Parenting is full of teachable moments. I’m finding that’s true both for the parent and the child. My son came home one day and exclaimed, “Mommy, you know what word we never say?!” I always cringe a little before responding with “What, honey?” (You never know what’s going to follow.)
But this time I was a bit surprised. He said, “Quit! We never say ‘quit,’ right, Mommy?”
I had to pause for a moment to form my response. He was four years old at the time and some of these nuances are difficult to get across at that age, but I did my best. I wanted him to understand that sometimes you need to quit.
It’s not that perseverance isn’t a biblical virtue. It is. Hebrews 12:1-2 says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This verse is about perseverance. It’s about how we are going to prepare ourselves each day for the challenges in front of us. Jesus needed to persevere in his hours of despair before the cross. David needed to persevere to battle Goliath.
But sometimes we need to quit what we are doing and change our course of action. Knowing when to quit and when to keep going is the wisdom we need to live out God’s will for our lives.
We want people to quit doing things that are sinful or bad for them. We encourage our loved ones to quit smoking, quit gambling, or quit gossiping. Sometimes we need to quit doing things that don’t appear to be sinful or even seem like lofty goals worthy of our effort.
Quitting from a Biblical Perspective
Quitting has a negative connotation. It sounds like you stopped short or didn’t work hard enough. Webster defines it as:
…released from obligation, charge, or penalty; especially: free.
Being free from doing something that may look “good” on the outside but is not what God has called us to do is liberating rather than deserving of our shame.
If we believe the postmodern lie that we can be anything we want to be and teach our children that lie, then quitting seems pretty bad. We tell ourselves that if we had just worked harder we could have been president, gotten into Harvard Law, or received that promotion.
This is not how God created us. We cannot be anything we want to be. What we can do is live out what God has called us to be and do that without quitting. It is simply not the case that I can be the president, and it’s very unlikely that my child will be either. Only when each of us prayerfully examines God’s will for our lives will we know when to quit something.
How Do You Know When to Quit?
There is an economic lesson here, too. We must understand which costs are sunk and thus not recoverable. Just because we start an endeavor does not necessarily mean we should finish it.
Have you ever stood in line for something and misjudged how long the line is, but then worried about getting out of line because you already spent so much time standing there?
The reasoning is that since you have already spent time in line you need to stay there, but the time you have already spent is gone forever. It’s a sunk cost. You can’t recover it. Sunk costs often trick us into thinking we shouldn’t quit, but this isn’t always good stewardship. Time is limited and precious, so sometimes you will need to get out of line because the next thirty minutes can be spent more effectively.
Considering costs accurately and knowing when to quit helps us become better stewards.
The best lesson we can incorporate into our own lives and our children’s lives is that we shouldn’t quit if we are following God’s call for us. However, there will be many times in our lives when we must change course and quit standing in line in order to redirect our energies to live out God’s will. In these cases, we should be happy to be quitters.
Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Jan. 22, 2014.