Do you ever ask your kids (or even students or coworkers) to do something and then get a bit of “attitude” back? My kids rarely said, “That’s not fair!” But sometimes (not always) I did sense a bristling of indignation, especially on Saturdays. Some of them seemed to think that Saturdays were made for doing what one wanted all day without any obligations. I tried to get across that days like that are very few and far between, especially the closer you get to being an adult. A day off work (or school, in their cases) didn’t necessarily mean a day just to “play.” The Bible does say, “Six days shalt thou labor” after all, and even though a lot of us have two days off a week, one of those days is usually spent with other kinds of work: running errands, cutting grass, doing house projects, working on the car, etc. The other day for many of us is spent mostly in church, and though there is a rest time in the afternoons and then usually a relaxed evening afterward, the day has obligations all its own. They’re blessed obligations. But obligations still.
We required jobs or “chores” of our children from very early on as we taught them to put toys away and eventually expanded their skills to taking out the trash, dusting, vacuuming, unloading the dishwasher, etc. We gave them an allowance so as to help them learn to handle money, but it was only loosely tied to their jobs. We required their work mainly because that’s part of being a member of a family: everyone pitching in and pulling together to get things done. Even when the older two were in college, though I kept their school and job schedules in mind, I did ask them to take out trash and unload dishwashers when they were home, partly to keep that “pulling together as a family” principle in effect so that as they grew older and started families of their own, they’d be in the habit of contributing to the household even when the rest of life got busy.
Sometimes when I’d parcel out jobs (usually I made a list of what needed to be done and then let them take turns choosing which ones to do), one of them would ask me, “What are you going to do?”
Oh, just go to the grocery store (several times a week!), clean bathrooms (I did offer to let them clean the bathrooms if they’d rather not vacuum floors. They never took me up on it 🙂 ), cook, bake, sweep, mop, do laundry, organize, buy and mend clothes, clean the glass on the front doors, keep on top of everyone’s schedules, taxi kids around, etc. etc.
Sometimes I would just smile and shake my head and think to myself, “They just don’t understand all that’s being done for them — beyond the physical tasks there are financial and emotional expenditures, and besides all that, the love we have for them. If they did, they’d never fuss about being asked to do anything.” Not that we want “payback” as parents, but willing cheerful responses would be nice (and truly, they do respond that way many times). I figured they probably wouldn’t really understand until they were adults, maybe not until they had kids of their own.
Then it hit me just this morning: we do the same thing to God. Sometimes if I sense He wants me to do something, my first thought is, “But….I had my own plans…..I don’t have time….I don’t want to, I’d rather…..”
I had been thinking about worship earlier in the morning and the fact that we don’t worship God as we ought or as often as we should, and then remembered the vice-president of my alma mater preaching one time that we could think of “worship” as “worth-ship” — ascribing to God His worth both by what we say and what we do.
I don’t mean to compare children’s response to their parents as worship. What God has done for us is so much more than what any parent has done for any child, and kids’ attitudes towards parents should include honor but not worship.
But I did see a similar principle. We know some of what God has done for us, and we love and praise Him for it. But in some ways we have no idea of the depths of what Christ went through to secure our salvation nor even of the multitude of everyday ways He blesses and protects us. Even what we do know is plenty enough to motivate us: as the hymn says, “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
So while I took comfort in the fellowship of knowing God understands even this aspect of parenting, the greater lesson was a rebuke to me and a reminder that not only does He have a right to ask anything of me because of who He is, but in light of all He’s done for me, my response should be an obedience motivated and fueled by love.