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The Legacy of Work

The Legacy of Work

In short, work — and lots of it — is an indispensable component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our lives purpose. But it must play its proper role, subservient to God. It must regularly give way not just to work stoppage for bodily repair but also to joyful reception of the world and of ordinary life. — Timothy Keller

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. — The Teacher

Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends. — Paul the Apostle

We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work. — Thomas A. Edison, Inventor

The moment has come for me to say some difficult things about legacy, about work, about character, and about how we should approach the next generation. It is important for you to know that I share these truths not out of anger or fear or any personal disappointment. Instead, I believe that there are some time-honored principles that we need to reclaim in our day.

Some will say that David Green has gone old school in this chapter. That’s okay. I actually am old school. But not so old to realize that when I was young I benefited from the wisdom of the old-schoolers. So I’ll own it. I am going old school, but only because there are some things the old-schoolers used to teach that we need now. I offer these insights only in love and only with a desire to see our generation do our best for the generations yet to come. I mean, I may be old school now, but I still have heart.

Through the years, Barbara and I have often said to each other, “When you have wealth, the hardest thing to do for your kids is not to do.” Everything within you wants to whip out your checkbook or your credit card and bail them out of their troubles. You love them. You want to help. Yet rescuing them in this way is exactly what will cripple them. Perhaps you watch them scraping up money at a minimum- wage job to buy their first car. It makes you cringe. Yet you know that you can’t intervene. They are learning the value of work, one of the most important lessons life has to teach.

Barbara and I have had to say this to our kids and grandkids: “We love you dearly. Part of that love is to arrange things so that you get only what you earn by working. We’re going to give you something greater than wealth, which is opportunity. You are most welcome to work at Hobby Lobby if you wish, provided you do a good job like anyone else. Then you can enjoy the fruit of your labor. But the ownership of this company is a whole different matter, which we need to talk about.”

I remember an incident early in my working career, before we even launched our own company. I watched as the late-twenties son of a woman on my sales staff showed up in the store one day to ask his mom for money. She went to get her purse and handed him a couple of bills.

Something bothered me about this. I said to her afterward, “You’re not making that much yourself. Don’t you need that money for your own needs?”

“But… but that’s my son!” she replied with a wistful tone.

I was dismayed. In truth, that mother needed to make her adult son stand on his own two feet. Just as all of us parents do.

The apostle Paul wrote to one church, When we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’. — 2 Thessalonians 3:10

I happen to think this verse applies even to someone who has a large trust fund. God put us here to work. He invented work long ago in the garden of Eden. Even before the fall, Adam and Eve were given the assignment to take care of the garden — to be fruitful and multiply.

Work is not a curse. It is our calling. We should keep working as long as we’re able.

Fred Smith Sr. was a Texas business legend and board member of several Christian organizations who taught a large Sunday school class at a major Dallas church. One day after class, a woman approached him with a prayer request. “Would you please pray for my son? He’s done with college now, and he’s just trying to find the will of the Lord for his life.”

“Well, sure,” said Smith, “I’ll pray for him. What’s he doing now? Is he working?”

“No, he’s just taking some time off,” the mother replied, “waiting for God to show him his will.”

Next question from the teacher: “Is he eating?”

The woman looked puzzled as she answered, “Oh, yes. He’s staying at our place for the time being.”

“Okay, you go home and tell him he’s already out of the will of God!” Smith replied with a grin. “The Bible says that if a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat. So he’s already out of line with what God said.”

I totally agree.

My Life Motto

The will of God for you and me, and your kids and my kids, is clearly stated in Ecclesiastes 9:10:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

I’ve taken this as my assignment from the beginning. Whatever work we find ourselves doing in this life — I don’t care if it’s flipping burgers — we are called to do it well and to the glory of God. The Bible tells us that promotion comes from God, not from human bosses. If you’re not doing your best at flipping burgers as you wait for something better, I doubt that you’ll ever find your dreams.

We dare not cheat our children out of the experience of work. We must expect that they give it their full energy. We cannot let our personal or corporate reserves undermine this crucial lesson.

I worked thirteen years for other employers before starting Hobby Lobby, and I gave it all I had. As a result, I got promoted repeatedly. Now, I don’t believe for a minute that McLellan’s or TG&Y gave me those promotions. God did it. As the King James version of the Bible puts it,

Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another. — Psalm 75:6-7

Those early settings were preparation for my years of leading Hobby Lobby. This is one of the great lessons of life. God uses our work in the insignificant things to fashion our character for the time of our greater destiny.

What might God want to do through the life and talents of your child or your grandchild? You probably won’t know if you short-circuit their experience in working.

Yes, I know the feeling of guilt that comes over us when we watch them struggling financially. It’s hard not to jump in and ease the pain. If we do, though, we will stunt their development.

The wealth we create is like a bonfire. If controlled, it can warm our families. If allowed to spread wildly, it can devastate. This is what’s happening all too often within wealthy families around the world these days.

One successful businessman said to me with obvious concern,

“I’ve got forty-four different ‘hooks’ into my company.” By this he meant forty-four different expectations from children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Each of them had their name on some document and was just waiting to cash in. Their mindset was, “So what is my part worth, and when do I get it?”

At the moment, I have ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with more likely to come along. Every one of them needs to go out into the world, whether at Hobby Lobby or somewhere else, and be productive.

God didn’t put any of us on this earth merely to sit on a yacht. He put us here to tend the garden He assigned to us.

If we want to impart a legacy of generosity, then we must never forget the value of work and its effect on our lives.

Excerpted with permission from Giving It All Away… And Getting It Back Again by David Green, copyright Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and William High.

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Your Turn

Are you leaving a legacy of hard work for your kids or the kids in your life? Come share your thoughts with us about training our children up to embrace the work that is their calling in life. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily