If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “He really is a good kid.” What precedes or follows that statement is usually a mention of decidedly less-than-good behavior. That’s why we say it, right? Because it doesn’t seem to be true, but we want to believe that it is. And shouldn’t we want to think the best about people, especially our own kids? After all, if we don’t believe in them, who will? And what would happen to their delicate psyches if we told them they were bad?
All of those are relevant questions, and we’ll consider them as we address the basic issue: goodness of humanity.
We’re Not Good
The first problem with insisting that our kids are good is, well, that they’re not. It simply isn’t true. As a matter of trust — no less our own desire to live rightly and please God — we need to think and say what’s true. It’s pretty serious business to believe a lie, and particularly this one about our goodness. In fact, the Psalmist directly links atheism with believing in the goodness of mankind (53:1).
God’s Word teaches that just as we’re not good, we don’t seek Him (Romans 3:9-11). Instead, it calls us “sinners” and “lost” and “ungodly” (Rom. 5:6-8, Luke 19:10). Even when we try our hardest, we all fall short (Romans 3:23). As the God-man, Jesus Christ was the only truly “good kid” or “good person” ever to walk this earth (Matthew 19:17).
We Need God
In addition to the basic issue of truth, it’s really important that we stop believing and saying that our kids — no matter how compliant they may be — are good. Especially if we’re saying it to them. If they’re good on their own (and they’re not), they don’t need God.
The good news about our sin is that it has a solution: God sent us a Savior (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). If we fail to admit our sinfulness, we won’t realize our need for His redemption (Eph. 1:7). And that’s a scary thought.
We Can Be Glad
Have you ever thanked God for your not-so-good kid? I mean thanked Him for your son or daughter’s obvious failure to be good? Perhaps you should. When kids are “pretty good” and at least externally obey the rules, it’s easier for them to think that they truly are good. Whether it’s just part of our sinful nature that’s hard-wired into our thinking or assisted by popular religious traditions, the idea that we can be good enough to save ourselves is clearly not biblical (Eph. 2:9).
The biggest lesson of the law or rules is not compliance, but failure (Gal. 3:24). When we fail, we see our need for Christ. You can be glad for your child’s rebellion, because it highlights his or her need for a Savior. Please don’t pretend or talk as if that isn’t true.