This Is Why It’s Dangerous to Raise Good Kids

We’ve probably all heard about the “Prodigal Son.”  {If you haven’t, stop here and read Luke 15!} I grew up hearing Sunday School lessons, chapel messages, and countless sermons warning about the dangers of leaving home to chase after worldly desires.  Can I be honest?  Those messages all made me feel really, really good about myself.
Why? Because I was, for the most part, the “Elder Brother.”

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally understood that the Luke 15 account was actually about “Two Prodigal Sons.”  And, even though I wasn’t living at home anymore, I was a perfect example of one of the prodigals.

The elder brother was right, you know.  He didn’t live a rebellious lifestyle.  He didn’t abandon his responsibilities and “chase the world.”  He did everything his father asked.  He was a “good” kid.  And he wore it like a badge.

And I could identify with him well.

I wasn’t perfect, and I definitely had seasons that found me in the shoes of the other brother, but for the most part, I was the “elder” prodigal.  You see, my outward obedience to God was only that.  In my heart, I was far from Him.  I didn’t experience the true, close relationship with my Father that I enjoy now until I was an adult.  So even though I was a “good” kid, it was for appearances and ulterior motives–not out of a relationship, not out of wanting to please His heart.  And just like the elder brother looked down on his brother (AND his father’s welcoming feast), I was quick to criticize those around me– maybe not verbally–but definitely in my heart.  I did almost everything right: I got good grades, obeyed at school, went to a Christian college, read my Bible, led prayer groups.  But I was a hypocrite.  I kept God at arms-length.  I didn’t get to know Him.  I tried to follow His “laws.”  I tried to get His attention with all of my good deeds.  I confessed outward sins, but I never confessed sins of the heart.  I never came completely clean with Him from the inside out–until I was much older, with kids of my own.

And it’s really, really easy to raise my kids to be just like I was.  In fact, it’s almost reflexive.  We take them to church, read them Bible stories, and help them memorize scripture.  We make sure their faces are as clean as their “walk” with God.  We tell them all of the things “good Christians” do.  We correct bad behavior, but we rarely go deeper to the heart issues.  And I know, from personal experience, that outward “bad” behavior, is always indicative of an inward heart problem.  But it’s a whole lot easier to simply react to the most obvious, outward issue–isn’t it?  It takes 2.2 seconds to say, “Okay.  That back-talk just cost you your screens for the weekend!”  And we feel vindicated and our children feel corrected and everyone moves on, snap-snap.  Done.  But…. What’s really going on behind that disrespectful response your child just gave?  What’s the heart problem?  Yes, you’ve cleaned up the outward mess, but what about the mess that’s lingering inside? I have kids; I know that sometimes bad behavior needs a quick fix.  I’m not always in a position to sit down and dig deep when I really need them to obey my instructions so we can leave the house on time.  But other times, when an attitude erupts, or when lies are told…I focus solely on responding to the behavior and ignore the true problem.

Jesus didn’t just heal physical needs.  In fact, many times, He forgave a person’s sins before He healed the sickness.  He longs to heal all of our broken places, not just the ones others can see.  That goes for our kids too.  I was the prodigal that stayed at home.  The one who looked “good” on the outside.  I don’t want to raise either type of prodigal.  I want to raise my children to be His kids–in a real relationship with Him.  Welcomed into His home and heart, running into His open arms any time they stumble.

It’s not always easy. It takes a lot longer to dig down and draw out the emotions or sin that caused our children to respond improperly.   But that’s where the elder brother finds redemption.  That’s where the other prodigal gets welcomed back–not into the home, but into the heart of his Father.
Looking for more encouragement? Check out my new book, Not Quite SuperMoms of the Bible. Click the image to read it now!

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