The Criminal's Belief System

“I'm Basically a Good Person.”

Most offenders see themselves as good human beings.  No matter how long their list of crimes, no matter what suffering they have caused others, they will almost always claim that they are really good people. The criminal who operates under this thinking error will say things like, "In spite of my six arrests, I am basically a good person. I don't commit crimes all the time."  "There's nothing wrong with me. All I did was sell a little dope."  "I'm not a bad mother/father. My kids have never lived on the streets."

Some list their daily activities as evidence.  They go to school or work most of the time, and take their family to church on Sundays.  Others say they are good because they provide very well for their family.  Some believe that, if God has blessed them with a special talent such as a musical ability, they must be basically good.  Others figure that if they haven’t hurt someone in the commission of their crimes, if they can pull off a robbery without pulling the trigger, they are "good people".  A few believe that their violent acts were justified, that they did society a good service when they “offed” someone, and we should be thanking them instead of arresting them. Normally, criminals don’t look in the mirror and see themselves as the villains that they really are.

And it’s not just criminals who operate under this thinking error. There is a common perception that as long as a person leads a generally good life, they will get into heaven. You probably know people who say they are entitled to heaven because they read their Bible, go to church on Sundays, and live a moral life. And it’s true - they haven’t murdered or robbed anyone at gunpoint, they will give to charities now and then, and treat other people with respect.  They honestly believe that hell is only for those few folks who have committed particularly evil acts.

This is as much a thinking error for you and I as it is for the criminal.  Biblically speaking, when lined up against the plumb line of God's standards, no one is "good." To one degree or another, we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This does not mean that we are always actively engaged in committing crimes or have ever participated in a depraved act. But it does mean that in our very nature we are "fallen," in rebellion against God and incapable of saving ourselves.

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