God's Reward System

There's a lot of controversy over the best way to reinforce children's good behavior in the classroom. In fact, it seems like "reward" has become a bad word. So recently I started thinking: what is the Biblical perspective on rewards?

If we look to Jesus for our example of how to do life, we recognize that our ultimate reward for following Him is heaven. And the proper view of eternal life is to look forward to it with anticipation...but not at the expense of focusing on what we're supposed to be doing right now. We're not working in order to get to heaven, we're sacrificing and doing unpleasant things here now because we know it's going to pay off in the end. Our momentary trials are working for us an eternal reward!

We also discipline ourselves to follow God's expectations for our behavior because we understand His underlying reasons. We know that deceiving people will hurt them and cause more problems for us. We know that cheating will compromise our integrity. Choosing instead to do life God's way will spare us from negative consequences and result in rewards that come naturally when we make good decisions.

The most important aspect of God's reward system is that through it, we learn to trust Him implicitly. We experience firsthand His promise that He has a plan to prosper us, not harm us, and that all things are designed to work together for our good. There is a great deal of love and respect between God and His children, and that makes our obedience much easier.

It seems like the same should be true for the children in our classrooms, right? We want students to have something to look forward to and be excited about, even when the task at hand goes against what they want in the flesh. But we don't want them to be only following our guidelines so they can earn a reward.

Rather, we want them to understand that we enjoy giving them good things not because they've behaved perfectly, but because we care for them. There should be ample evidence of grace in our interactions with students. We want our students to sense our desire for them to succeed and trust that the guidelines we have in place are designed to help them become better people.  We want to help them see the correlation between how they choose to behave and how much they enjoy their lives and experience success.

The Bible doesn't explicitly tell us how to manage every aspect of our work. But we can follow the model of Jesus' life and get some pretty good clues as to how we're supposed to treat people and care for them. And if we love like Jesus did--selflessly, with great compassion, yet without wavering from the truth--we can't go wrong.


Anonymous said...

What a blessing! I just spoke with a retired teacher friend of mine. But, this very topic. I've always viewed rewards as a bad thing. Because I believed that students should do what is expected, because it's the right thing to do and it's a part of their job as students. Well this teacher friend, reminded me of this same thing. But, now I'm reading your post. My thoughts are changing.
This retired teacher friend of mine, is not a believer.
I guess I know who and what I should believe, now.

I will believe in the word! Thanks for your post!

Angela said...

Hi, anon! That's cool to hear that your thoughts are changing. I have find that my thoughts on the issue of rewards have evolved a lot during the years I've been an educator. There is no one right way and different things work for different kids. But whenever I find myself confused about where I should stand on an issue, I try to look back to the Bible to see what lines up best. This post was just my latest reflection. I hope God continues to show me more and more on this topic--and you, as well! :-)

Hannah said...

I enjoyed reading this as this is always a hot topic among teachers. Thanks.