It’s no secret that two of the most dreaded words in the usually carefree world of childhood are Homework and Chores. In the long run, we know that homework actually helps our children become successful adults. We also know that we’ll get in trouble with the school if we don’t enforce it. So homework is a given.
But chores are different: As parents, chores are our decision. On the surface, the choice seems obvious: if we want a conflict free home full of happy people, we’ll forget about the idea as quickly as possible. The children don’t like it, and it’s not always helpful for parents who have to remind, supervise, and sometimes redo the whole job anyway. For example, my daughter sometimes lays the table for meals. I could do the job better and more efficiently myself. So why ask her to do it? You might say it’s because she owes me some return for everything I’ve put in to parenting her. But could she ever work enough to pay off the snacks she loves (much less the dinners), the electricity she uses, the petrol for chauffeuring her around, the clothes she wears, and her share of the rent? It’s absurd. Even the money she earns comes from my bank account. I don’t give her the job because I want her to pay me back or because I need her help. I give it because in the long run, I believe she will be a happier person if she learns that the true joy of love is in giving, not taking. The point of her chore is not the job she does, or how well she does it. The point is how well the job teaches her the joy of loving and serving others.
The idea of giving children chores for the sake of their happiness might seem strange, but I didn’t make it up. I learned it from my own relationship with my Heavenly Father. God says his children are “created for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). When you think about it, this is amazing: do we really think that the God who spoke the universe into existence needs our help with his work? He could do it more efficiently without us. He gave breath to every living thing without our help. He gave us a world full of beautiful sunrises and chocolate without asking us for a hand. He didn’t need people for any of this, yet when God made Adam and Eve, he shared with them the joyful job of caring for his creation. Our problems began when they (like us) decided that disobeying God and living selfishly was better for them than loving and obeying the God who made them, loved them, and wanted what was best for them. This is what the Bible calls sin, and because it is against the Author of Life, the consequence is death.
But God didn’t stop giving. Jesus gave his life and rose again to pay for our sin and bring whoever trusts in him back into the family of God. There was no work we could do to help him save us. All we contributed to salvation was the sin that made his death necessary!
But maybe after all these gifts, he’s asking us to work for him so we can pay him back? That certainly sounds fair. The problem is, it’s impossible. The good deeds of a thousand lifetimes couldn’t begin to pay off what God has already given us, much less earn the new gifts he gives every day. So why would God ask little, sinful humans to do his jobs? Romans 8:28-29 tells us that God’s goal in everything is that we will become like Jesus, who found joy even in giving his life for the sake of others (Hebrews 12:2). God loves to give. He delights in giving. And he shares his work with his children because he wants them to experience the same joy he has. If my Heavenly Father wants this joy for me, then I want it, too. And I want it for my children as well.