The Fourth Commandment is a commandment to work. This commandment reads:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11, KJV).
Breaking down the week as outlined in this commandment, six-sevenths of the time should be spent on work, while one-seventh of the time should be spent on rest. For my purposes here, work can be defined as any purposeful activity that is of benefit to self or others.
This concept is not hard for adults to grasp, as we tend to understand that work is a necessity. But, how about children? How can they enjoy the gift from God that Sabbath rest most assuredly is, if they don’t work? But, how does an infant work? How does a toddler work? In order to give your children the gift of work, you must orient them from the beginning that they are in the family to assume responsibilities and duties, according to their capabilities.
An infant can learn early on that her needs are not the only factor in all of life. Teaching the infant to exercise patience, by not giving a frenzied response to all cries of discomfort, will communicate the message that he is a part of something bigger than himself. And I don’t mean that newborns should be left lying in a crib hungry or in their soiled diapers. Communicating what you are doing and why is the way to start this from day one.
Little ones can be given an appreciation early on of the work of the household and should be challenged to participate. Giving them a chance to see the fruit of their labors will not only enhance their commitment to the family, but give them a truer sense of what the Sabbath is all about. In fact, as you assign and coach them through the various tasks, you can be continually referencing God’s act creation of in six days and His resting on day seven.
Family culture should manifest the religious views of the family. If the family consists of demanding children who order their parents and others around, you are looking at the religion of humanism which can be summed up with a “my will be done” attitude.
In our household, the youngest person performed duties such as feeding and exercising the dog, and picking up and disposing of the dog’s waste. After a trip from the grocery store, each child was assigned certain items to put away. On trash collection day, they would help retrieve the trash from various rooms. As they matured, more things were added to the mix, including their studies.
The problem today is that for children, the Biblical ratios are unbalanced. We endeavor to give them more play than the Bible outlines. Rest is truly only enjoyed, after an extensive period of work.