I have had numerous conversations with young parents who expressed the fear of raising young hypocrites. They fear that since they have taught their children appropriate behavior, they will rear well-behaved children who do not sense their need for grace.
Much of what we have written in this book will help you avoid this problem. Hypocrisy is greatest in homes where the emphasis has been on behavior rather than the heart. If the focus of discipline and correction is on ways the behavior has strayed and on how behavior must change, you will miss the heart. That approach makes the problem what I do, rather than what I am.
According to the Bible, the problem we have is too profound to be corrected externally. The root problem is not the wrong that we do. It is the source of that wrong—our hearts. The fact that you and I and our children lie and are envious and disobedient indicates that there is something profoundly wrong with our hearts.
Is a man a thief because he steals, or does he steal because he is a thief? Is he a liar because he lies, or does he lie because he is a liar? The Bible’s answer is that he steals because he is a thief, he lies because he is a liar, and he disobeys because he is disobedient. “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” (Ps. 58:3).
Sometimes someone will ask, “What about addressing the behavior that is wrong and telling a child to do better. Isn’t that part of being a good parent?”
The answer, of course, is that addressing the heart does not mean you don’t address behavior. But since behavior is heart-driven, I have to speak to behavior in ways that focus on heart change and not simply behavior change.
This truth can help you keep the gospel central in correction and discipline. You must help your children see the hidden heart issues that lie behind their behaviors that are wrong. You will have conversations like this.
“Honey, you know I am concerned that you have lied to me. Telling the truth is something that is very important in human relationships. If you cannot trust me and I cannot trust you we have no glue to hold our relationship together. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Yes,” the child answers, nodding.
“But do you know what concerns me even more?”
“My deepest concern for you is that you are just like me. We lie because it seems like telling a lie will go better than telling the truth. And we love ourselves more than we love God sometimes. That is why we tell lies.
“That is why Jesus came. If all we needed was for someone to tell us what to do, God would have just sent a prophet. The problem we have in our hearts is so great that just knowing what we ought to do is not enough. We need a Savior who has the power to deliver us from our sins.”
Tedd Tripp, Instructing a Child’s Heart, Chapter 15