“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His loving-kindness is everlasting.”
– Psalm 107:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… and it was good. I remember when I was little, I sat down with my grandparents for a time of Bible Study and we decided to start in the beginning – the book of Genesis. If you know anything about my grandpa, you know that he likes to pay attention to the details. He loves picking up on little inconsistencies in movies and TV shows – always noticing if the clock jumps ahead or if someones shoe color is different in one scene than in the next. As we read through the first chapter of Genesis, He said, “You know what’s interesting? After everything God created, He always said ‘it was good’ but after He created mankind, He said ‘it was very good.'” I don’t remember how old I was when he made that observation, but it has stuck with me ever since. Creation was good, but when God created us in His image, it was very good.
Goodness is a broad term that we use a lot, but often have difficulty explaining or defining. What makes someone or something good? The Strong’s dictionary defines goodness as “virtue or beneficence” and the Thayer’s dictionary defines it as “uprightness of heart and life.” We know from Scripture that all good things come from God. In Mark 10:18, even Jesus Himself says, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except for God alone.” In Romans 7:18-19, Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
Good vs. Evil
Good is often explained in direct opposition to what is bad or what is evil. In fact, the reason most people turn from their faith is because they can’t understand how a good God could create evil. They doubt that God is truly good, because they don’t understand why bad things happen to good people. I think it’s important for us to recognize that God did not create evil. When we go back and read the account of creation, we see that everything God created was good. When God created light and saw that it was good, what did He do? He separated it from the darkness. Evil exists in this world because sin exists in this world. Sin came into this world when Adam and Eve disobeyed the instruction of God and made the decision to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God knew that if they ate from the tree, they would die in their sins. He wanted to protect them from evil. He wanted to protect them from death. But He wanted them to have the freewill to make their own decisions – and they chose death. They chose to know evil, because they wanted to be like God, knowing all things.
Scripture tells us time and time again to overcome evil with good:
Romans 12:1 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:9 says “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
The sinfulness of our humanity cannot be described as good, but we are still capable of goodness because we are still created in the image of a good God. He is goodness defined, and He created us to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” He’s prepared us, He’s given us all we need to live a life of goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Jesus showed us that goodness is possible. He showed us what a good life in human flesh looks like. He’s equipped us and empowered us to live a life of goodness. We can’t use our human flesh to justify our evil actions, because Jesus showed us what a life without sin looks like, and He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson writes, “In the light of Jesus’ life we come to realize that our problem is not that we are “only human” but that we are not human enough. Blaming our shortcomings on our humanity, therefore, makes a mockery not only of the life of Jesus but also of the lives of those saints throughout the ages who have sought to be human in the ways that He was human.”
We often have a hard time understanding the full magnitude of goodness because we have underplayed it’s importance for so long. Someone asks us how our day was or how we are feeling and we automatically respond with a simple “good” – without giving much thought as to why it was good or what made it good. Often we’ll say we had a good day when in fact our day was actually pretty average, and we’ll say we’re feeling good when actually haven’t felt all that great. Overtime good starts to feel less and less good. In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson says, “If one is merely decent, one is increasingly considered good.” He uses the story of the Good Samaritan to support this. He says that the man we call the Good Samaritan, was not actually called “good” by Jesus. When you go back and read the story, you’ll see that Jesus actually refers to him as a “certain” Samaritan – because what this man did was something any decent human being should have done. However, as Kenneson says, “we regard him as good as if what he did was exceptional or heroic.”
Our human goodness cannot be compared to the goodness of our God. As Titus 2:14 says, our God “…gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” If we want to live godly lives, we must eager to do what is good. The path to goodness is a path of righteousness, justice, and fairness (Proverbs 2:9). This is not an easy path. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we learn that in the last days, people will hate what is good. They will hate goodness because goodness is not self-serving. Goodness, like the love of God, is sacrificial. As 2 Timothy 3:5 says, these people will have a form of godliness, but will deny it’s power. We are commanded to avoid these people. The fruit of these people is fake. It looks good on the outside, but there is nothing of substance on the inside. There is no nutritional value. If we bite into this type of spiritual fruit, the effects can be toxic and harmful for our spiritual growth and development.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'”
– 1 Corinthians 15:33
Good Fruit vs. Bad Fruit
Have you ever heard the saying, “One bad fruit ruins the whole bunch?” It’s true. We need to surround ourselves with good people who speak goodness into our lives, and set positive examples of goodness for us to imitate. If we surround ourselves with negativity, negativity will corrupt and corrode our character. People who declare themselves to be Christians but do not live in a way that imitates the life of Christ are creating a bad name for all Christians. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How much love is being displayed in our words and in our actions? Are we truly living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved? What image of Jesus are we painting for this world to see?
We are known by our fruit. If you say you had a good day, but your face doesn’t reflect it – people know. If you say God is good, but don’t live as if you know it’s true – people see that. If we want to be good, we have to do good. Out of the overflow of our heart, the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:33-35 says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” If we fill our heart with goodness, goodness will flow out in our actions. If we plant goodness deep within, then goodness will spring forth. If we practice good works, then we’ll be strengthened to do good works. We’ll recognize opportunities for goodness. We’ll see with more clarity the opportunities God puts before us to be good and to do good. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” and 2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us “Therefore, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” Our good actions reveal the goodness of our God and the goodness of His love. Our good actions build good character within us. The Samaritan man Jesus spoke of was just a man, but his actions spoke of his character. The fruit of his actions spoke of the content of his heart. He is recognized and remembered as being good, because He made the conscious decision to do good.
If Jesus had told that parable today, what would you be remembered for?
In Acts 11:24, Barnabas was remembered as being “… a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith” who helped bring numerous people to the Lord.
In Titus 1:8, goodness is listed as one of the qualifications for a church leader. They are required to be “…hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.”
In a world that is filled with evil, let us choose goodness. Let us do good. Let us be good. Let us live good lives that imitate the good life our Savior lived. Let us always strive to be more like Jesus.