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?”