Growing up, my sister and I often went to our grandmother’s house for sleepovers. As our parents dropped us off, they would threaten us with that infamous warning, “Now you kids be good, do you hear?”
How often have you said that as a parent? Right before you offer up that desperate prayer that your children won’t embarrass you. Again.
As a pastor and counselor, I see parents try anything to get their children to “be good.” One of the most common tools parents use is to punish bad behavior and reward good. But is this really enough to instill in our children the “goodness” described as a fruit of the Spirit? (Gal. 5:22)
A rich young ruler once asked of Jesus a similar question: “Good teacher, what good things must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16; Mark 10:17).
Jesus’ reply is fascinating, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:18). The young ruler had followed all of God’s commandments, yet it wasn’t enough. Jesus told him, “Go sell everything and follow Me” (Mark 10:21).
In his question, the rich young ruler asks how to do good, using a Greek word referring to moral behavior. However, the “goodness” described as a fruit of the Spirit means much more. True goodness is “excellence of character.” It combines our attempts to “do good” with God’s character of “being good.” This kind of goodness is not attainable in our own strength, so Peter encourages us, by God’s divine power, to make every effort to add to our faith goodness (2 Peter 1:5).
This means that teaching our children to just “do good” can look very much like legalism—especially when we only reward them for good behavior. The rich young ruler was trying to do good to earn his way into heaven, yet he was lacking the most important thing—an underlying love for the Rule-Maker. This love is what compels us to follow the rules in the first place (2 Cor 5:14).
Though we can try to make our kids do good, the only way for them to be good is to first develop a relationship of love with us as parents and rule-makers. Josh McDowell agrees that rules without relationship leads to rebellion, but rules with relationship leads to respect.
Goodness begins by obeying and modeling the greatest commandment of all—loving our Rule-Maker with all our heart, soul, and strength. Goodness is love in action.
• Goodness is not merely moral behavior, but also excellence of character.
• Goodness begins with a love relationship with our Rule-Maker.
• Adding goodness to our faith answers Jesus’ call to “Follow Me”.
Family Memory Verse
2 Peter 1:3
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”