that isn’t in the budget, you have to save up for it.

Teach It: Find ways to teach the value of money. Offer financial incentives for doing extra chores. Help older kids build their own budget. (See books by financial experts like Ron Blue and Larry Burkett for suggestions on raising money-saavy kids).

  • WORK PERK #3: Work affords us the joy of helping others.

Read It: …use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need (Ephesians 4:28 NLT). A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

Model It: Let your kids see you give to charitable organizations and church. Get the family involved in service projects — even “small” things like baking for a sick friend or cleaning an elderly neighbor’s house.

Teach It: Encourage kids’ involvement in service clubs or youth groups. Teach them to respect and honor elders, veterans and other authority figures by opening doors, speaking politely, or otherwise showing appreciation.

  • WORK PERK #4: Hard work leads to a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Read It: The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

Model It: Revel in a job you’ve done well (“Look at that spotless living room. Now this is a place I can relax in!”)

Teach It: Help kids discover their passions and channel them into meaningful activities and service. When people strive toward an exciting, energizing goal, the effort required to achieve that end rarely feels like “labor.”

  • WORK PERK #5: Good work results in prosperity and opportunities.

Read It: Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper (Proverbs 13:4 NLT).

Model It: Practice fairness and integrity in your dealings with others. Strive to be highly competent in your field — even if you’re a stay-at-home parent who receives no monetary compensation. If you get a bonus check or a raise, take the family to dinner; let them know the funds were a result of your good work.

Teach It: Praise your child’s hearty effort, kindness and integrity. Show delight when they share with a sibling or help around the house voluntarily. Reward them for mature behavior with small treats or opportunities for “big kid” activities.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” By offering our kids a Godly perspective on work, and teaching them how not to fear it, we free them to step out in faith, pursue opportunities and follow dreams.

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