Teach Your Teen the Value of Work

When you grow up in a mill town, the aroma of hard work is all around you. Mills create industry, but they also stink! My childhood conclusion from this frequent aromatic reminder was this: work is the necessary but unpleasant part of life. It had no redeeming value beyond paying the bills.

Obviously, this is not God's view. Genesis tells us God worked six days, telling man to work as His steward over creation (1:26-27; 2:2-3). Why is it that before sin's presence work was done and taught? Because work is good!

God designed our work to reflect His work. Adam's first God-appointed creative action was work (Gen. 2:19-20) — naming the animals God brought him. (Would you agree it takes creativity to come up with Platypus?) Of course, sin changed man's ability to perfectly reflect God's creativity, but it didn't end our purpose to be co-rulers with God as we work His creation.

Simply stated, the idea from my childhood of work being inherently bad is not biblical. Our view of work matters to God because the idea of work comes from the mind of God. Work is good!

The Biblical Picture of Work

As a father of six children, including two teenagers, I wonder, "How do I cultivate a healthy, robust, biblical approach to work?" Every parent is wise to pay attention to that question as our little ones grow up to spend the rest of their lives working like we do. Not only does our view of work matter to God — it will matter to our teenager. Teenagers become adults in short order.

Recently I have been looking at work from the context of King David's teen years. As best we know from Scripture, David's attitude towards his future adult work was cultivated first in his adolescent work. Consider David's work portfolio: shepherd, musician, warrior, politician. He was the Renaissance man before the era ever came! Notice the growth of David's skill through his young life.

As a young boy and teenager, his strength to be a warrior increased in moments of defending his family's sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-35). The time removed in the wilderness caring for sheep provided the quiet moments needed to develop his musical skills and develop him as a writer of God-centered lyrics, a skill which became his pathway to serve the king and eventually serve his nation as its chief hymn writer (1 Sam. 16:17-23).

Reflecting upon David's life as king, Psalm 78:72 says, "So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with skillful hands." It appears much if not all of David's understanding of his adult work was developed by the responsibilities he was tasked with as a teenager. In considering David's work life as a teenager, I have drawn a couple conclusions.

1. David was allowed to take risks.

Imagine sending your 13-year-old son into the wild to keep track of your livestock when you knew predators were at large. Would you do it? This isn't to suggest putting your teenager at risk, but is your primary desire removing all danger from your teenager's life? We are unsure if David started his early shepherding job solo, but one thing is certain: He killed the lion and bear solo.

You don't learn that kind of skill by being coddled. At some point, his father let him live with a healthy measure of risk because Jesse knew the world was a risky place and David would need to learn how to live in it.

From an early age, my son joined me as a team member with other dads in serving at a father-son weekend. As part of his role, he acted in skits, taught younger boys, and served in a variety of ways. This is far from the "risk" David experienced, but I have watched his confidence develop in these and other experiences as he's stepped into new territory. He's 16 now and far from perfect, but he tends to mix well in diverse groups and continues to reach out to younger kids. Being nudged to do new and different things at those weekend retreats has translated into his voluntary pursuit of leading public worship in various organizations at his public high school. Helping your kids take risks will eventually bear fruit in ways you are unable to see when they are young.

2. For David, there was no separation between spiritual and secular work.

David was groomed for his work as king by being a shepherd. Both being a shepherd and being a king had importance. Like Jesus was a carpenter before His ministry, David shows us the biblical value of all work. God does not have categories of "important spiritual work" and "less significant secular work." All work is to be done with God as our strength and for His ultimate glory.

As a pastor, I answer a lot of spiritual questions for people. I enjoy my work. Often, my kids get to see this on-thespot in various conversations. Their observation of me doing my job gives them confidence to ask me questions as their dad and know I will give them as good an answer as I can. All Christian parents have the responsibility to "pastor" their children through questions, but in a unique way, my kids see me do my work as a pastor. Spiritual "work" is a good and holy work.

Yet spiritual work is not the only good and holy work. Those of us in vocational ministry can easily create that impression for those we serve, but it's just not true. God made all work good and holy long before sin entered our world, which means whatever work you take up — if done to the glory of God — is good and holy. Augustine said, "Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved." His point is this: if you love God, you will seek to please Him in all ways, including your work.

Passages like "created in Christ Jesus for good works" and "present your bodies as a living sacrifice" can be read as if the context of their application is exclusively spiritual endeavors such as attending corporate worship, developing biblical relationships, and sharing the gospel (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 2:10). And we should!

But Paul also says in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus." So all our life — our faith, family, and work life — is an opportunity to make the flourishing of Jesus' reputation our primary hope.

If you hear nothing else, consider these God-focused, biblical parenting aims.

1. Your ultimate aim as a mom or dad is to help your kids love Jesus, His people, and grab ahold of careers that suit them well with the wiring God has given them. Looking at the life of David, Jesse instilled in him from a young age the value of all work, spiritual or otherwise. Make it your mission to empower and encourage your kids to find work they enjoy and do it for God with all their heart.

2. Most of the attitude our teenagers pick up from us regarding work is caught rather than taught. Even if you do not love or deeply enjoy your work, are you constantly down on it? Speaking ill of work in general? Be careful! You have tremendous influence in both your attitude and speech towards the future approach your teenagers will have about work. Help them work for the glory of God by approaching your own work for the glory of God!


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This article is courtesy of Parenting Teens Magazine.

Mark Moody is a campus pastor for Austin Stone Community Church, having served in pastoral ministry in Texas and South Carolina for 17 years. When not parenting his one boy and five girls, he lives for Friday family pizza night and the occasional leisurely hike he gets with his wife, Janice.

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