Dads, Teach your Children Responsibility (Eph. 6:5-8)
Fathers, Teach your Children Responsibility
Hippocrates said, “The best inheritance a parent can leave a child is a will to work.” Of course, Hippocrates was not a Christian. The best inheritance is a strong faith in Jesus Christ. But, Hippocrates is true that it is very important that we parents teach and train our children to have a strong work ethic.
My brother-in-law works for a steel factory in Houston, TX. He worked for 20 years with U. S. Steel and they lived in OH, PA, and three times in Birmingham, AL. Once, we were visiting with him and my sister and he was telling us a funny story about finding a man asleep at his computer and how that was a pattern of behavior for him and how hard it was to fire him. I asked my brother-in-law how many people in his factory does not really give a full day’s work for a day’s pay. He said something like 75%! I was floored at how high the number was.
Dads, we need to teach our children the value of hard work. Too many people think that work is a four-letter word and they don’t want to say it, much less do it. And we don’t just need to tell them to work; we need to show them to work hard.
Someone asked a general of the Israeli army why their soldiers are so outstanding. The general responded, “It’s because our generals do not send our troops into battle. We lead them.”
Our children will never know the value of hard work unless they see it at home, demonstrated in us dads.
But our culture is geared toward vacation time and entertainment. Our society works to play.
We see signs like:
“I’d rather be fishing.”
“I’d rather be flying.”
“I’d rather be golfing.”
“I’d rather be skiing.”
“I’d rather be sailing.”
“I’d rather be biking.”
“I’d rather be 4-wheeling.”
In other words, I would rather be doing anything besides working. Whatever it is I am doing, it does not have as much value to me as playing. You’ve seen another bumper-sticker that says, “I owe. I owe. It’s off to work I go.” It is a worldly philosophy that says work is to pay for my pleasure, my lifestyle of fun.
There is a deep illness in a lot of Americans today that does not appreciate the value of old-fashioned, hard work. What kind of looks would you get if you had a bumper sticker that said, “I would rather be working.” Or, “Thank God for Mondays!”
But this is not really that new and it’s not limited to Americans…
THE VALUE OF HARD WORK:
God has purposed work for our good. Let’s look at what Paul says in Ephesians 6:5-7.
We observe that these passages on work follow immediately Paul’s command for Christians to teach their children the ways of the Lord. Work is a part of the will of God for our lives. When we work, we are serving the Lord. That is an important point for us to keep in mind as we train our children.
God created man so he could serve God and glorify His name on the earth. When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them the responsibility to work in the garden, to serve the land, to rule over God’s creation. The whole week of creation reflects God’s work and when we work, we are reflecting the fact that we are made in the image of God.
Let’s read Solomon’s thoughts on the high value of work: Ecclesiastes 2:24-25. Take a look at Ecc. 3:12-13. Again, look at 5:19. Work is a gift from God. Work is not something to be endured. It is a gift from God.
The NT echoes these same thoughts and Paul says that when we serve our employer, we are really serving the Lord. If we see our job as simply serving our boss, then our reward will only be in physical terms. But if we see our work as being a gift from God, then we will reap spiritual rewards. All we do is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Ultimately, then, God is my boss. He is the only who hires me, who fires me, and who evaluates me. Paul said, “All things are from Him and through Him and to Him” (Rom. 11:36).
If we look back at Eph. 6:6, we see that work is “doing the will of God.” If God calls me to perform a certain task, it does not matter if it is to change oil or change diapers, it honors God if I fulfill my responsibility.
TEACH A WORK ETHIC THAT GLORIFIES GOD:
A new church building was being constructed and the foreman asked one of the construction workers, “What are you doing?” He responded, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks.” He asked the second worker. He said, “I’m building a church building.” He asked the third worker. He answered, “I’m building a house of worship for the glory of God.”
All three were doing the same work. The first two, though, were occupied with the task. The third saw the big picture. He was serving God.
How do we teach our children the big picture of work in the eyes of God?
First, we teach them how God views work. Colossians 3:17. Our work matters to God. There is dignity and value in all work, no matter how small or insignificant it is.
Second, model for them the value of hard work. How we approach everything, how we as parents deal with everything has an influence on their lives. So, let them see us working hard. Let them see us working faithfully, wholeheartedly, with a good spirit. If we constantly grumble about our boss or complain about our clients, the value of work is hurt in the eyes of our children. We should be careful how frequently we call in sick or for whatever reason we do not go in to work. Because, again, we are teaching our children through our behavior.
Third, give children work assignments at home. We reinforce irresponsibility when mom or dad does everything around the house and we don’t have children do things that they can do. Even very young children can make up their beds - at least to a certain degree. They can clean their own rooms. They can pick up their own toys. As they get older, they can vacuum, dust, set and clean the table for dinner, wash dishes, load the dishwasher, take out the trash, mow the lawn, wash the car.
Fourth, work on a project together with them. Don’t do your children’s homework for them but certainly working together with them on a project can be very enjoyable. We often play with our children today - we play ball with them and things like that, which is good. But there’s more to life than playing ball together. An adult typically doesn’t play ball. But all adults, if they are acting maturely, have responsibilities they have to fulfill. Dads can work together with their children to fulfill some of their responsibilities. When we have rake day in the fall, we have a number of dads who are out there raking leaves with their children, teaching them by their actions that work is a good thing.
TEACH THE VIRTUES OF WORK:
How we work is just as important as the fact that we work. Good work, godly work, Christ-honoring work is done a certain way. Let’s talk a few minutes about working with the right character.
First, work with humility. Paul is addressing slaves in Ephesians 6:5-7. Today, many modern workers see their work as benefiting themselves. They do it for themselves, for their own paycheck, for their own pleasure. But the heart of Christianity is service and the heart of the Christian work ethic is humility - trying to make our service the best it can be. If we work like that, then we will work to make our company the best it can be. When my mom occasionally asked me to clean up a mess, I would frequently say, “But I didn’t make the mess.” She would respond, “I didn’t say you did. It doesn’t matter who made the mess. I asked you to clean it up.” That’s teaching to work with humility.
Second, work with an obedient heart. Again, Paul is talking to slaves (Eph. 6:5) and slaves have to do what they are told. We are to obey whoever is over us in authority - our boss, our parents, the policeman, the teacher, the coach. When one in charge says to do it, our children need to be taught: Just do it!
Third, work with a respectful attitude. Notice that slaves were to work with “fear and trembling” (6:5). Children have to be taught to honor their parents (6:2) and that honor should flow over to teachers and bosses at work. Nothing will bring respect on the job site faster than doing a great job with a great attitude. Even if our employer has a bad attitude, our Christianity is being put to the test and if we want to pass the test, we have to work with an attitude of respect.
Fourth, work sincerely. Sincerely means without complaining. Without bickering. Without criticizing as though God were watching us. Because He, in fact, is. “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.” Didn’t your dad teach you that? My mom would also say, “Son, if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you find time to do it a second time?” We are trying to teach our children, not just to please their bosses, or even just to please their dads. We want them to work to please God. You know, if you are pleasing God, it doesn’t matter whom you displease. If you displease God, it doesn’t matter whom you please.
Fifth, work wholeheartedly. We need to teach our children, generally speaking, they should go above and beyond what is expected of them. We should always work as we are slaves of Christ (6:6). Laziness stems from half-heartedness; working only when someone is watching.
Cathy Rigby was a member of the U. S. Women’s Gymnastics Team in 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. She had only one goal in mind - winning the gold. She trained hard for years to reach that goal. She prayed for strength and the control to get through her routine without making any mistakes. She was focused and tense with determination not to let herself down or her country.
She did well. But when it was over and the names of the winners were called, her name was not among the winners. She was crushed. Cathy was able to hold her emotions together until she could get to her parents. Eventually, Cathy joined her parents in the stands all set for a good cry. She sat down and could hardly manage to speak: “I’m sorry. I did my best.”
Her daddy responded, “I know that you know that. And I’m sure God knows that too.” Then her daddy said ten words that Cathy Rigby took with her long after the Olympics were over: “Doing your best is more important than being the best.”
Working hard because God is watching is the best way to have a good work ethic.
Sixth, work with self-initiative. Notice we are to work “with good will.” This means our children need to work with an eager attitude that does not need to be prompted or compelled. It means to be self-motivated with enthusiasm and zeal. If we can jump out of bed enthusiastically to go play but we can’t jump out of bed to go work productively, then we’ve got our priorities out of order. We need to train our children to work with self-initiative.
Coach Tom Landry said, “The job of a coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to be what they’ve always wanted to be.”
We have to do that with our children. We want them to be what God wants them to be: productive in any and all the work they are called to do.
Take a look at Paul’s concluding thoughts - Ephesians 6:8-9. If we work faithfully, as Paul teaches us here, if our children work faithfully, God will see to it that they will be rewarded. God sees everything. God knows everything. God will reward faithfulness to His teachings. Hard work teaches good character traits like faithfulness, humility, and integrity. It brings financial rewards as well as personal satisfaction and recognition.
Then, of course, we have the reward that awaits us in heaven. We will answer for our work ethic here on earth. We will answer to God for whether we did our best to serve Him wherever we were. So the highest motivation we have in work is to please Jesus Christ.
Yes, we live in a world that is not fair and sometimes, hard work is not rewarded in this life as it should be. But God does not forget.
Take home message: Dads, we must teach our children to work responsibly: with humility, obediently, respectfully, sincerely, wholeheartedly, and with self-initiative.