Working Hard to Have Fun

The following is a manuscript of a message I delivered to our students at a recent assembly. May you find as much application in it as I do.

One of the differences between schools like ECS and many other schools today is that most other educational models today try to motivate students by entertaining them. This is well-intentioned, but misguided. That is to say, many educators today think that if they can keep kids entertained, they can keep their interest, and thereby motivate them to learn.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Fun is good. It’s important. We don’t send you out to recess and tell you not to have fun. We don’t take field trips to a pumpkin patch hoping that you’ll not enjoy yourselves. We don’t have a motto like “laughter is war” without expecting some fun along the way. Ready Raggant (a stuffed raggant who watches over our K-2 students, observing how ready our students are to learn, and who occasionally brings treats to reward diligence) is for fun, but he’s first for hard work.

So here is an important difference. We want for the fun that we have along the way to be a byproduct of your hard work. It should not be fun to come to class without your homework finished, and we hope you never see it that way. It should be fun to come to class having done your part to be well-prepared for it, and confident that you’re ready for the lesson, quiz, test or activity.

Doug Wilson stated an important difference in his book The Paideia of God: “The entertainment model of education wants students to enjoy themselves; the older classical model wants students to be disciplined so they come to enjoy their work” (23).

Students who know how to work hard are guaranteed to be happier than people who hate work. You use a lot of energy hating work, and in the end, it’s a waste of time, because work is unavoidable.

Students, we want for you to learn how to be hard workers, to be diligent, because this is a certain way to be blessed by the Lord. But this takes some work, because none of us are automatically geared this way. We don’t come into the world hard workers. We come into the world selfish and lazy.

The Disease

And left to ourselves, without the kind correcting and directing hand of God and other people in our lives, we will end up lazy and hating life, in constant need of correction and constantly missing opportunities.

So this afternoon I wanted to take a short look at what the Bible has to say about lazy people and diligent people, as we gain a better understanding of what we are trying to prevent you from becoming. Then we’ll take a look at what is promised to the diligent person. So let’s first make some observations from the book of Proverbs about lazy people (or sluggards, or the slothful. All the same guys.).

1. Even the slothful has to work.

“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24).

In many cases, lazy people work hard to avoid working, right? Well, according to Scripture, that plan doesn’t work. And would you rather work voluntarily or be forced to work? I’d rather work by my own decision rather than with a whip to my back. But the passage says the “slothful will be put to forced labor.” This is ironic, isn’t it? Labor is the thing he was trying to avoid!

Mr. Bowers shared with me an anecdote from Little Women, something the sixth graders are reading. In the story they thought it’d be fun to go as long as they could without doing any work. And the girls in the story soon discovered that this was not a good plan.

So don’t think that if you’re able to master laziness that it’s somehow going to get you out of work finally; Scripture says it ain’t so.

2. The sluggard brings about his own ruin.

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4).

“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Proverbs 21:25).

Lazy behavior leads to ruin. And it makes sense. Think about this on a big scale: Someone who is too lazy to gather his crops in the fall doesn’t make it to the spring! Think about this in terms of a mess, too. Let’s say you are eating a wonderful dinner that your mother has made for you, and you don’t feel like cleaning up. And nobody else does, either. Eventually you run out of clean dishes, you start eating off of moldy nasty dishes (since nobody wanted to clean the dishes), and you get sick from that, but nobody wants to drive you to the hospital, and you don’t want to walk, because that’s work. So you die a slow, miserable death in a dirty house because you didn’t want to do the dishes.

Now, that’s a silly example, but you get the point. You simply can’t keep from doing some sort of work, so we want to teach you how to work.

3. The sluggard misses opportunities.

“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15).

Now, we don’t have time to discuss all the sorts of opportunities that a lazy person can miss, but here’s a short list.

  • He misses opportunities to be used by God to be a blessing to others.
  • He misses opportunity to be blessed by God.
  • He misses opportunities for practical prosperity, whether it’s business or anything else.

He’s often too busy sleeping and being drowsy. Think about this next time you push the snooze button.

4. The sluggard is never satisfied.

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4).

This applies two ways: the sluggard can’t be satisfied by his current behavior because of his own attitude, and, because the fruit of his work doesn’t satisfy!

This one is really chilling, because the whole life of the sluggard is built on selfishness. He doesn’t work because he doesn’t want to. The sluggard is never lazy for the sake of everyone else.

And maybe you can relate to this. If you were to be selfish with your time and lazy with your homework, who tends to suffer more? You or your parents? But if your goal is to not do your work in order to have fun, how fun is it to not be done with your homework at bedtime? That pattern of behavior does not satisfy.

Is laziness satisfying? No. Is hard work satisfying? Yes.

5. The sluggard makes excuses.

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'” (Proverbs 22:13).

Now, in this part of the world when this was written, seeing a lion in the street was about as likely as seeing a grizzly bear on State Avenue. It’s not technically impossible, but it’s not very likely. The point here is that the sluggard is always finding or making excuses to not work. Does this sound familiar?

“I’m too tired.”
“It’s too hard.”
“I don’t know how.”
“I can’t do it.”
“Nobody helped me.”
“I don’t have time.”
“But it’s sunny outside.”
“But it’s rainy outside.”
“I can do it tomorrow.”

Again, does this sound familiar? Every one of them are excuses to not get busy right now. And this is lazy behavior.


These ones are just for fun:

“As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed” (Proverbs 26:14).

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth” (Proverbs 19:24).

The Remedy

So, I think we’ve established that being a sluggard is bad, right? Well, I don’t want to leave you there. Our goal here at ECS is not just to help you NOT be lazy, but rather to learn to work hard. I want to introduce a new word to our working vocabulary: the word is “diligent.” We want you to be what the Bible calls, “diligent.”

I even think a modern definition is helpful here.

Diligent: having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.

When we assign homework, we’re trying to reinforce concepts and provide additional practice, but we’re also trying to teach you the value of diligence.

Your aim in life right now should not be to get through school by working as little as possible, but rather – if we’re doing our jobs rightly – you should be learning work well, and working well means working hard and working efficiently. It means making the most of your time and not wasting time. Again, Scripture calls this being “diligent.” Learn diligence and you will be blessed by God. It will make you a valuable employee and a good leader, a better parent and an excellent steward of your time.

I’ll finish by again reading some of the Proverbs. And as I do, give attention to the references to the diligent.

“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24).

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4).

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4).

“Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth” (Proverbs 12:27).

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).

And we could go on, but you get the idea. What’s better? Being lazy or being diligent?

And since our desire is to see you glorifying God far beyond the classroom, we’d rather you learn the value of hard work than inflate your egos with good grades.

If, by God’s grace, we can teach you to work hard, we give you yet another key to the enjoyment of life. Work is good, and it is unavoidable. You will have to work, just like the lazy people out there. But there are tremendous blessings that await the diligent.

What Our Kids Are Learning

The following is excerpted from a recent email I sent to our parents.  Perhaps it will be helpful.

Regardless of the pedagogical approach, strategies and tactics, we are always teaching our students.  I’ve mentioned before that as a parent, while I’m thrilled at the academic lessons my children have learned at ECS, I’m even happier at the other things they’ve learned.  They delight in the people at ECS and they delight in the Lord, due in no small measure to who is teaching them and with whom they are learning.

Sonja and I have failed plenty of times and become frustrated when trying to educate our children.  Many invested parents can relate.  We have taught lessons that we shouldn’t teach, like…

  • It’s okay to be snarky with your family when you’ve got a lot to do.
  • History tests are laborious.
  • Reading is a chore.

Sadly, I could keep going.  I don’t believe these things, but sometimes I teach them to my kids through my behavior and attitude, nevertheless.  But fortunately, when I become frustrated, I’m reminded that God’s grace has proven to be abundant in the education of my kids, and – thanks much to the influence of our ECS teachers and community – our kids are learning (whether they know it or not) other things more in keeping with our school’s vision, things that most kids are not learning today:

  • There is sweetness to be found in Christian community.
  • The enemy is most threatened by happy Christian warriors.
  • Learning about our place in the river of Western Civilization is rich and fun.
  • History teaches us not only where we have come from, but also where we are going.
  • Only a worldview that assumes the pervasive lordship of Christ can rightly explain how the universe works.
  • Singing is cool.  Really cool.
  • Songs are weapons.
  • Math and science only work because of Christ’s lordship.
  • Reading is awesome.
  • And much, much more.

So, read this as encouragement that we are always teaching our kids, especially when we don’t want to be doing so…teaching them academically, or how to handle life or difficult people or circumstances.  Keeping this in mind really helps.

Music and Classical Christian Education

Music is really important to us at ECS.  We recognize there is tremendous power in music, and it has been used for centuries for enculturation across religious and ethnic boundaries. This is by God’s design, and music and song are evidently near to His heart (See: Psalms 1-150).

So we sing. We sing every day. We start our day singing a psalm or a hymn in Matins; we sing in Bible class, Science, History and Music. We use song to memorize, to internalize and to express praise.

In a message entitled The Classical School and Music, Doug Wilson has helpfully articulated why classical Christian schools are committed to music. I commend it to you all, whether you’re committed to classical Christian education or would like to see the Kingdom of Christ advanced in our time.

To whet your appetite and borrow a quote, let me offer this quotation from Wilson: “We are in the midst of an educational reformation that must include music.”

Check it out.

Risus est bellum!