Today’s Table Talk is by my friend Ron Harris. Many of you might have enjoyed Ron’s voice for years as he encouraged countless listeners on KCBI. He is so wise (and funny) and offers us a good word today on making it count the first time. I’m planning on getting my kids to read this one … or maybe I’ll read it to them (depending on whether I give into that nagging enabler urge :)

Thanks for walking the road with me. -Kay

Extra Credit

The words from my school days still ring in my ears: “This is going on your permanent record!” I still wonder how permanent that “permanent” record is. After all, some women go to the beauty shop to get a permanent every month or so. Or is that record permanent…like eternal?

I guess my fear is that someone some day will go back and check out my permanent record. “Let’s see now. The H’s…Ha….Harr…Harris. M. Harris, O. Harris. Ah…yes…R. Harris. R. L. Harris. Ronald L. Harris. Oh, my. Look at that!”

If brought out into the open light I’m sure my permanent record would cause folks to say, “Who do you think you are, teaching, giving advice?” If school for me had stopped with the formal education, I would have to agree. Who am I? But life is continuing education and God is gracious. I hope that through the years I have picked up a bit of wisdom to help cover for those things not learned in grade school.

In God’s amazing grace, and with a show of His sense of humor, I have ended up teaching on different occasions. Some at the university level, some at the seminary level. And one of the common things I have heard from students in almost every class and each semester is this: “What can I do for extra credit?”

Sometimes it comes in a panic near the end of the semester when the handwriting is on the old blackboard, as it were. Sometimes, to my surprise, it comes at the start of the semester. On both occasions I have a ready answer. In fact, at the start of each course as I walk students through what to expect, I let them know there won’t be any work for extra credit. And then I share my philosophy, forged from both academic experience and life in the working world.

Take the effort you would use on extra credit and use it on the regular work. Try that on your kids, and you’ll probably get the same response I usually get. A blank stare, a rolling of the eyes, a shrug. However, the advice is sound, both for the classroom and for life. Whatever we anticipate it would take to do the “extra” to pull a grade up is probably more than it would take to do the work the right way the first time.

There are actually terms for that. Effort. Time management. You get the idea. They are life principles that serve us well throughout our life. And if we can teach that to our kids early, they will benefit, and so will our corporations, our ministries, our families, and our communities.

Here’s how the alternative plays out in the work force. “Hey, boss. I know I didn’t do too good of a job well on that big contract, and we lost the account. However, if I could straighten everything in the supply closet, would that make up for it?” In the sports world it would sound like this: “Coach, I realize now that I haven’t been giving my best effort out in the field, and our team is in last place. What if I ran laps after the game tonight. Would that “extra credit” make up for that?”

No in life, like in school, the best time to do our best work is the first time. It is what is asked of us, it is how we are gauged, it is the expectation for the job at hand, and if we can’t perform at that level, we may be asked to step down. Or worse, we will be an inhibitor to a company or a ministry.

The Lord is clear in Scripture on the topic of work. In Proverbs 21:5 we are taught, “ Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (TLB)

God instructs us as parents to pay attention to what He brings our way, what He teaches us through His Word, what He shows us by His faithfulness, and what we learn through our other life experiences. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “…be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (NIV)

There may be a time for extra work for extra credit. There may be circumstances that warrant the extra effort to put something over the top. But we cannot let our kids think that later effort will always make up for a lack of effort at the start.

Now…how do I go about getting a permanent record sealed by the courts forever?

Ron Harris

Ron Harris is a Sr. VP for National Religious Broadcasters, working with Christian broadcasters around the world. He has taught communications at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by DBU in 2004. He and his wife Judy are the parents of 4 adult children, and have 4 grandkids.

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