I know…it’s a crazy idea. But I’m against giving your kids chores. The whole word “chores” just sounds awful.
On the other hand, “work” was given to man as a blessing. It was established before sin came into the world. In Gen. 2:15 it says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Prior to the fall, man was created to tend and nurture the ground. Now sin brought with it thorns, which made work hard. In Gen. 3:17-18 shows that because of sin the ground is cursed with thorns and thistles and by the sweat of our face we shall eat.
You see, it’s good for our souls to work…to cultivate…to nurture. There are a number of prisons in America now that have prisoners planting and tending gardens to produce their own food and also raising future guide dogs for the blind. What authorities have found is that these hardened criminals begin to change when they have something to nurture.
God gave man a domain called Eden. Adam was to cultivate and keep it. One of the definitions of cultivate is “to promote and improve the growth of by labor and attention.” And here’s one of the definitions of keep “to hold or retain in one’s possession; hold as one’s own.”
Work is a gift from God. It gives us purpose and can define our gifts and talents. We add value to the world because of our work.
When my son was six and my daughter was four years old, I was at the Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA. We were having a beach day with a few other kids and moms. We told the kids they could have two rides each and then we were going to go home. All of the kids rallied together and began to demand a day-long wristband. We immediately whisked the kids away into the cars. I told my children that if they wanted a day-long wristband that they could work for it. (I’m not saying that buying children a day-long wristband to an amusement park is a bad thing. It was the attitude of demand that I was addressing.) The next day we made chocolate chip cookies and put 4 to a plate. I sent them down the road with a little red wagon (and me in tow) to go door-to-door selling their cookies for $1 per plate. Of course, they were so adorable nobody could say no. They soon had their $20 each to purchase their day-long wristband. What really surprised me was a comment my son said on the way to the Beach Boardwalk the next week. He was looking out the side window and not really speaking to anyone in particular and said, “I am soooo proud of myself.” I thought to myself that I could have taken away a sense of accomplishment and created entitlement by handing him a twenty-dollar bill.
Now, please hear me. As parents, we can go too far on this pendulum and make them work for everything. This can have a damaging effect as well. It is good to sometimes give your children good gifts. And at six and four years old, I didn’t get into deducting the cost of all of the ingredients or talking to them about taking taxes out of their profits. We need to gauge where our children’s hearts are at and talk to them about the goodness of working.
But, of course, as with everything else, it starts with our attitude about work. Do you speak about the dread of going to your job? Or do you look at your work as a place to cultivate it to make it the best it can be? Do you look at your home as a domain to nurture and care for?
Don’t just give your kids tasks to do so you don’t have to do them and don’t make working a miserable experience for them. Give them a sense of dominion or ownership. Help them to cultivate their rooms and help them to see beyond the task to the greater purpose. Also, talk to them about your sense of purpose in your work. (And if you struggle here, it’s a good time to make a few changes in your own life.)
I love Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”