What image comes to mind when you think of the word “good”? Is it a delicious meal and great conversation with the people you love? Is it taking in a beautiful sunrise with that first cup of coffee in your hand? Is it that dream vacation, or watching your little one sleep so peacefully in their crib? A good book? Camping with your besties?
All of these things are good. God, the Creator, gave us all these enjoyable gifts and they are so good! Except for camping. And you.
Ok, fine. And me.
Have you ever heard the riddle “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
I call it a riddle because the answer is actually a little bit tricky:
There are no good people.
God says even our most righteous deeds are like really gross rags. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? Sign me up to volunteer at the soup kitchen, Bob!
Some of us are nicer than others, sure. But we are all sinners, and God’s standard of goodness is…perfection. Good luck with that. That’s why Jesus had to die in our place: without his sacrifice, none of us would be looking forward to eternity in the presence of God. Nope, not even Mother Teresa. She lied in second grade (ok, I’m just guessing, but we know she sinned because she’s human!).
Still, as Christians, we are called to be good, because God is good. Goodness is the sixth attribute of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.
So what does the Bible say about goodness? Here are some verses to help us get an idea:
This list is certainly not exhaustive (exhausting, maybe). The Bible is full of instruction for how we are to live. The best way to keep growing in goodness is to read God’s word, ask for his help through prayer, and to surround yourself with other believers who will hold you accountable and walk beside you.
I do see two things we can focus on, though.
1. Get rid of sin.
God hates sin. As his children, we need to hate it, too. Paul says in Hebrews we must throw off every sin that entangles us and trips us up (paraphrase). How do we know what sin is? Even some churches have become wishy-washy on sin lately in an attempt to seem more relevant, or tolerant, or whatever, so we have to go straight to God’s word. The Bible is not wishy -washy on sin. Jesus died for it.
Here is one list of things God considers the opposite of good..what’s that word?…evil! It is actually listed in contrast to the verse on the good fruits of the Spirit we’ve been studying.
Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 are also a good place to look to see what we should not be taking part in.
No one wants to hear this. I know. But I would be a bad friend and more concerned with your approval than your eternal salvation if I didn’t say it. God says those who love him obey him, and that people living in unrepentant sin will not be with him in heaven.
We will not be perfect! But we are called to be like our Father, and he is holy. Thankfully, he is patient, and he helps us do it. Isn’t he good?
2. Do good to those around you.
Jesus met the physical needs of the people around him.
We need to do that, too. We start in the family of believers, as Galatians 6:10 instructs us. How beautiful it is when the church functions as an actual family, helping one another whenever a need arises. Meal trains for new mamas, paying bills for someone who’s lost their job, babysitting, helping each other with big projects, not pretending you’re dead when someone needs help moving. It’s so great to have a group of people you can depend on, no matter what, through life’s ups and downs.
So we start in the church, but we don’t just stay there! Too often we become inward-focused within our churches, with programs and studies and committees, but we are called to be salt and light in this world . How can we do that if we never interact with other people? Bible studies are great, and we need to study God’s word, but James tells us bluntly we need to not only be “hearers of the word” but “doers of the word”.
So how can we be more like Jesus, who came into this world not to be served, but to serve? There are an infinite number of things we could do. More than likely, you have a heart for a certain group of people who need someone to come alongside them and show them the love of Christ.
But we have to get out there. Find a ministry that moves your heart, and get uncomfortable.
As we meet physical needs, we do so with the fervent hope that these people we minister to will join the family of God. This is the chief end of our service: that they would see the love of God, hear the gospel, and get their deepest need met: to be saved from the consequences of their sin: eternal separation from God. Every meal, every sacrifice of time, money, and energy, is in the hope of people moving from death to life.
The Bible makes it clear. Christians must pursue goodness (holiness) in our personal lives, and pursue goodness (service) by taking care of the people around us. Both are of utmost importance to our God.
Can you imagine what the church would look like if we were consistently killing sin in our lives, loving one another well, and were committed to doing good in our community?
If each church functioned as it were meant to, providing for the needs of its members and the community, there would be no one left behind. People all over would be known, cared for, fed, clothed, and housed. This is the church’s job, not the government’s. And many would give thanks to God, become believers, and let go of sin, growing in the love and knowledge of Christ. By God’s grace, these new family members would turn back around and bring the next person in.
Sounds good to me.