Trying to understand what it means to be good is harder than trying to nail down what it means to be loved. Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lists 58 meanings and usages for the word. Talk about too much information! The first definition may be the slipperiest of the lot: “morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, pious.”
If a person’s worldview includes the Creator God, then he set the standard with his creative work, which he deemed, “good.” Unfortunately, his perfect, good creation was ruined when Adam and Eve broke the one rule God gave them. They ate the forbidden fruit – the first sin or “wrong” against God. Consequently, God cursed the snake, the woman, the man, and the universe that was no longer perfect. The good that remains in this world is a mere shadow of the Eden it once was.
But let’s consider the behavioral aspect of goodness. The economic worldview suggests something of value given by both parties. So goes the thinking that “good behavior” is the work exchanged for eternity in heaven. One weakness in that thought is disconnecting it from belief in God. How can goods works be done for someone they don’t believe exists? They would not. They would do them for themselves. Psalm 16:2, (ESV) states, “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”” That is, only the good done in faith toward God can be good. Jesus amplifies the point that even a believer is not “good” in the sense of the perfection required for the economic way to heaven. He says, ” And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”” (Matthew 19:16-17, ESV). Here we see Jesus as the only one who is good – God himself.
The emerging worldview on goodness comes from the humanist philosophy, which says that persons define it for themselves. Each person decides what good means in a particular situation, realizing that other persons may see it differently. Sadly, much confusion and contention come when good and bad, right and wrong have no absolute standard or metric. Especially, truth becomes elusive when that position devolves to its final endpoint.
Thankfully, God’s Word, the Holy Bible is truth. It not only contains truth but is truth. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV) So it seems the options for understanding good comes to two choices. First, the truth-based definition of “good” from God that only things done for him in faith are good. Furthermore, God’s word gives commands to follow God’s will so that one can objectively know what is good and what is not. The option is the fully subjective, humanist way of letting anyone define good anytime, regardless of what other people think. That kind of good is impossible to capture. It just keeps shifting according to the whims of the one in charge at the time.
It seems so much easier to just follow God’s definition of good. The economic model breaks down. Figuring out good by some big consensus consumes time and energy and leads in no single direction. That leaves … God’s good – done in faith – leads to knowing and following the way to heaven.