The Question of Goodness

As a Christian, have you ever been confronted with questions regarding the goodness of people?  I have.  Many times I’ve heard, “well, I think that most people are good, don’t you?”  It can be difficult to quickly answer such a question.  If I had replied, “yes, most people are good” then I would be rejecting the truth of Christian doctrine.  If I had replied, “no, most people (or all people) are not good” then the non-Christian who asked such a question would most likely get upset and call me names – if not to my face then silently within his or her mind.

One of the Bible verses that can be bothersome to non-Christians is:


Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?”

That verse certainly doesn’t fit the narrative that “most people are good.”

When a guest that we brought to our church stated that it was offensive for the pastor to make the claim that “all people are bad” (because the pastor quoted that verse), I tried to ease the situation by sharing the very next verse:

Jer 17:10

I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

Jesus Christ reiterated this truth about goodness while answering the rich man’s question.

Mat 19:16

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good [fn] Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

(19:17)

NU-Text reads Why do you ask Me about what is good?

(19:17)

NU-Text reads There is One who is good.

Mat 19:17

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? [fn] No one is good but One, that is, God. [fn] But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Mar 10:18

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

Luk 18:19

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

It helps to read the entire account in Matthew 19. We find out that the rich man claimed to “keep the commandments” that Jesus listed. [Notice, “do not lie” wasn’t in the examples]. So the rich man asked, “what do I lack?”

Jesus challenged him even further, knowing that this young rich man was relying on his riches and possessions.

Mat 19:22

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Mat 19:23

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 19:24

“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

You see, we can’t be perfect, as only God is perfect. The Sermon of the Mount challenges us to be perfect, but if we are honest with ourselves, we all fail The Good Test. This is the entire reason why Jesus Christ had to come to this earth to die for our sins, rise from the dead, and tell us our need to be spiritually born again. The Gospel needs to be shared all around the world for the salvation of men.

Back to the goodness question.

I would like to share an essay written back in 2010 at my former blog.  It may help explain the goodness question.

~  Christine

*******

[Originally written October 1, 2010 and updated]

Now, this post will not be an extensive expose’ on “the question of goodness.” That would take many pages. However, what I want to share here may help explain why what man regards as “goodness” within himself, may not be in line with what God describes as Good in His Word.

I realize that non-believers who make the claim of people being good may be thinking in more of a socially acceptable, politically correct motivated type of  reasoning;  which is meant which is meant for the purpose of  bringing people together in a positive way.  I mean, people DO good things in this life.  We all like praise for our good deeds.  We have our good actions and  instances in life.  However, don’t we all need to admit that we also have our bad instances and choices in this life too?  No matter how good someone claims to be (or how good a person acts in front of the public eye),  can any of us match up to the holy and righteous goodness of God?  The Bible says something very different about our “goodness.”

Please see The Good Test at NeedGod.com in order to understand the details about our spiritual condition without Christ.

This week, I started reading Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God written by Francis Chan. I have only completed reading chapter one, but the message fits with this post.

Chan encourages us to stop talking at God for a while and instead, take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word.

I read that section on Wednesday night. By Thursday evening, I was on my way, in traffic and in the rain, to pick up something that I would much rather have picked up on another day. The situation was such that I was told that I must get these items today. [Grrr….!]

During the drive, I said to myself, “If the person asks me ‘how are you today?’ I thought about saying, ‘Do you want a typical response of fine or the truth about how I’m really feeling?'” I had a complete diatribe ready to be unleashed towards the unfortunate person who would be handing me the items that I really didn’t want to pick up in the first place.

My trip already started out bad. First, the road to the freeway was jammed and backed up. Who leaves their house at 5:00 p.m. during rush hour traffic and expects not to hit traffic? Then, it started to rain again on the way there. Next, the sun started to break through the clouds and the glare into the car and on the wet pavement as I was driving west on a side road made it difficult to see. I proceeded to turn left again and traveled the speed limit of 25 mph around a park playground area. My final turn approached and I headed up the hill to my destination. I had just about completed what I was going to say in my mind, but became absolutely awestruck when I witnessed one of the most beautiful (and complete!) rainbows I have ever seen! I chuckled to myself. My heart melted my pride, anger, and annoyance that had built up over the 35 minute ride to my destination. I got out of my car and tried to take a picture of the rainbow with my old and crappy cell phone camera (small voice: complaining again, Chris?) Of course, I could not capture the beauty in a photograph that I was witnessing! A man approached and was saying how awesome the rainbow looked! He asked me my name and went inside to get the items that I came to pick up.

When he and an assistant came back out to the car to put the items in my trunk, he asked, “so how are you today?” “How is your family?” My planned diatribe turned into a confession that some individuals in my family were experiencing difficulty, but God is so good! Look at that rainbow! It is a symbol of His eternal promises for us.”

GodHe’s something isn’t He??? He keeps teaching me every single day. That rainbow was a gentle reminder that I am slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry.

Francis Chan writes:

The wise man comes to God without saying a word and stands in awe of Him. It may seem a hopeless endeavor, to gaze at the invisible God. But Romans 1:20 tells us that through creation, we see His “invisible qualities” and “divine nature.”

I realize that how a rainbow forms can be explained scientifically. But can its beauty be explained? Or, is it a representation of God’s “invisible qualities” and “divine nature?”

Chan goes on to describe how God is holy, God is eternal, God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful and God is fair and just. He quotes Colossians 1:16 – which tells us that everything was created for God: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

Chan asks:

Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?

Wow. That gives each of us a verbal whoopin’ – doesn’t it?!

But the Bible takes it even further:

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” – Daniel 4:35

Chan asks:

Do you really believe that compared to God, “all the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing,” including you?

These are hard sayings. But some might wonder, can it get any worse?

Answer: yes. Just take a look at Chan’s section about God is fair and just:

One definition of justice is “reward and/or penalty as deserved.” If what we truly deserved were up to us, we would end up with as many different answers as people who responded. But it isn’t up to us, mostly because none of us are good.

Let’s hold up here for just a moment.  Chan disagrees with the typical claim that “most people are good.” Again, it is possible that when anyone uses the term “good,”  it is a political term and not in the moral or spiritual sense. We all want to perceive ourselves as good, but compared to Holy God, we are not good.

Chan:

God is the only Being who is good, and the standards are set by Him. Because God hates sin, He has to punish those guilty of sin. Maybe that’s not an appealing standard. But to put it bluntly, when you get your own universe, you can make your own standards. When we disagree, let’s not assume it’s His reasoning that needs correction.

It takes a lot for us to comprehend God’s total hatred for sin. We make excuses like, “Yes, I am prideful at times, but everyone struggles with pride.” However, God says in Proverbs 8:13, “I hate pride and arrogance.” You and I are not allowed to tell Him how much He can hate it. He can hate and punish it as severely as His justice demands.

God never excuses sin. And He is always consistent with that ethic. Whenever we start to question whether God really hates sin, we have only to think of the cross, where His Son was tortured, mocked, and beaten because of sin. Our sin.

No question about it: God hates and must punish sin. And He is totally just and fair in doing so.

In the final segment of Chapter One, Chan describes the reactions of both John in the book of Revelation and Isaiah who saw God on His throne. We learn that there are many facets of God that expand beyond our comprehension. God cannot be contained in this world, explained by our vocabulary, or grasped by our understanding.

I would imagine that each and every one of us will be speechless at first – admiring the King of the Universe with awestruck silence when we see Him! Both John and Isaiah found it difficult to describe seeing God in mere words. They tried to describe Him and the experience in ways that they, and we, could relate to and understand. For example – in Revelation, John describes the One seated on the throne with two gems, “jasper and carnelian,” and the area around the throne as a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

Isaiah describes the seraphim appearing above and said they called out to one another saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Yes! It certainly is! And we only get just a glimpse of His glory in all that He has created!

Recall that Isaiah’s reaction was, “Woe is me…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah didn’t feel worthy. But as the Scriptures report, one of the seraphim touches Isaiah’s mouth with a hot coal and tells him that his guilt is taken away.

Mercy is God withholding what you (we, I) deserve.
Grace is God giving you (us, me) what you don’t deserve.

As Isaiah believed in God the Father and was waiting expectantly for the Savior of the world, he reminds us of what our only response to God’s provision for our salvation – Jesus Christ – should be!
*******

How To Know God Personally [Click on link to discover the principles!]

What does it take to begin a relationship with God? Devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Become a better person so that God will accept you?

You may be surprised that none of those things will work. But God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him.

The following principles will explain how you can personally begin a relationship with God, right now, through Jesus Christ…

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8 Responses to “The Question of Goodness”

  1. GMpilot Says:

    It is one thing to deny that ‘most people are good’. It is quite another to deny that most people are capable of good. Far too many believers conflate the two. Even the bible itself doesn’t go that far!
    Jer 7:10 is a curious verse. An omniscient god does not need to ‘search the heart’ or ‘test the mind’. After all, this is the same god who made such a disclaimer earlier in that very same book.
    Of course we all fail the so-called Good Test. The questions are rigged, and we are set up to fail. Jesus himself probably couldn’t have passed it.
    Chan says ”Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?”
    In my service days I obeyed officers who weren’t obligated to explain their actions to me; arrogance had nothing to do with it. Then again, I wasn’t required to worship them.
    Ezekiel 4:14 is an example–one of several—where a mere man questions the Lord of the Universe’s directions…and the Lord reconsiders!

    During the drive, I said to myself, “If the person asks me ‘how are you today?’ I thought about saying, ‘Do you want a typical response of fine or the truth about how I’m really feeling?'” I had a complete diatribe ready to be unleashed towards the unfortunate person…
    My usual answer to that question is “So far, so good,” because it’s just a social courtesy for people to ask. If my friends ask me that, I’ll tell them without turning it into the six o’clock news. If it’s been a lousy day, I try to remember that they may have had a bad day too, and don’t want to hear about mine. But that has nothing to do with being a ‘good’ person.

    Perhaps my line of reasoning is flawed, but how can a good god make bad people?

    Like

    • christinewjc Says:

      GM,

      You were referring to this verse:

      Jer 1:5

      “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
      Before you were born I sanctified you;
      I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

      How does that rank as a “disclaimer” to “search the heart” and “test the mind?”

      In the Old Testament, prophets were appointed. But they still had the free will choice to disobey. Recall that Jonah fled to Tarshish when he was told by God to go to Nineveh?

      You claim that Jesus Himself couldn’t have passed “The Good Test.” So tell me, which question would He have not passed?

      The term “worship” can mean different things to different people. For instance, many secular people actually “worship” celebrities. But are they worthy of that? The question remains, just Whom is worthy of worship?:

      The term Worthy as it is applied to Jesus is considered “worth-ship,” thus we get the term worship. Scroll down at the BLB link above and pay special attention to the verses in Revelation that tell us that Jesus Christ is the only one worthy to open the scrolls. And Revelation 5:9 and 12 reveals the crux of the matter:

      Rev 5:9

      And they sang a new song, saying:

      “You are worthy to take the scroll,
      And to open its seals;
      For You were slain,
      And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
      Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

      Rev 5:12

      saying with a loud voice:

      “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
      To receive power and riches and wisdom,
      And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

      Like

  2. Cry and Howl Says:

    I might be off a little here, but isn’t there a scripture that says something like: “There is none that doeth good, no, not one…” I think our friend Mr. Pilot misses the mark, because he, as most folks compare themselves by themselves … “I’m not a murderer, so I’m not that bad of a guy” and so on. The point in Christine’s piece is, compared to God and His genuine goodness our good deeds are as filthy rags. There was a man named Daniel who fasted for something like 21 days, seeking an answer from God. This guy was a pretty good guy, even in the eyes of God. Yet when an angel appeared to him he confessed “my comeliness was turned in me into corruption,” and he finally “stood trembling.” The angel called him a man “greatly beloved…” yet in Daniel’s own eyes and mind he was a corrupt man.
    God doesn’t make bad people sir. They choose to be bad and human nature continues a down-ward drawing of the soul just like the gravity of the earth pulls everything down.
    God wants to lift us up … human nature and the powers of evil want to pull us down.
    I know, “if God already knows what choices we’re going to make in our lives, how do we claim to have a free will?”
    It’s because of the lack of the knowledge and ways of God, people cannot grasp the concept of a free moral agent … even though God knows all things … the beginning from the end.
    My suggestion is to read the first 4 verses of Proverbs chapter 2 … do precisely what those 4 verses say and you’ll get to verse 5 … that’s when you’ll find the knowledge of God and understand the fear of the Lord.
    Great piece Christine! Sorry for the lengthy comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinewjc Says:

      Steve! Thank you for answering the “how can a good God make bad people” question is such an excellent way!

      No need to ever apologize for long comments! All that you wrote was needed to make the strong points that you did! I am always so grateful for your input here and thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to post comments when you can!

      The verses you recommended to read are posted below. Scripture is always the last word – and you chose a favorite! Thanks so much!

      Pro 2:1

      My son, if you receive my words,
      And treasure my commands within you,

      Pro 2:2

      So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
      And apply your heart to understanding;

      Pro 2:3

      Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
      And lift up your voice for understanding,

      Pro 2:4

      If you seek her as silver,
      And search for her as for hidden treasures;

      Pro 2:5

      Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
      And find the knowledge of God.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ciria lostaunau Says:

    God is the only one who is good. Our outward actions cannot make us good or holy or any better than the next person. God looks at the There are over 300 Jewish laws that one must follow to be holy and not one could follow all the laws perfectly ever at any point. (But to add to that God looks much further than the outer he looks at the heart, the motives of a man.) On top of striving to obey these laws (which no one could meet that standard), In the O.T., the high priest still had to make a sacrafise fir the sins of the people to make them clean, blood had to be shed. But Even then, our righteousness is like filthy rags in comparison to a Perfect and HolyGod who cannot sin. Only the blood of Jesus can we be made clean. Its very humbling because at t h e core of every man’s being is pride and this eats away at our flesh. But something we all need to hear daily to rely on Jesus. Christine, beautiful blog thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinewjc Says:

      Dear Ciria!

      Very well said and so true! I like how you shared that the sacrifices in the Temple in the Old Testament were only temporary – and had to be done over and over again. Such sacrifices were just a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.

      The shed blood of Jesus Christ at the cross was the final sacrifice, and He is the way, the truth and the life. No one can see the Father except through Him!

      And you are right – we all need to hear and read God’s Word daily and rely on Jesus! I always get filled up with truth, hope, faith, and love when I focus on Him and His Word, and not on the “things of the world.”

      Thank you so much for coming to my blog and commenting! I look forward to many more comments from you!

      Like

  4. For It Is Written… | Talk Wisdom Says:

    […] Talk Wisdom's goal is to defend the tenets and values of Biblical Christian faith. We defend our Constitutional Republic and Charters of Freedom, especially when speaking out against destructive social and political issues. As followers of our Savior and Lord, we should boldly stand up for Jesus Christ in our present circumstances. He is our Savior, Lord, and King, and His love needs to be shed abroad in our hearts and in our world – now. « The Question of Goodness […]

    Like

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