Not All Checklists Are Bad

I hate checklists for spiritual growth.

They lead towards a works orientation and a focus on being performance-based.

When a recent church service message started with a “Checklist for Spiritual Zeal” I was concerned.

6 commands from Ephesians 5 were restated as questions.

Each one had an emphasis on not having a “hint” of such and such bad thing and of “never” acting another way. It was a list of do’s and don’ts which were totally and completely unrealistic.

When “never’s and always” are included for spiritual behavior, my legalism alarm begins to ring.

“So how are you doing?”, asked the speaker.

The church expected to be hammered into submission and guilt.

What followed next shocked me.

He went on to overview chapters 1-3 saying that all these commands are a response to what God has done.

  • His blessings in chapter one.
  • His love in chapter two
  • And the confident access we have to His Presence in chapter three.

The checklist was present, but was put into its proper perspective.


These things are our response, not a requirement.

When they are a requirement, we are declared guilt and failure to measure up is our constant companion.

When holy living and godly character becomes an act of gratitude, we do in fact move closer to the standard of perfection, but know we will never achieve it here on earth.

There are some stunningly difficult commands in the Bible.

Be holy as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16)
Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Forgive as you have been forgiven. (Ephesians 4:32)

We have two reactions.

Guilt. We know we do not make it. So we strive and perform in futile pursuit of an elusive measuring up.

Gratitude. We know we do not make it. Instead we live as one grateful to Jesus for meeting God’s standard for us.

We respond by living as close to those commands as we can, being more like Him rather than less like Him.

In this case, I guess a checklist is not a bad thing.

I was judging the speaker for leading us into legalism, when in fact he was leading us to a loving response.

The commands of Scripture are not a ladder to climb, but a path to follow.

I want to follow the path closer to Jesus.

Perhaps this includes a grace-based, gratitude motivated spiritual checkup on occasion.

Maybe, just maybe, not all checklists are bad.

Photo credit: Checklist Chalkboard via photopin (license)

One response to “Not All Checklists Are Bad”

  1. Great post. I love the thought of a response of gratitude verses guilt. Condemnation is from the enemy.