A good friend of mine told me recently of a conversation he had with a manager of a small warehouse that is assembling COVID-19 test kits. They were in desperate need of workers and offering a starting wage of $20/hour; yet they could not find people, particularly post-high school graduates, that were willing to work. He told of one applicant who told him he was eager to work so that he could pay off debt. The manager hired him. The next day, the young man arrived two hours after his shift was to begin. He told his boss that he’d been out late the night before and had slept in. The manager explicitly told him of his expectations, but let him finish the shift. The next day, the young man failed to show up. Later on that day, the manager received an email from him saying he had decided to quit.
I wish this was an exception, but from talking with various employers and human relations people, it is not. My wife once worked at a local retail chain. A high percentage of the employees were college students. She routinely said that so and so didn’t show up for a shift, often without giving any notice. She said it seemed to her the management factored this phenomena into their hiring and scheduling practices. It was assumed that daily, or at weekly, there would be unexcused absences by employees.
In doing research for my upcoming book (yes, it WILL get published eventually!), I came across a statistic that shocked me. Only 25% of children in U.S. households were given chores by their parents. The question is, how do children learn how to work and develop a work ethic if they are never given any work to do? Yes, I understand that school assignments and extracurricular activities, such as sports and music or dance lessons, are “work” in one sense; however, children will not stay in school forever, nor will many end up professionally playing sports or an instrument.
Children learn mostly by doing. If they are never required to do work that adults typically have to do, no wonder when they become adults themselves that they have very little understanding of what it means to work and do it well.
I routinely encounter students as freshmen who have never held a job. Several have told me their parents told them school was their job. These parents, I suspect, want their children to earn significant scholarships in order to lower the cost of their children’s education. I don’t blame them, but while this may help lower the price of their education, it comes at a much higher price. These emerging adults often do not know the normal expectations of those for whom they work, whether it be work while they are in college, or when they enter their chosen profession. To put it bluntly, many of them are not good, reliable employees.
This is particularly an issue if students are raised in Christian homes. If they are not good and reliable workers, it reflects on our Lord. Paul says this to the Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (3:23-24)
In the adult world, work is one of our main witnesses for Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to interact with people who likely we will never see attend our churches or will want to do so. If we are poor employees, that reflects on our witness for Jesus. Thus, we need to be teaching our children from the time they are young until they leave our households how to work and do it reliably and properly.
And the reality is that work is good and a blessing from the Lord. We Christians are not supposed to be living from weekend to weekend, but to enjoy work as God enjoyed his at the beginning of time. We should be giving our children the opportunities to experience the goodness of work.
The financial aims for our children that often drive us as parents are not necessarily bad, but they shouldn’t crowd out something that is so much more important—the witness of our adult children to the world, of which work will be a main avenue.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.