These are my final words in this space on this year’s school theme, and here we’ll focus on the final two parts of Colossians 3:17: in the name of the Lord Jesus and giving thanks to God. As a refresher, here is the text:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Our kids often struggle (and let’s be honest: we do, too) with either perfectionism or laziness. This particularly comes out in one way or another during the wonder years of middle school. A few years ago I heard a great Tim Keller sermon, and he described Colossians 3:17 as a perfect antidote to both of these extremes. Interesting. 

First, doing things in the name of the Lord Jesus implies worship. Let me be embarrassingly honest for a moment. When I was in 9th grade there was a time I got into a funk of incredible laziness. Soccer season had ended, and there wasn’t any theater going on during the winter. So my routine became to ride my bike home right after school, swing by the convenience store down the street, and buy a pack of Oreos and a Coke. I then proceeded to slam through both over the course of a couple of hours while slaying monsters (and using all the cheats, mind you) in Doom II. It wasn’t until my older brother condescendingly told me I was lazy and gross that I finally began to snap out of it. It’s hard to binge on mindless video games and junk food for hours every day “in the name of Jesus.” That’s not worship. 

But there is also the other extreme, which is the one I very much struggle with now, and that’s perfectionism and overwork. The books on my shelves at home are in chronological order. I correct my wife’s grammar (which she loves). Like many of you, I am often exhausted and flirt with burnout. I say that I’m doing things for God, but really, if I’m honest, I’m doing it for my own pride and so that either I can look at myself with smug satisfaction or so that someone might give me a shoutout. I have absolute confidence that many of you—and many of our kids—can easily identify. Why? Because overwork and perfectionism are in many ways a reflection of a heart that has ceased to give thanks. Thankful hearts are well aware that what we have is a gift. Overwork is when we take the gift that God gives us—whether a career, a talent, our wealth, our mind, our ability to learn—and suffocate it with overuse and selfish obsession or ambition.

Do your kids tend to struggle with laziness or perfectionism? If the former (and I’m guessing that while Doom II might not be a factor, Snapchat or TikTok might be), consider having a chat about what it means to live as worship. If the latter, talk about homework or grades, for example, in the context of God’s gift of learning rather than as a way to feel good about ourselves or as a challenge to see how we ‘stack up.’ Let’s work with our kids to put things in perspective by working “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by “giving thanks to God” in all that we do.