When I was growing up I was in Boy Scouts. I still remember the Scout Law: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. A lot of people think that Scouts are kids who can tie knots, set up a campsite, and do volunteer work; but those are merely things that scouts do, not who they are. As demonstrated through the Scout Law, a scout is composed of those character traits, and not so much by his knowledge of camping. When it comes to being a Christian, I think this is something that we need to think about; especially if we are parents.
Is “what” we do important? ABSOLUTELY! But it is necessary for us to understand that what we do is a result and reﬂection of who we are. Is it important to train our children in what to do and what not to do? ABSOLUTELY! But it is just as important, if not more so, to teach them WHO they are to be. Do we need to examine ourselves this day to make sure what we are doing in worship to God is correct? ABSOLUTELY! But it is just as important to make sure we have the proper spirit in our worship, and to be certain we are the servants (in heart) God desires us to be.
In the ministry of Jesus Christ, He frequently focused His teaching not just on what to do or not to do, but who we are to be. In Luke 10:30-37 we have the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” as told by Jesus Christ. Through this parable, Jesus was not teaching “what to do”; but rather, He was teaching “Who to be”. His emphasis was that we have a character and spirit of mercy. The person with this character is a true neighbor. He illustrated that character by “what” he (the Samaritan) did. In Matthew 25:1-13, in the “Parable of the Ten Virgins” Jesus’ focus is on us having a spirit of preparedness. He is not instructing us to carry around lamps with a ready supply of oil, but is instructing us to “be” ready for the coming of our Master. Likewise, in Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus tells the “Parable of the unmerciful slave”. In this parable His goal of instruction was for us to have a spirit of forgiveness, and He provides the illustration of that through an example of forgiveness. In each case, Jesus was focusing our attention on “Who we are” or “Who we need to be” and illustrated that by “what” we do or do not do..
You may be saying, “Well, doesn’t the scripture teach that, ‘we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds…’?” (II Corinthians 5:10) Certainly that is the case, but we need to understand that our character does not expose our actions, but that our actions expose our character. This is not to say that we will not do things that are “out of character” from time to time throughout our lives, but generally speaking, we know that if we want to change our actions we must ﬁrst change our heart. When it comes to being a Christian we don’t necessarily have an exhaustive checklist of things that we need to do or not do, but, we do have an exhaustive list of traits that we are to be or not to be. (Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:8-9, Colossians 3:12-17, II Timothy 3:1-5, II Peter 1:5-11, etc.)
If we teach our children the value of character (Proverbs 22:1) and establish in them a spirit of righteousness, then it will help them to be the people they are supposed to be, and do the things they are supposed to do. If we remind ourselves of and dedicate ourselves to having the character of a disciple of Christ, then who we are will help us to do what we ought to do. “…From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and deﬁle the man.”(Mark 7:23)
Don’t just teach your children (or yourself) what to do or not to do; teach them who to be, and who not to be. For “What we do” starts with “Who we are”.