Is Work Child Abuse?
I was telling the grandsons about my grandfather helping me harvest corn when I was a boy. It went something like this: “When I was ten years old, my father told me to take the wagon up to the 10 acre field of corn north of my grandfather’s home and to pull the corn and put it in the barn …”
I had intended to tell them how my eighty three-year old grandfather saw my task and came to help me, but I was interrupted by seven-year-old Sam. “Your dad made you do that?” His eyes were wide and his mouth agape. Incredulous!
I explained that though it was quite a task for a ten-year old, and that I was sure it would take days, I was honored that my dad would entrust me with meaningful work. (My grandfather and I finished the job the next day.)
Senator Ben Sasse has written a book, The Vanishing American Adult, in which he discusses the coming crisis resulting from prolonged adolescence. He traces the changes in society from the family that worked together either on farms or in family businesses, to today’s environment of consumer-oriented young people. It is a good read and offers helpful suggestions about how to better parent our children and grandchildren.
Underlying his analysis and hopes for change is a Christian worldview regarding work. His book spurred some thoughts of my own.
Work is not punishment for not being rich.
Contrary to popular opinion, work is not a bad thing. It is not something thrust upon us as a form of punishment. Some try to use the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve’s fall and the subsequent curse to support the idea that work is the result of the curse.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. — Genesis 3:19 (ESV)
It is the sweat of your face, because of the difficulty that sin injected into the economic dynamic, that is the curse. Work is part of the divine design. We are made in the image of the God who works. We are fulfilled when we express our creativity and extend our abilities in meaningful work.
When people are convinced that getting out of work is better than working, and that the objective is consuming rather than producing, they get frustrated and bored. And the economy that surrounds them is diminished.
Give the kids a chance.
Though all of us would recoil at oppressive child labor, we must not rob our children of the joy of participating in the managing of creation. My grandsons will never be asked to harvest a field of corn, but they must be given opportunities to contribute as a producer rather than just a consumer.
They can learn early to make their bed, clean their room, share in household chores, volunteer for community work, help classmates do their work, and thereby find the sense of destiny for which they are designed. Hours in the classroom will not adequately substitute for such experiences.
Many Christians are worried about the future for their children and grandchildren. Right now, we have an opportunity to make a difference in their future as well as the future of our society. If Senator Sasse is correct is his analysis, there is going to be a vacuum of responsible leadership when the unprepared generation is expected to assume responsibility. Just by being attentive and responsible parents, we can prepare some young men and women who can tear down the idol of consumerism and replace it with producers who love to work as an expression of their worship.
We can teach them to enjoy reading, to engage in problem solving, to rejoice in opportunities to serve, to know who they are as defined by the boundaries set by their creator, and to desire the best for someone other than themselves.
Something devastating is happening to our young. Let’s open our eyes and embrace our present opportunity. Rise up parents and grandparents! There is more to be done than following the current agenda to personal success. The future is in our hands now.