More people are incarcerated in America than make their living on family farms. That is a sad indicator of the amount of crime occurring in this country, but it also shows the loss of a valuable teaching environment. Living and growing up on a family farm is a wonderful venue to learn a number of important life lessons—especially work ethic and responsibility.
The physical labor involved in producing crops and caring for livestock is a seemingly endless demand. If you have had the opportunity to experience it, you might enjoy the labor and work required, or you might dislike it immensely—but either way, you learn that it has to be done.
My father was born in 1924, and grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. His contributions to the labor force of the family farm increased as he grew, but because of the economic situation of the country, his work was necessary for the family to succeed. If he did not do his work, then the entire family suffered.
Fulfilling that kind of requirement from a young age develops a responsible mindset. But America moved away from the family farm because there are other ways to make a living that do not require such tiresome labor and lengthy hours.
The greatest success became making the most amount of money for the least amount of labor. The customary farewells were “take it easy” and “don’t work too hard.” The greatest pursuit was to be able to live comfortably with the least amount of effort. I recently read of an account in England where a young lady was asked if her mother had ever been in trouble with the law. She said yes she had because her mother was caught working while she was on social welfare. So her mother quit working! It was as though that were the most obvious and logical thing to do. Why would anyone work for money when welfare will hand it out? To take it easy—to exert the least amount of effort—is the unwritten code of the masses.
As young people, you have to battle a societal mindset that the least amount of effort should still bring adequate compensation. That mindset has reduced the opportunities for learning to toil physically. Perhaps you live in the city and can’t start a lawn service as there are no lawns to mow. Perhaps the local or state laws even forbid you to work until you have reached age 18 or so. What can you do to develop a solid work ethic?
We must understand the value of having a strong work ethic. Jesus Christ said, I work and my Father works (John 5:17). Christ also said, Become you perfect as my Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Christ makes those statements in a matter-of-fact way. God works, and we are to become like Him. Therefore we must emulate His work ethic in our lives.
This work ethic can and should be established in your life because of the value it holds for your future. You can do it. A good number of people never got closer to a cow than a juicy hamburger on a bun, yet learned to have a solid and valuable work ethic.
Consider your schooling as your work. Young and old alike have responsibilities, and as a youth, your “career objective” is to become properly educated. Many young people, both today and in the past, consider their schooling a government-mandated intrusion into their lives. They are only in the classroom because they are required by law to be there. So they go to schools to be educated and then actively avoid being educated. They grow up to be the same type of people who go to work every day and do their best to avoid work.
But young people, school is not an unnecessary evil. Education is important, and to be educated properly takes work and effort on your part. Even some teachers in this society are impacted by poor work ethic, and they will avoid teaching anything if the system will let them get away with it.
School is the main place where any and all youth can develop a proper work ethic. Physical labor opportunities may not abound where you live, but all youth have the opportunity to develop a work ethic through their education. Your education is your responsibility to the family, and you must learn to take your responsibility seriously.
Seek to excel in your classroom assignments. Learn to avoid procrastination and the tendency to put pleasure—video games, surfing the Internet, etc.—secondary to your schoolwork. Desire to excel and to go above and beyond in your education. Desire to do more. Avoid the tendency to do as little as possible to get by.
The habits you develop while pursuing your education will carry over into other aspects of your life. When you can get that first job, and you exhibit the work ethic you have developed and maintained in your schooling, those who can compensate you for your efforts will recognize your responsible nature and reward you accordingly.
Mary Lou Retton—gold, silver and bronze medalist in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics—said, “Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing yourself to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.”
Young people, use your education—which is required of you anyway—to develop a solid work ethic. And as the world continues to desire an easy, laid-back approach, you will be rewarded for your effort. It will pay off—and it is the godly thing to do.