Looking back at my childhood and early working years, I am very grateful for my parents and others who gave me good models of a biblical work ethic. I had parents who worked hard and who expected me to work hard. I have also been privileged to have had wonderful employers in my working-life who have modelled and rewarded hard work. Despite all these good examples, I have still felt unprepared to train my own daughters in this area. So when I heard Mary Beeke explaining the content of Teach Them to Work in an interview, I was enthralled. I knew immediately that this was an area of parenting I needed help with.
Beeke approaches the topic with the kind of self-deprecation that helps the reader fall in love with her. She knows her own areas of weakness but never glorifies her sin. She knows her strengths but depends deeply on her Saviour. These things make the book a delightful read and softened my heart to my own sins and weaknesses as I explored this topic with her. This book is worthwhile reading for new parents, a mum’s Bible study group, or even in bringing the gospel to a non-Christian parent. An added bonus—the chapters are short! You can hold the content in your head and it’s very easy to read.
Work – A gift from God to glorify God
Part One of Teach Them To Work outlines some biblical principles for work. As she approaches a variety of topics, Beeke returns again and again to the gospel. In the Garden of Eden, the very place where our work was cursed, we are reminded of the promised Saviour. At the cross, we see afresh God’s greatest work—our salvation. We see our work redeemed by Christ so that through it we can glorify God. And Beeke also doesn’t hesitate to show us God’s coming work of judgement. This continual alignment between work and the gospel—which is also infused into Part Two—shows us our desperate need for a Saviour, and is an invitation for the reader to come to God in repentance and faith.
As Beeke explains the biblical principles for work, she cleverly holds in tension two aspects of work often viewed conflictingly. On the one hand, work is a grind. In an honest and down-to-earth way, she reminds us to “Just do the work!”. Sometimes our work is hard, menial, or boring—it still needs to be done. On the other hand, our work is a gift from God designed to bring glory to God. I appreciated the way she navigated this tension. While I am convinced of the second, often my work in our home feels more like the first. It’s refreshing to be reminded that both are realities, and imperative that we teach both these truths to our children.
Preparing Our Children
Part Two of Teach Them To Work takes us into practicalities. This section is fun and engaging as Beeke addresses the how of preparing our children for a lifetime of work. Her practical advice is very helpful for those with small children: start age-appropriate training young. While it may seem hard, if we deal with issues before they become habits, they will be much easier to address than when the child is grown. Even with this priority, she still gives time to families with older children who may feel like that ship has sailed and it’s too hard to try and change things now. Throughout this section, the theme of service comes through loud and clear. Can we help our children prepare for a lifetime of service to God and to others? The answer is a resounding “Yes! With God’s help!”
While it may seem hard, if we deal with issues before they become habits, they will be much easier to address than when the child is grown.
Some Personal Highlights
I was delighted by the littering of Proverbs throughout Teach Them To Work. Her encouragement for parents to read Solomon’s book of wisdom and insight with their children is noteworthy, and something I intend to try in 2022. One small quibble here though: all of Beeke’s Scripture references are in the Old King James Version. I’m not sure of the reason, but I find this makes the book less accessible to someone unfamiliar with the old language.
I was also convicted time and time again by the need for prayerfulness. I admit that I have never once prayed for my children in the area of work. With God’s help, this will also be a change I make in 2022—praying not just for them and their future work, but also for me in how I model and teach it.
I have never once prayed for my children in the area of work. With God’s help, this will be a change I make in 2022
Another high point was the way Beeke weaves together biblical principles that are useful in an array of contexts. They have direct application in the area of work, but are sound principles for all areas of parenting. For example, she deals with issues like subduing the will, modelling and example, and monitoring screen time. These topics are sprinkled throughout the book, and while some readers may find their repetition monotonous, I found it helpful to see these topics being outworked in everyday situations.
Serving God and others is hard labour, but it is what we were made for. It’s the most rewarding of lifestyles. It’s good for us, great for others, and it glorifies God. This book has not just motivated me to help our girls see these things, but it’s motivated me to live this way too! May God the Holy Spirit be our help as we seek to work for the glory of God and train our children to do the same.