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Themes in Heritage Studies 1: Work

As Grade 1 students begin developing a sense of responsibility, teachers have the opportunity to direct them toward a biblical understanding of work. Students may initially have negative feelings toward the schoolwork, chores, or class responsibilities they have, but proper instruction will show them that God cares about all the work they do. When students view work according to God’s plan, they can find satisfaction and enjoyment in the work they do.

God's Design for Work

Teachers can begin Grade 1 lessons about work by explaining what work is. Work is putting energy into something in order to get something done. This definition of work explains how anything from planting a tree to reading a textbook is work. Lessons about work for first graders emphasize that work is good because God created humans to work. In Genesis 1:28, after God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a command to "replenish the earth and subdue it." This first commandment to humankind is a commandment to work. When people subdue the earth, they take the resources God has provided and they cultivate them. People cultivate the earth by turning creation into civilization. They turn fields into farms, trees into houses, stones into statues, and open areas into cities.

Humans are not supposed to work only for themselves. While people work to meet their own needs, people also work to meet the needs of other people. For example, emergency workers, grocery store clerks, pastors, and garbage collectors all do jobs that serve and benefit other people. One other way people can work to meet other’s needs is by inventing things, which helps to make other people’s lives easier.

Why Work Is Difficult

Although God intended for work to be good and enjoyable, sin makes work difficult. Because of the Fall, the earth resists being cultivated and people must work harder to fulfill God's command. And because of sin, people may choose to damage God's creation instead of caring for it. When people damage God's creation, they are ignoring God's commandment to love our neighbors. Sin also makes work difficult because some people have incorrect views about work. Some people think work is difficult and do not work diligently. Other people think work is too important and forget to focus on loving others. When people misuse work, they can take advantage of other people by stealing time or money from them.

Teachers can ask their students to think about ways people hurt the earth instead of taking care of it and ways people can misuse work and be selfish and unloving toward other people. When students respond with examples of bad work, direct the discussion to their own work ethic when in school. What are ways first graders can honor God with their work? Why does God care that they work hard in school? These questions will help students think positively about their own approach to work, even when work is hard.

Restoring God’s Design for Work

When talking about the redemption of work, teachers show students that work does not have to be a burden. A good way to discuss what diligent work looks like is to consider the example of the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11. In what ways should the students strive to be like the ant? Another approach is to talk about the two greatest commandments—to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40). When people work hard to accomplish tasks that help others, they are fulfilling God's commandments.

A way that people can show love by working is to volunteer. Volunteering is honorable because people can choose to volunteer and not be paid for their work. But even if people are paid for work they should still be loving toward others. Ask students to consider ways they can work to help other people, even if no one asks them to. Teachers can encourage students to think about things they enjoy doing and have them turn those activities into ways they can help other people.

Teachers remind students that they do not work hard just to be good people. Students should work hard to glorify God. When students work diligently, they honor God and fulfil His commandments! Teachers also have the opportunity to lead by example as they faithfully love their students and work with joy. The example of a loving and hard-working teacher can go further in influencing a student’s worldview than any lecture.

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