My nine-year-old daughter has a tight moral compass. She can’t understand why Christians act unkindly when God says to be kind. Or why they would lie when God says don’t lie. If kids at school disobey the teacher, harass another student, or cheat at gaga ball on the playground, she wonders if they’ve forgotten they attend a Christian academy.
In her mind, it’s painfully clear. If you are a Christian, you should act like a Christian. Not because we live under the law but because we love Jesus and don’t want to grieve Him.
Ah, sweet girl. It should be that simple—but it’s not. Christian living involves battling the sin nature until we die. We’re all growing up and gaining wisdom day after day, each at our own pace, and stumbles are part of the journey.
And yet. My daughter has the right idea. As Christian parents, are we creating the gap between what our kids know and what they do? We teach them what the Bible says. And we teach them about God’s grace. But there’s a step in between that connects the dots and develops true disciples.
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
Sometimes I fall into the habit of dismissing poor behavior as normal—when kids squabble or complain or neglect their chores after being reminded five times to empty the dishwasher. Christian homes ought to be steeped in grace, that’s true. But we wouldn’t need to exercise that grace quite so often if we placed a greater emphasis on not merely learning the Word but also teaching our kids to actually apply it to the way they live, the choices they make, and the boundaries they place on their own conduct.
How well is your family doing in this area? Consider these questions to help assess your James 1:22 strengths and weaknesses:
• Do you spend time reading and studying the Bible as a family? Do you discuss what you’ve read and how it relates to your everyday circumstances?
• Do you use Scripture to train your children—not just to point out wrongdoing but also to affirm and guide good choices?
• Do you encourage your kids to read the Bible on their own and ask questions about what they’re reading? Do you actively engage in conversations sparked from these questions?
• Do you emphasize obedience as a demonstration of our love and gratitude for God? Or do you demand obedience for legalistic reasons?
• Is your home a place where kids are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them? Do you approach those mistakes with wrath or loving guidance?
• Are you aware of how your children behave when they’re not at home? Do you regularly talk about any differences in conduct between home and school or social environments?
• Do you consistently teach your kids that God loves them no matter what, while also explaining how His rules are meant to protect, bless and equip them to reach their God-given potential?
• Are you living out James 1:22 by example?
As parents, we have a tremendous opportunity to build the next generation of wise Christians who do not merely listen to the Word but actually do what it says. And when that happens, the world will take notice, and God will be glorified. That is a goal worth pursuing day after day—for a lifetime.