Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

(Psalm 20:30-31)

The Scandal of Hard Work

Several months ago, my 14-year-old son asked if he could earn some money during his break from school. We’d been renovating part of our house, so my husband offered him the job of installing new flooring. He agreed, so after learning the basics of measuring and cutting vinyl planks, we set him loose to do the job.

By the end of the week, the floors in the bathroom, bedroom, and closet were complete, and he had painted the walls as well. He had done all of it on his own—and done it well.

Now, let the reader understand: I rarely post on social media about my children, but in this instance, I decided to share his accomplishment with my modest following. That night, I took his picture and hit “tweet”.

The next morning, I woke up to tens of thousands of notifications. And let me assure you, “going viral” is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Many comments amounted to something like, “Nice job, buddy,” but hundreds (maybe thousands) of others veered into one of two extremes: either stunned admiration or shocked horror. The former could hardly believe that any teenager could accomplish such a tremendous feat, while the latter could hardly believe that any parent would turn their child into such a downtrodden slave.

While the accolades might feel better than the harsh criticism, both should concern us. That’s because the underlying assumption for both responses was the same: that we cannot expect hard, productive work from young people. Our society has set the bar so low for our youth that when a normal teenage boy uses a ruler and a few tools to do some honest work, the internet loses its mind.

Participation Trophies

The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy will be put to forced labor.
(Proverbs 12:24)

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the percentage of teens who work to earn a paycheck has dropped precipitously since its peak in 1979. And while not all work comes with a paycheck, these numbers do seem to reflect a troubling general trend. Our nation’s kids are increasingly unaccustomed to hard work, whether at school or at home or at an after-school job.

The average American child is growing up with inflated grades and participation trophies and the illusion of free lunch. For millions of K–12 students, the connection between work and reward is slowly being severed.

Based on the replies to my tweet, we’ve even reached a point where some parents believe that giving kids productive work at home is cruelty—on a par with slavery. The irony here is that according to the proverb above, slavery is exactly where this generation of sluggards may be headed: “The lazy will be put to forced labor.”

The Hand of the Diligent

This all sounds like a lot of bad news, and in many ways it is. But it does contain some good news to consider as well. The good news is found in the first half of that proverb above: “The hand of the diligent will rule.”

When we train and educate our kids in an environment where the standards are high and self-discipline is required and hard work is the norm, we are raising future leaders. Future rulers. And better than that, we are raising Christian leaders who will serve and bless those around them.

Leadership in itself is no virtue unless it also means being a follower—a follower of Christ and his Word. Yes, the diligent will rule. But those who are also righteous will rule in a way that brings joy: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” (Proverbs 29:2a).

This highlights the importance of persevering in the task of providing a rigorous Christian education. We are seeking to raise hard-working young people who will stand out from their lazy and self-indulgent peers and who will rise to positions of authority. And when these young people are trained not just in diligence but in righteousness, it may shock people on the internet now, but in the end, we should expect rejoicing to follow.

In other words, classical Christian education is a gift not only to our kids but to our whole wayward society. The contrast between the fruit of our labors and the fruit of our rebellious world is growing more stark by the day. So press on. This labor is not in vain. ✤

It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

(Philippians 2:13–16)

HANNAH K. GRIESER is an ACCS alumna and the mother of 5 sons, including one cancer survivor. She lives in northern Idaho where, in addition to managing her family’s full schedule, she works as a writer and graphic designer. She is the author of numerous articles and of the book The Clouds Ye So Much Dread (Canon Press, 2017).


This article is sponsored by our Corporate Partner, ACCU.