Upfront I want to define what I mean by children. I’m using the word children in the broadest sense to mean any offspring still living at home with parent(s). I don’t mean young child. I have three girls all under the age of six. They are children. Many of you may have teenagers living in your home. They are your children, but they are not children. In those years, they are more adult than child, but I hope that makes my meaning clear.
I’ve read two books recently that dealt with the image of God. Hannah Anderson’s Made for More and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One. Hannah tackles head on what being imago dei means, whereas Dr. Walton does so more indirectly by looking at the theology of the creation narrative. Walton argues Genesis’ creation narrative should be read as the inauguration of a functioning temple on earth. Creation was made for us (God didn’t need anything). Therefore, we are created as priests to tend, have dominion, and care for that temple. Part of our function as image bearers is to be an ambassador for God on earth. We are meant to bring order, function, and purpose to things.
Hannah did an excellent job of refocusing our attention on what that means for women (honestly, what it means for everyone). “[Made for More is] a call to recover the image of God in our lives--to re-imagine not simply what it means to be woman but what it means to be a person made in the very likeness of God Himself” (p. 11).
Practically, we don’t think about what being an image bearer means for our children. In America, we have child labor laws and so work isn’t something you do until you reach that magical age. I see that partly a result of moving from a culture that worked by trade, on homesteads, and as entrepreneurs until a hundred years or so ago. We’ve fundamentally shifted our ideas about work from something we all do as a family (closeness to home, together) to something we go out of our homes to do.
In the worst case scenario, we can see what happens when we practically strip the image of God away from children in today’s trust fund babies. Remember the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie reality tv show that basically centered around how they were incompetent at working at regular jobs? There’s also the trend of the uber wealthy deciding to not leave their wealth to their children. When this image of God is removed from children, their God given purpose is torn away from them--an essential part of who they are as human gone.
So that brings up the question: How can we treat our children like image bearers of God? How can we show them the value of being made in God’s image through work?
- Let them participate in the day to day work in your home.
- Involve them in family decisions (age appropriate)--even if you don’t take their advice, but sometimes do.
- Don’t treat your children as sub-human (this can be filed under simple kindness and love).
- Nurture their natural curiosity about what you do and what work means.
- Teach them that part of the reason we work is to love God and our neighbor.
- Teach them our work should be done with excellence.
- Teach them that obedience to parents is a valuable part of working as unto the Lord.
- Let them get their hands dirty.
- Cultivate their gifting.
- Give them purpose--aimlessness can be avoided if from the time they are born we remind them they are imago dei and were created to work.
- Teach them the intrinsic value of all humans as image bearers.
- Teach them to steward God’s creation well.
- Teach them work isn’t the end of the story. Our identity is in Christ, not in our jobs.
- Teach them to have fun.
- Rehearse the gospel daily with them as you work, play, worship, and learn.
These thoughts are seedlings, and I’m interested in your input. Comment below. Message me on Twitter. Email me. Give me practical ways you think this can be done. If we do this well and are faithful in parenting our children and reinforcing the value of being made in God’s image (all of life discipleship Deut. 6 and Matt 18 “teach them to observe all”), I wonder if we could eliminate the aimless, purposeless, and dysfunction that’s expected by our culture of our children, especially teenagers and young adults. I wonder if we could raise a generation who loved God, knew their identity in Christ, and was ready to work for his glory.
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other online publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.