Column: The case for hard work

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Commentary by Pastor Mike Colaw

My kids have a trophy wall in their room. Guess what trophies have slowly disappeared over the years — the participation trophies.

I didn’t have to tell them to take them down. As they get older, they know those trophies aren’t special. You know what my kids have replaced their participation trophies with? It’s Lego sets they’ve built and other rewards they know they worked hard to earn. Somewhere deep down they know the stuff they worked for matters more — a lot more.

Work and fulfilling worth are intricately intertwined. When people are rewarded for work they didn’t do, it can confuse worth. The natural byproduct is entitlement. The problem with entitlement is the inevitable perspective of “I deserve” without the work. This creates people who want more and more without the personal fulfillment that comes from good work.

Without putting these two things together, there are people unsatisfied and instead of putting in a good day’s work they just demand more — more free stuff that doesn’t have personal worth and true fulfillment attached to it.

As a youth pastor, I have seen a spoiled student trash an expensive sports car foolishly given to him while another student highly valued his old truck he spent hours working on and saving for. Parents who decorate their children like a Christmas tree with the latest toys, gadgets and designer clothes don’t bless them; they actually rob them of true fulfillment. They can end up very empty people screaming for more, furious at those they believe stand in the way. They are blind to the reality that the means in which they receive things is why they can’t deeply enjoy them for long.

Even before sin entered the world, Adam was to work the garden he was placed in — literally, to foster growth, improve and be responsible for it (Gen. 1:26-31). Even God gave Christ to do the work of salvation, and we are to trust in, and follow the ways and commands of Christ (John 3:16, Matt. 28:18-20).

Perfect existence isn’t lack of work, but perfect work played out because it produces deep fulfillment. You get a glimpse of this when a mother holds her brand new baby, when a marathon runner crosses the finish line or when a child finishes building a Lego set.

Mark my words: if we continue to steal the joy of deep fulfilling worth through work, an entitled generation will consume all and still be left wanting.

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