Saturday, 29 December 2018

Developing a right view of work and effort - Principle 4

If you have read my previous posts on this blog you will realize that I am working my way through the 20 key principles within my pedagogical framework that is the foundation of my book 'Pedagogy and Education for Life'. There are 20 principles in all shaped that reflect three key aspects of God's relationship to us as his creation. First, "God made us as unique creatures". Second, "God made us as creatures who learn". Third, "God made us for communion". In this post, I want to look at the fourth and final principle that relates to the first aspect of our humanity, that is our uniqueness as God's creatures. This fourth statement stresses that while God made all of his creatures to 'work', only humanity is charged with the responsibility of seeing work as a gift from God for our good.

What is a right view of work and effort?

Genesis 2 reminds us that God made us to contribute to the order and running of our world. When he made us, God put us in the garden to "work and take care of it" (Gen 2:15). Work was part of God's good plan for us, and continues to be part of our humanity. While work will at times be hard as we 'toil' with the tasks for which we are responsible, there is a purpose to all of our work. Yes, it will provide money to buy food and pay for a shelter for our heads, but its role in our lives offers so much more. For a start, work is used by God to help us to understand the satisfaction of effort and of tasks completed. That moment when we can look at the fruits of our labour and say, yes the job is finished. At the moment of work's end, we can also be thankful for the rest that follows. Rest follows work.

But of course, work and effort can be misplaced. We can toil in our work simply to create something that "we've built", seeing it as our achievement; I did this! Of course, satisfaction in completing a task well can easily slip from thankfulness to pride and self-congratulation. Somewhere between the starting and finishing of our work, motivations can be easily misplaced. We can quickly shift from being thankful that God enabled and equipped us for a task to basking in the 'glory' of what "I've just done"!

So, Christians are to embrace work as part of God's good plans for us. We are to avoid idleness and be productive, because God gives us things to do, and this is part of what it means to be his creatures. 

We are God's co-workers. Not as equal partners, but as willing and obedient servants grateful for yet another of his gifts - work! And of course, 'effort' is closely intertwined with the goodness of work.  There is little commendation for idleness and laziness in God's word. He made us to be creatures who work and rest. This is part of who we are.

So, what does this mean for us as teachers?

The book of Colossians commends the slave to be obedient to the master. It offers a perspective on work, whether student, teacher or truck driver, that is different to many of the messages that flood us today. The slave was not commended to obey their earthly masters, just to gain their favour, but "... with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord" (Col 3:22) We are to embrace work and do it "... with all of our heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Col 3: 23). 

The Christian teacher has two great responsibilities in relation to work. They are to demonstrate a right view of work themselves, and also instill this same right view in their students. We are to encourage our students to adopt a right attitude to all tasks. Hard work is not to be shunned (or even apologized for by the teacher), it is to be embraced as part of life and God's plan for us.

As teachers, we will have good days, and sometimes very bad days. Our students might be out of control, and we might be having trouble making it to the end of the school year and a much needed summer break. But we are to strive to show thankfulness for the work God has given us and also for the time of rest he gives us in order to sustain our work through what to the teacher will seem at times very long school terms. As teachers (and students), we are to fellowship with God when it gets tough. As the book of Isaiah reminds us, God will strengthen us in the midst of life, including work. We are to seek fellowship with God when times are tough in our classrooms and schools. Likewise, we are to encourage our students to understand this great truth (Isaiah 41:10). As his word reminds us our God is aware of the challenges, and when work is tough he is there. 

"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."
Isaiah 41:13