Someone recently told me he was most scared of going to jail. When I looked at him incredulously he said, “I know, I should be most scared of hell, but I’ve been to jail.”
Apparently, that wasn’t a pleasant experience for him and I think that within humane constraints, jail and prison should not be all that pleasant. Appropriate fear for wrongdoing is a valuable tool for maintaining order in any society (Romans 13: 1-5). Still, an appropriate fear of hell should keep anyone from doing anything that would lead them to jail.
Anyway, even right before Christmas (or in some cases for the whole year from Christmas to Christmas) we use fear to encourage children to behave because Santa Claus is coming to town. We tell them that Santa rewards nice children with nice things and naughty children with lumps of coal, switches, and onions in their stocking because he knows who’s naughty or nice. So we tell them to be “good for goodness’ sake.”
Who or what is goodness that we should be good for its sake? When surprised, shocked, or exasperated, people often say, “Well, for goodness’ sake.” Others might say, “Well, for Pete’s sake,” probably in reference to the Apostle Peter. In both cases, words are being substituted to avoid using the Lord’s name in vain as others do when they say, “Well, for Christ’s sake.”
The Bible says that there’s none good, but God alone and we know that Jesus and God are one (Romans 3:12, 23; John 10:30). While it is not appropriate to use Jesus’ name vainly (casually, without recognizing the power of that name or using its power inappropriately – Exodus 20:7; Acts 4:8-12; 19:11-16), we are to do everything for his sake, in his name (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
Goodness is the next trait we’re to add after the faith that led us to become Christians. We’re to add goodness even before we learn more about Jesus in continued purposeful obedience after we become Christians through baptism (2 Peter 1:5-12; Romans 1:5; 6:3-18). But, we can’t practice goodness properly without being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit who God gives to all Christians because he bears the fruit of goodness within us (Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 5:8-10; Matthew 12:33-35; Romans 3:21,22; Acts 2:38, 39; 5:32; Romans 8:9-14).
Regarding being good because Santa’s coming to town, the real reason to be good, yielding control to the Holy Spirit is because Jesus is coming and what he’s bringing will far outweigh either the gifts or the switches Santa might leave (Hebrews 9:27, 28; John 14:1-6; 2 Peter 3:9-15; Hebrews 10:29-31).
So, you’d better watch out for Jesus is coming to town, and be good for Jesus’ sake. Then, everything will be all right and there’ll be no reason to pout or cry (Matthew 25:14-46).