When R. was in Primary One, she scored 9 out of 10 marks on a spelling test. Her mother responded by caning her, saying: “If you had prepared for the spelling test diligently, you’d have gotten full marks.”
Diligence—the mindset of focusing on something, and giving it constant, careful attention—is a virtue found in the Bible. In the book of Proverbs, we see many reminders to work hard, and warnings about laziness (for example, 12:24).
Diligence is also very much a part of Singapore culture. A recent news report on parenting observed that many parents here push their children hard to achieve top grades, believing that it will set their kids up for future success.
But, perhaps we can ask ourselves: Might we as Christian parents be emphasising diligence too much? Might we be giving our children the idea that their value in life is tied to their results, and this is something they can earn through hard work?
In an effort to build up the virtue of diligence in our children, we may give them the impression that diligence is the ultimate thing to trust and hope in. “You just need to work more so that you’ll succeed more and achieve more, then you’ll be happy,” we nag our kids.
But the Bible tells that God values us differently. Our value is in Christ alone, and not in how good we are, how well we perform, or how hard we have worked. It lies in us being saved—by grace.
When it comes to salvation, the Bible makes it clear that diligence makes no difference. The truth is, salvation—which is all that we need to be truly happy, secure and at peace—cannot be earned. It is given, not gotten. We can’t diligently remove sin from our hearts, nor can we diligently earn our way into heaven by doing good works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Diligence may be a prized virtue, but it is not what God wants us to ultimately prize. Depending on diligence leads to a driven mindset, constantly chasing after fulfilment through effort. It places our value in what we do and how well we do it. But depending on God leads to a grace mindset, constantly doing our best while resting in God who has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ, and who sees our value in His Son alone.
Which mindset do we want to pass on to our children?
Lord, thank You that we are saved through grace,
and not through diligence or our own works.
Teach me to continue relying fully on You,
and to nurture in my children
a mindset of grace.
What other pitfalls in parenting might we face as we try to raise our children to fear the Lord? For more articles on biblical parenting, visit our new website, Biblical Wisdom for Parents.