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Do Nice People Go to Heaven?

Do Nice People Go to Heaven?

Former pro basketball player and evangelist Jay Carty (who passed away in 2017) details what the Bible really says about heaven and hell, and explains why we need to be intentional about sharing our faith with others.
Original Air Date: February 4, 2000



Jay Carty: The Ten Commandments were not given to us to live up to, ’cause if you could live up to them, Christ wouldn’t have had to die. The Ten Commandments were given to show you how impossible it was to meet God on His terms. That makes us desperate for a Savior.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: You’re going to hear a very unique presentation of the gospel today on Focus on the Family featuring the late Jay Carty.  Your host is Focus President Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly:  Jay Carty had a big heart, and as a former pro basketball player, he knew how to speak very directly to men.  His speaking style is hard hitting and gets his point across, as you’ll hear in a moment.  We knew Jay for many, many years, in fact, he was a featured speaker on our Life On the Edge tour for teens, and we are going to miss him!

Jay has a fascinating background: he became a Christian at the age of 14 while hitch-hiking – the man who picked him up told him all about Jesus, invited him to a revival meeting, and Jay received Christ there! The next day he went on a youth retreat — remember he was only 14 years and met the love of his life, Mary, and they ‘tied the knot’ a few years later.

Jay played, and coached, basketball at Oregon State, then went on to UCLA where he was a personal coach for the great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.  The next year he actually played one season with the Los Angeles Lakers.  He later co-authored a book with legendary with UCLA coach, and Christian mentor, John Wooden.

Jay was the founder of “Yes! Ministries” and spoke to thousands of youth and families across America, including groups with the U.S. Armed Forces.

John:   He had quite an impressive resume!  and passed away the age of 75 just a few years back and here’s Jay Carty, speaking to one of our chapel gatherings a number of years ago, on today’s Focus on the Family.


Jay: I want to talk about two things this morning. I want to tell you that nice people really do go to hell and most people don’t think that. Most people think God grades on the curve. (Laughter) Most of ’em do and I want to tell you that there’s nothing more valuable than a soul, but most of us value life more than we value souls. So, those are the two things I want to talk about this morning.

Nice people really do go to hell, because of … because of sin. Now we can categorize that it’s the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, but those are the categories. That’s the way sin plays out. Sin is really just saying “No” to God. It’s like drawing a circle on a pane of glass and putting 10 pie-shaped wedges in it, call it Ten Commandments, take a hammer, try to break one piece. What happens to the whole thing? It shatters, right? And if you’ve broken one, you’ve broken them all.

And how many times would you have to break one to be separated from an absolutely holy God? How many times? I’m giving you a hint. How many times? (Laughter) One, right. So, sin makes you stink. It does. We’re kind of like onions. We stink. Now (Laughter) you think you don’t stink? Sniff the person on your right. (Laughter)

Now I’m serious. Sniff ’em. Now be obedient: sniff. You sniff; sniff them. Sniff right now. (Laughter) Okay, now sniff the one on your left. Sniff them. (Laughter) Sniff. Okay, now let me tell you what you smelled? You either smelled their stink or something covering up their stink. Am I right on this? (Laughter) Now you don’t have to be embarrassed about stinking; It’s what onions do and some of you do it very well (Laughter) and we’ve just discovered that.

Some of you are Bermuda onions. Now there’s nothing worse. You take a slab of Bermuda onion. You put it on a burger, pound it down right before bedtime. It will give you the kind of morning mouth only your dog will really appreciate, you know what I mean. (Laughter)

But some of you are Walla Walla sweets. (Shouts and Laughter) They’re good, aren’t they? But that’s the gamut of “oniondom,” from Bermudas to Walla Wallas, to the red onions, green onions, leeks, chives, everything in between. But what is it every onion has in common with every onion that’s ever onion? They all stink. All right, now if you take an onion and put it in the refrigerator, what’ll it make everything in the refrigerator do?

Audience: Stink.

Jay: You beginning to understand why you, as an onion, couldn’t possibly go to heaven, because if it’s an onion … there’s no stink in God’s refrigerator. There’s no stink allowed. He’s perfectly holy and pure. There is no stink allowed. And if you, as an onion, went to heaven, you’d stink up high heaven. You see how that works? All right. (Laughter)

So, what do you do? Well, you cook it. Cooking onion will get it fit for the kingdom. Let me prove it to you. If you’re sitting next to an old person, I’d like you to sniff an old person right now. (Laughter) Now it’s not that big a deal. They know if they’re old or not. (Laughter) Just sniff an old person. And I’m gonna tell you what you didn’t smell. Old people don’t stink like young people, ’cause life has cooked the stink out of them, brother. (Laughter)

I saw a bumper sticker. It said, “Life’s hard and then you die. Have a nice day,” you know. (Laughter) And life is hard, but you do not spend hell on earth and qualify for the kingdom. That’s not the way it works. So what do you do with the onion? Well, you wrap it in Saran Wrap (Laughter), Handi-Wrap. Ziploc that sucker and put it in there and it won’t stink anything up.

In the Old Testament, a sacrifice–if you think Saran Wrap, you’re pretty close to the concept–a sacrifice just covered the sin. It did not change the onion; it just covered the scent. It paid the interest on your principal debt of sin. But New Testament, Jesus pays off the debt and yes, His blood acts as Saran Wrap. It covers sin, but He goes a step further.

An onion doesn’t have a core. It’s just layers. There’s room to plant a seed apple, orange, banana and kiwi (Laughter) and as the fruit grows, what happens to the thickness of the old layer? Well, it’s still there; it’s called your sin nature. You’re gonna fight it for the rest of your life, but it’s getting thinner and thinner and less of an issue, as you conform to the image of Christ, because you’re not an onion anymore. You’re something new–a brand-new creature–this marvelous piece of fruit.

Give me the worst person [who] ever lived. Who should we go with? It’s Hitler, right? Yeah. Everybody says Hitler. Make your left hand a Hitler, okay? So, don’t try to stare me down. I’ll point you out to everybody. I’m leaving. It doesn’t matter, if I make you mad. I don’t care. (Laughter)

All right. Now I need the best person that ever lived, excluding biblical characters. Who should we go with? Mother Teresa? It’s usually Mother Teresa, you know. Billy Graham, you know, whatever you want, you know, put whoever you want in there, but we’re going with Hitler, Mother Teresa. We’re going with Mother Teresa. It’s too late. We’re going with it. (Laughter)

All right. Make her your right hand, right hand. Hitler’s left hand and just see a spectrum, a goodness spectrum. You got a one, Hitler, and a nine, Mother Teresa. She’s not as good as God, right? She’s good, but she’s not that good and God’d be a 10, clearly. So, you pick your number on the scale and I’ll call on a couple of you just to see what your numbers are, okay? So, pick your number. Don’t get caught without a number. (Laughter) Don’t say I’m a two. That’s for dope pushers, hit men, pimps, prostitutes, murderers, people like that. So, unless that’s what you are, don’t … don’t say I’m a two. (Laughter) And don’t get spiritual and say, “Oh Jesus, I’m a nine. I’m a 10,” ’cause if you are a nine or a 10, your name would have come up. It didn’t.

All right, so … (Laughter) so now pick your number and let me call on a few of you. Brad, yeah, Brad, what number were you, Brad? A five? (Laughter) Brad, are you an employee here at Focus? (Laughter) You used … you used to be an employee at Focus, huh? (Laughter) A five, that’s a lot of sin to be workin’ here, kind of. (Laughter)

How many of you know Brad? (Laughter) How many of you changed your number? (Laughter) Bob, what’s your number? Is that … no, what were you before he said it? (Laughter) What were you? You were a 5 1/2. So, you think you’re better than Brad. (Laughter) Yeah.

Oh, what are we doing here? We’re comparing. What are we comparing? Onions to onions, you see, the minute he gave a number, it wouldn’t have mattered what number it was, if you knew him, you compared yourself to him and that’s how you come to the conclusion that God grades on the curve. That’s how you come to the conclusion that nice people really don’t go to hell, because you got [sic] the wrong standard. The minute you take on the absolute holy standard of God, then nobody qualifies. The Ten Commandments were not given to us to live up to, ’cause if you could live up to them, Christ wouldn’t have had to die. The Ten Commandments were given to show you how impossible it was to meet God on His terms. That makes us desperate for a Savior.

Being a nice person won’t cut it. Being born in the United States and never having murdered anybody does not qualify you. You’ve heard the old saying that being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car. Well, it’s also true that being in a donut shop does not make you a cop, you know. (Laughter)

And nice people really do go to hell and don’t you struggle with that concept? Aren’t you in a river in Egypt on the concept of hell? De Nile? Yeah. Laughter) Yeah. I am. I mean I just can’t imagine that anybody’s gonna go there, ’cause if it’s really true, I got loved ones that’ll be there and I can’t deal with it.

There is no doctrine in the Bible that I want to be wrong any more than that one. And because I don’t like it, doesn’t make it so, right? Ever make a mistake in your life? Yes or no? (Audience response) Yeah. Bible ever make one? (Audience response) So, why is it, when you hear somethin’ you disagree with in the Bible, that you would believe you, a known mistake maker and not the God who’s never made one? (Audience response) No, folks, nice people really do go to hell.

Program Note:

John:  That was a startling statement from Jay Carty, as he spoke at a Focus on the Family chapel gathering, several years ago.  And just a reminder, you can get a CD of this entire presentation when you get in touch – I’m sure there’re friends who you’d like to listen to this with – Our staff is enjoying the holiday so write this down and call us tomorrow: 800-A-FAMILY.  Or donate and request that CD today

Let’s return now as Jay Carty explains why none of us can measure up to God’s standard of holiness.

End of Program Note

Jay:  And let me tell you what they’re worth. If you take your body and boil it down to its elements, you’re currently worth about $7.93 on the average. I’m worth a little more than you are. (Laughter)

Commodity prices are down, but you can insure a homemaker for a million five and you can insure a corporate executive for seven mil. Life is valued as a commodity, like supply and demand. It varies. If you’re in Rwanda or Sudan or where you got a lot of poverty and a lot of pestilence, life’s not worth much, but if you’re in the United States, you’re worth a million seven, a million five to seven mil. You understand; life is a commodity and it varies according to its value. It’s an economic thing.

Life varies according to supply and demand and economics and also relationship. I have a daughter about your age and you know, I … if you and my daughter were walkin’ across the street and a dump truck broke loose and there was just time to save one of ya, you’re road kill, honey. (Laughter) Yeah, I mean, dead, I just … I gotta go with my daughter. Now I love ya and I’d be thrilled to, you know, minister to you for some days, but I wouldn’t trade my kid for ya, you know. I just couldn’t do it. I … oh, I mean, if the guys came in with their Uzzis and said, “We’re killin’ everybody if you don’t give us our kids,” I guess I’d just have to say, I’ll try to deal with it. Don’t you love your kids than you love mine?  Huh, don’t ya.

I mean, there’s the bus. It’s teetering on the cliff. You’ve got time for one trip. Your kid’s in the second seat and someone else’s kids are in the front seat. Would you bypass the kids in the front seat and grab your kids and get off if you only had one trip? It’d be easier to save somebody else’s kid. Why would you save yours instead of them? See. Like it or not, we value life on a variety of variables, also potential, productivity, supply … and how good or bad you are.

I mean, some Hell’s Angel guy, I … if I had a[n] opportunity to save this guy or the Hell’s Angel, I’m goin’ to this guy. Or the next Billy Graham or the drunk in the gutter, which life do you save if you’ve only got a chance to save one?  I’m tellin’ ya, life varies. You live in India. Hey, the cow’s worth as much as you are. Don’t step on the spider. It might be your uncle. Don’t step on the ant. It might be your aunt. Right? (Laughter)

But how about our Lord? How does our Lord value a soul? Which one lasts longer? Which one did Christ die for? On which one did Christ place His value? If you want to know how much you’re worth to God, the Father, you gotta figure out how much Christ is worth to the Father. You’ve probably seen this.

You’ve probably seen this. It’s a $20 bill. What’s it worth? Huh? Now what’s it worth? Still worth $20, isn’t it? I(Sound of stomping of feet) What’s it worth? I’m gonna stick it in the gutter and pour alcohol all over it and let it sleep there two or three nights. Now what’s it worth?

Audience: Twenty dollars.

Jay: Now I’m gonna pour drugs all over it, angel dust, soak it in coke. What’s it worth?

Audience: Twenty dollars.

Jay: It’s still worth 20 bucks, isn’t it? Why? Why, it’s the value that’s bestowed on it. If I could only save one life, I might pick and choose, but when it comes to souls, we’ve got something else going on here. We got something else, but I think you value life more than you value a soul. I think you do. Let me prove it.

There’s a car crash. Woman pinned in the car, motor flares. Gonna have a fire. It’s starting. In two minutes, the car’ll be engulfed. You know it. She’s trapped. You got [sic] two minutes to get her out. You’re gonna have to kick the window in. That’s gonna cut her, so you’re gonna get glass on her. Do you care? You care, but you don’t care. I mean, you don’t want her to get cut, but you know she’s gonna, but it’s okay. The cuts’ll heal. She’s gonna burn up in front of you, if you don’t do something about it, so you kick the window in.

But you don’t have any Jaws of Life, and she’s pinned and her knee is trapped under the dash and you can’t get her out. You’re gonna have to break her leg to get her out of the car. I mean, you’re gonna have to break her leg to get her out of the car. Will you break her leg? You will, won’t you? I mean, you don’t want her to hurt, but you got to break her leg. “I’m sorry. I got to break your leg. (Sound of slap) I got to break your leg.”

You’d do it, wouldn’t you? Why? Because of the life. You’ve got to save that life and now you feel the heat. I mean it’s getting there. That gas tank is gonna explode. You got to drag her out of the window, over that glass, with a broken leg. You do it, don’t you? Why? ‘Cause all the rest of it’ll heal. [If] you don’t get her out of that car, she’s gonna die and you’re pretty focused and you’re real intense, right?

And I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you here, but I’m just thinking that we will spend a whole lot more effort on a life, than we will on a soul. And I can tell what you believe by what you do, not by what you say and I submit to you that lives are more important to us than souls, until we think about it.

And then if the concept, that nice people really do go to hell and that there’s nothin’ more valuable than a soul, if those two concepts were to kind of intertwine, it would add a whole new dimension to what you do, ’cause you’re one of the privileged few who get to spend full-time earning a living, making a difference with eternal things. And if you get the value right, understanding nice people do go to hell and there’s nothing more valuable than a soul, boy, that’d be something.

I’m a sheep dude. I got a lot of sheep. I’m going on vacation. I want you to take care of a 100 of them. I’m hurting for time, so I need you to say yes. Will you do it? Okay, here’s the deal. If one of those stupid little sheep walks off someplace, do not leave the herd, ’cause you might not find the one and what would happen to the 99? Rustlers, wolves, coyotes, who knows? You know, you might not find that one and might have nothing when you come back. And maybe the one’ll come back and maybe it won’t. I don’t care. If I come back from vacation, I got 99 sheep. I pay you and I’m thrilled. Will you take the job, because it pays well? Yes? Good. All right. You understand the rules?

All right, well, let me tell you about what the Bible says about that. “What do you think? If a man has a 100 sheep and one of them [has] gone astray, doesn’t he leave the 99 on the mountains and go and search for the one that’s straying?” Not me! I wouldn’t do that. That’s kind of dumb. At least, I’ll have 99, right? “And if it turns out that he finds it, I say to you, ‘He rejoices over it more than the 99 which have not gone astray.’ Are you kiddin’? I may kill it just to make sure it never walks off again. (Laughter) You know, [it’s] my sheep; I can kill it if I want to.

Minimally, the shepherd would break its leg and then he would set it and then he would throw it over his shoulder and he would carry the sheep until the leg healed and the heartbeat of the shepherd would so bond itself with the sheep that the sheep would then never again leave its side.

Thus it’s not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little one[s] perish.” You know the only way that that makes any sense at all? The one is a nice sheep and it’s going to hell and the 99, they’re born again and if they die, they go to heaven and God just put the value of a soul right there. He said, “If it takes 99 Christians to save one lost sheep,” God says, “Very good trade.”

I tell you, if somehow we came to the reality that there is a place called hell and it’s the absolute absence of God minimally, and that nice people really do go there–the nice friends that we live next to and the nice people that we meet at PTA and the nice people we meet at Little League. Those nice people … those nice people, they’re like a burning car. And there’s nothing more valuable than their soul and if, somehow, we could just transfer the passion that we have for life and make that a passion for souls, we would never be the same. We would have a new dimension of purpose that would just change everything. May it be so in your life. Pray with me.

Father, in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, we invite the presence of your Holy Spirit to do some deep surgery in each of us. Do we fully believe that nice people go to hell? God, may we understand that there’s nothing more valuable than a soul and that we ought to be about the business of helping resolve that problem under the direction of Your Spirit. God, change us with that. In Jesus’ name. amen.

Audience: (Applause)


John:  Speaking at a Focus on the Family chapel service, that was Jay Carty. And Jim, what an intense message.

Jim: It was, John and I’ll tell you, I can’t get that image out of my mind, of the woman stuck in the crashed car — and of course, it’s hypothetical — but when you think about what any of us would do, to rescue someone in that situation — yes, we would break her leg if she was pinned inside, and the car was about to explode into flames.  We would go to those extreme measures to rescue her. And when you take that sense of urgency to save someone’s LIFE and then apply it to the SOUL of any unsaved person you know, wow, that is powerful. We have a responsibility to try to rescue them!

And let me just remind you that, while Focus on the Family primarily offers marriage and parenting advice, our ultimate goal is to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  That’s what we’re all about!  Because, what would it matter if we saved your marriage, but you didn’t know the Lord?  In fact, Jesus said it this way, “what would it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

We don’t want that to happen – we want to help your marriage, help you in parenting your kids, but most importantly, we want to help save your soul.  That’s the driving force behind this ministry!  Because we’re all going to meet our Maker some day! And we want Him to say of you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” NOT “depart from me, I never knew you!”

And today’s speaker, Jay Carty, has met his Maker…..he died in 2017 at the age of 75, after a five-year battle with multiple myeloma [my·uh·low·muh], which causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out healthy blood cells. And our hearts go out to his wife Mary, and their whole family – I’m sure it was difficult to lose Jay, but they have the confidence that he is in heaven now.  What a ‘blessed assurance’ that is!

John:  I am certain that they find assurance in that very promise and some comfort in that as well.

Jim:  And so in Jay’s honor, let me ask you this question that he used to pose at the end of all of his talks: “If you hear God speaking to you today, would you agree to say ‘Yes!’ to whatever He is asking you to do?”

John:  That’s the million-dollar question all of us really need to consider Jim.

Jim:  It really is!  And if God is asking you to share this message with someone who needs to know more about Him, please say YES and get the audio download – we’re offering that today at no cost to you.  It’s free. Get it and then invite that person over for some coffee for something, and listen to this message together.

John:  That’s a great idea, Jim, and we’re going to make that version comfortable for you to share with someone else.

Jim:  Right, let me add another admonition for Christians.  Don’t be one of those people who keeps the Lord in the Sunday box.  Lean in.  As we see the culture become more hostile to our faith, it will become more and more important to know that you know, that you know, Jesus Christ as Lord.  And the best way to do that, well it’s get involved in small groups through your church.  That is where you will be able to dig deeper into what God wants to teach you.  And as you do that, side-by-side with other believers you will learn even more as you see how God is working in their lives. It’s a real faith builder and you will make some good friends as well.

You know, our research shows that over the past year, Focus on the Family ministry as a whole, helped more than 700 people a day commit, or recommit, their lives to Jesus Christ.  That’s a huge impact!  Can you help us do that important work?  Please give us a call, or donate online today.  We really need to hear from you.

John:  And I will start with our website, because our staff is enjoying the holiday and I will give you our phone number in just a moment. But online we are at  and tomorrow give us a call, our number is the letter A and the word FAMILY.

And tomorrow you will hear from Sadie Robertson of the Duck Dynasty clan.   She’s going to share how to find freedom from fear and anxiety.


Sadie Robertson:  I can feel those feelings of anxiety. They’re gonna rise sometimes, but in those moments, don’t just surrender to fear in those moments. Stop it, and choose faith.

End of Teaser

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