Our teenagers live in a demanding world, and one of the greatest demands that are placed upon them comes in the form of homework.
A 2014 survey discovered that high school teachers, on average, assigned approximately 3.5 hours of homework each week. If a typical high school student has five classes with five different teachers, this could theoretically add up to 17.5 hours of homework every week! This would dwarf the amount of time that most teens spend in Bible study, prayer, or other spiritual activities, and would most likely compromise other important areas of life (family, friends, recreation, etc.).
Across the world, the time spent by teens on homework varies. On the low end of the spectrum, teens in Finland spend an average of 2.8 hours per week on homework. On the high end, teens in Shanghai are spending an average of 13.8 hours per week on homework.
After conducting a very limited survey among some of the parents of our 7-12th graders here at Buford, I found that our teens are doing anywhere from 3-12 hours of homework per week (obviously, some are doing a lot more than others).
How important is homework? I suppose we would get very different answers depending on whom we asked, right? A teenager might say, “It’s a complete waste of time,” while his/her teacher might say, “It’s incredibly important.” A parent, on the other hand, might say, “I think it’s important, but sometimes I think they overdo it.”
In a society that is constantly demanding more and more of our teens, we need to approach this area of life with balance, wisdom, and a desire – above all else – to please God.
I would like to submit a few principles from Scripture that might help us, as parents and teens, to keep this area of our lives in proper perspective:
1. Secular Learning is Important – The Bible teaches clearly that learning is an important part of life, and that the “wise” among us will “increase in learning” (Prov. 1:5,7). In fact, according to this very same passage, only “fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
We are told in Col. 3:23, “Whatever you do [which would include homework], work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” In other words, we need to be aware of the “extreme” of devaluing homework to the point that we find it “useless” or a “waste of time.” This approach might indicate an overall “foolish” attitude towards something that God has placed a high value upon!
Another example of the value of secular learning might be the apostle Paul, who clearly had done significant study in subjects other than the Scriptures; otherwise, he would not have been able to quickly and accurately quote some of the “modern-day poets” during his “sermon” in Athens (Acts 17:28). Our learning – even from secular sources – has value, and the Bible supports this idea.
Other Scriptures to study on this issue include: Prov. 9:9; 18:5; Lk. 2:52; etc.
2. Secular Learning is Not All-Important – The wisest man to ever live (King Solomon) said this: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12b). In other words, secular learning is an area of life that has the capacity to consume us, if we allow it to do so. Like any other area of our lives, this cannot be given “priority” over more important things. When homework is consistently given priority over worship, Bible study, and Christian fellowship, something is dangerously out of place.
3. Some Things Are More Important Than Others - Some might say that they (or their teenager) simply can’t finish their homework without missing these spiritual opportunities. Although I certainly think that there are exceptions that could be made in cases of large amounts of homework (and a measure of “grace” that should be extended), I would stand by the idea that this shouldn’t become a “habit.”
I’m not sure that my response to this situation is going to matter much, but I would suggest that GOD’S response should matter, and His response is clear:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” (Heb. 10:24-26).
What does this passage seem to say that would apply to our specific discussion?
a. There are responsibilities among God’s people that can only be met when we assemble/meet together. These responsibilities cannot be met through doing homework.
b. If we make a “habit” of not fulfilling these responsibilities, we are guilty of “sinning deliberately.” In other words, this isn’t an area of “opinion” where we are allowed to “agree to disagree;” this is an issue of “right and wrong.”
c. If we do not consider the consequence of this consistent, deliberate disobedience – regardless of the excuses we give - we put ourselves in a fatal spiritual condition.
Do I have all of the answers to this question? No.
Am I the judge of anyone? No.
As a former student, I can appreciate the “pull” of homework and the commitment that it requires to succeed, academically. I can also appreciate the constant pressure placed upon parents and teens in an increasingly demanding world.
I am simply suggesting, reminding, and encouraging us to remember what is always and preeminently important:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
So, do your homework to the best of your ability and try to meet the expectations of your teachers, but – above all, and no matter what – live your life in such a way that you meet the expectations of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!