What is better than Shirley Temple goodness?

What is better than Shirley Temple goodness?

Do you know who Shirley Temple was? For any of you over fifty, you probably associate that name with a child star of the 1930s movie screens. This cute little blonde girl could sing and dance as well as act. She charmed American movie goers during the very dark years of the Great Depression. Shirley Temple played characters ranging from pampered princess to mistreated orphan. Her onscreen image was that of an everyday kind of girl who brings joy to the lives of others. Every movie in some way communicated her character as a symbol of “goodness.” That had an influence on my early life in the 1950s. Did it influence yours?

“Shirley Temple Goodness”

How did I know about Shirley Temple? I don’t think there were many television reruns in the 1950s. There certainly was no cable channel like TMC to play all her movies. Video cassettes and DVDs did not exist. Perhaps movie theaters played reruns of her movies. Somehow, I knew about Shirley Temple and her portrayal of goodness.

Looking back at pictures of me as a young girl, I wore Shirley Temple style dresses with my hair in fluffy blonde curls. Like many girls my age, I played with a Shirley Temple doll, complete with outfits from some of her movie roles. One of them I recognize as coming from her role as Heidi.

Shirley Temple doll

When my parents took me out to dinner with them, I got to have a “Shirley Temple” drink (ginger ale, orange juice, and grenadine syrup with a cherry on top). That made me feel rewarded for being good like she was.

My concept of Shirley Temple was that she represented a little girl who was always good. In her film roles, she consistently portrayed a character with goodness. One Fox News article described her on-screen life this way: “constantly cheerful, smiling, optimistic, and pure-hearted.” I wanted to be a good girl.

I Could Not Be Good Enough

I thought that if I played the part of being cheerful and following all the rules at home and school, everyone would consider me “good.” If I were good enough, not only would my parents love me but even God would love me and be pleased with me. That sounded like a great strategy. I had one problem though. It was a huge problem! I could not keep up with that goodness all the time. No one can!

No one can be good enough on her own to please God 100% of the time from birth to grave in order to earn His love and acceptance. The Bible teaches that truth. The last part of Romans 3:12 says this,

“there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12, NET).

That is from God’s perspective. Yikes! No one can do that!

God is the ultimate perfectionist. He determines what He considers good. Not me. Not you. None of our little checklists measure up. God knows how we get stuck in our woefully insufficient attempts to measure up to His standards of goodness. Or we change them to what we set up as our own. Oh, we can look good on the outside in front of people, like the characters Shirley Temple played in her movies.

That “role-playing” is described so well by this verse,

“having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5, NET).”

Paul described people who looked good on the outside but had self-focused hearts. When we are intellectually honest with ourselves, we recognize this to be true.

God Makes Me Good Enough

But there is good news for all of us who think we can be good enough on our own to please God and earn His love and acceptance. Give up! Yep. Stop it!

The only human who was ever good enough for God was His Son, Jesus. So the answer to our dilemma is to say “no” to our own attempts to overcome our mess-ups and say “yes” to trusting in Jesus and His death on the cross to take them away. The moment we do that, God clothes us with Jesus and His goodness (Galatians 3:26-27). According to Ephesians 2:4, God chooses to do this because of His great love for us. That is one of my favorite verses.

I now have the confidence that I am “in Christ,” covered with Christ and His goodness. That means when God looks at me now, He sees Jesus’ goodness. So I am always completely loved and accepted by God. That is huge to a recovering perfectionist like me!

Now my motivation for being “good” is not to earn acceptance with God. Rather, my heart is filled with love and gratitude for what God did for me. That is why I want to live a life that pleases Him—the kind of life that God Himself describes in the Bible.

It is not because I am now so strong that I can live a life that pleases God. No, it is because the Spirit of God lives inside me. God’s empowering presence enables me to do that which is good in God’s eyes. He will do the same for you when you trust Him.

That is better than “Shirley Temple goodness” any day!

Related Resources:

Graceful Living Bible Study

Pathways to a Joyful Walk Bible Study (download eBook)

SANCTIFICATION: Perfected…No Longer Flawed

JUSTIFICATION: Righteous…No Longer Guilty

The Gospel: God’s Cure for Our Fatal Sin Disease blog series on melanienewton.com

Melanie Newton is the founder of Joyful Walk Ministries, an online ministry that helps women learn to study the Bible for themselves and grow their Bible-teaching skills to lead others on a joyful walk with Jesus. Melanie has written many Bible study guides (available on Bible.org and her website) and presented insightful messages to large groups of women. All of her BIble Studies are available as books on Amazon.com. Melanie is wife to Ron Newton (“Integrity at Work” ministry), loves to be outside in her garden, and enjoys her yearly fix of boiled crawfish.

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