It’s More Than Good Behavior

James 2:14–26

by Jared Massey/ July 16, 2015

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NIV)

These words from Matthew 7 tell a startling tale of good people whom Christ rejects. From the youngest age, many people are taught that being a good person is the ultimate achievement. We teach children to share, to be kind, and even to treat others the way we want to be treated because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do, but if the core motivation is to produce good kids and good adults, we do a great disservice to the cross of Christ. The Cross boldly declares that while we were yet sinners—still selfish, unkind, and self-centered—Christ loved us and desired to bring us into Himself. This is an important nuance that is sadly missing from many churches today. 

There is a tension here. The natural outcome of following Christ and living by His Spirit is good fruit. Good behavior is measurable and manageable, so we focus on that, but the real focus needs to stay on following Christ and living by His Spirit.

The folks in the Matthew 7 account above obviously did some really good things and they even did them in the name of Jesus, but they did them outside of a relationship with Him. The tweak we must make in our teaching is to show kids how a life by the Spirit that naturally produces those things. We teach them not to chase the good deeds or good morals, but to chase the Holy Spirit.

Let me put it this way. I love my wife. Because of my relationship with my wife, I naturally act differently than I would otherwise act. I buy things I would not buy. I watch movies I would not choose to watch. I go places I would not choose to go. And worst of all, I enjoy those things. All of those things are natural outflows of my love. At the end of the day, though, I can guarantee she would choose my love over all of those things. She would prefer that I love her (even if I refuse to watch her chosen movie) than that I watch the movie with her just out of fear of making her mad.

That’s what we need to teach the next generation. We need to teach them that being a Christian is much more than good behavior. It’s about a real relationship with a real God.

How can you focus on relationship with your kids? Consider James 2:14–26 as you consider this question.