Especially if you have a “problem child,” a kid whose overt rebellious behavior understandably has you concerned, it can be easy to ignore the spiritual needs of your “good kid.” Well, good kids need the gospel, too, primarily because they’re not really all that good. Just like you need to help kids get to the root cause of sinful actions, sometimes we need to ask God to help us reveal the hearts behind those who get the good behavior awards.
Addressing Counter-Cultural Concerns
In our society, we’re told that if we say our kids are anything but “good kids”—even if they’re good kids who sometimes make unwise choices—we’re being unkind, unloving, even hateful. Christ’s words are clear, though: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).
Christ refers to that same truth in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, whose words were technically faultless (Matthew 12:34). If we’re honest, we know that each of us is evil. Scripture confirms that “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10). If we’re going to offer teens true hope, we need to guide them in understanding, first, that they are hopeless, on their own.
Understanding the Limits of the Law
Many people realize that keeping the law cannot help us to achieve salvation (Romans 3:20), but did you realize that, according to Christ, the main purpose of the Law is not to give us rules to live by? Instead, it’s a teaching tool, designed to reveal our sinfulness (Gal. 3:24). Only when we first realize the “bad news” of our status as lawbreakers can we appreciate the “good news” of the Gospel.
For some kids, the external keeping of the law may be motivated by pride or the desire to please those in authority; their motivations must be creatively drawn out in order for them to realize their need for Christ. The rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-24) was like that, as was Candace Cameron Bure, childhood star of the popular sitcom “Full House.” Candace has a T-shirt line that summarizes her testimony: “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough.” Our teens need to understand that truth.
Raising the Standard of Righteousness
In order for some “good kids” to realize that their hearts are truly sinful, we need to echo Christ’s focus, not on externals, but on inward motivations. The kind of inside-out goodness God requires (Matthew 5:20-48) is absolutely impossible without His help. The brokenness and humility required to move toward this kind of real goodness is exactly what our “good kids” need in order to come to Christ. Only then will they want to pray with the Psalmist : “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).