Are We Good or What?

How good are we… really?

Well … not really. At least not according to the bible. You see good is a relative term and in the bible it’s relative to God’s standards. Nothing on earth is good by that comparison. Even our Lord, when addressed as “Good Master” responded by saying, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one and that is God.” (Mt 19:16 KJV) If the Lord couldn’t be called good, where does that leave me?

The Difference Between Doing and Being

We may be good at what we do, or good compared to others, but reading the bible, one can get down right discouraged about the innate good-ness of mankind. Sure we often do good things, but from the Lord’s perspective (the only one that counts) it’s not the good we do, but the motive of our hearts when we do it that matters. And in Jeremiah we learn that the heart of man is incurably wicked (17:9). Our motives are always suspect, and only God can discern them.

The Best Surprise Is That There’s No Surprise

Job, a man given to doing good, was shocked to learn that his good deeds could not help God, and that his sins could not hurt Him (Job 35:6-8). God, who knew every detail of your life before a moment of it was lived cannot be surprised or disappointed by your behavior. And since you don’t have anything He needs you can neither help nor hurt Him in bringing forth His Kingdom. He doesn’t permit you to help so HE can gain something from your involvement. He permits it so YOU can.

The Queen and I

Queen Esther provides a classic illustration. When it became obvious that she was to bring about the rescue of the Jewish people from the Persians by risking her own life, she expressed fear and doubt. Her uncle Mordecai gave the answer for all ages when he admonished her. “If you remain silent, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place … but who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” (Est. 4:14)
Recall the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. One comes before God with his heart full of pride, thanking God that he’s not a sinner, and bragging about how he keeps the law. The other is so humble and aware of his faults that he can’t even lift up his head. He prays, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Lord makes it plain that it was the tax collector who went home justified before God, not the Pharisee.

What’s the Good in Doing Good?

Easy, but first let’s review the wrong answer to the question. It’s not to improve your standing with God. That’s like a slap in the face to Him. Over and over the bible makes this point. He who never sinned had to die for our sins so we could become righteous like Him. His death redeemed our life, so God could receive us into His presence. It was the only way. Trying to earn our way into God’s presence is saying that He didn’t finish the job.

So What’s The Right Answer?

Why do we want to do good? Out of gratitude. When the motive of your heart is thankfulness to Him, your selfless acts of love shine like a brilliant light in a dark and dying world, and He is glorified. You see it’s not what we do for God, but what He does through us that matters.

“Good” is a term we apply to ourselves without ever considering God’s view. To get the unvarnished version of God’s view read Romans 3:9-20 (actually an illumination of Gen 6:5).

What’s the Point?

The point is this. We really don’t know if bad things happen to good people, because there aren’t any good people to ask. (Maybe we should start wondering why good things happen to bad people!) You can work all your life to be as good as possible. You can strive to live by the standards someone places before you. These are noble goals, and a lot of folks will be blessed for your goodness. But don’t ever get the idea that will make you good enough for God, because when you do you’ve said, “You didn’t need to die for me, I can make it on my own.”

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