As a child, I hated it, but as an adult, I often resort to it—the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question is the all-important query for children ages 3 through 18. I wrote about struggling to answer this question in my post "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?" Is our identity as Christians so tied up in what we do and how we earn money that this question is the number one topic we can think to put to kids? How often have we asked this question? We’re looking for answers like pilot, president, ice cream man, veterinarian, or teacher. And from there, the prescribed dialogue dictates that we encourage the child in his dream and find out how he intends to get there.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think children are wrong for dreaming about how they will use their time in the future. I don’t think we are wrong for being interested in these children’s hopes and dreams. However, I do think we are wrong to continually emphasize an occupation over other things through our faithful repetition of that age-old question.
Let me remind you of that sobering parable in Luke 12:19-21:
“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
We’re going at this all wrong—from the world’s perspective, instead of God’s. We’re perpetuating a worldview that is greedy and self-centered when we ask a six year old about his chosen profession, whether we realize it or not. Don’t ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (That is, “What is the most exciting prospect to you?”) Instead, try, “How do you think God wants to use you?” or, “How are you serving God right now?”
Most of the time, to be honest, Christians do not know what God wants us to be when we grow up. We do not have things figured out, and we do not know how God is going to use us in five years, let alone ten. I have a vision and a hope for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years, but I do not have a certainty or a knowledge because I am committed to following God's plan and not mine. I Corinthians 2:1-5 and 10 says,
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. But as it is written:‘ Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,Nor have entered into the heart of manThe things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
Obviously, the most important part of life is not excellence of speech, human wisdom, or persuasive powers. God may be calling you to writing, medicine, or law, but I should be much less excited and impressed by those exciting and impressive avenues of study—I should be most excited and impressed by your spiritual power and love for God.
Fourteen years ago, Melanie was challenged by Rebecca, a wonderful friend and, at that time, her Sunday School teacher, to respond to the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question with Mark 12:30:
“’And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”
Help me out, ladies and gentlemen—what questions can you think of to inspire the children in your life and get them talking, without placing all the emphasis on academic, worldly, or money-making occupations and while letting God plan each step of the way? Let’s reject the world’s priorities and challenge even the five year olds we know to start seeking God’s priorities instead. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo Credit: horizontal.integration
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.