“…but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”Philemon 1:14
One of my mom’s favorite passages of scripture to quote is Mark 10:18b:
“No one is good except God alone.”
Now, she says it ironically much of the time, but have you ever stopped to think what that verse really means?
I feel that “Goodness” as a quality of the Spirit is severely under-understood.
We say it when we rattle off the fruits of the Spirit, but do we ever truly consider what it means to be “good” separate from all of the other fruits?
As we’ve seen in the other posts in this series, each fruit has its own characteristics separate from each other.
Love is focused on intention and sacrifice. We talked about God’s love for us and how that was exhibited through the sacrifice of His Son.
Joy, we learned, is more than just an expression of happiness. It’s found in our souls, a satisfaction of the Holy Spirit within us.
Peace comes from a place of repentance and contentment. An understanding of God is necessary for attaining it.
Patience is quiet, it needs time.
Kindness is a generous orientation of our hearts towards other people. It is selfless acts in cases of possible suffering.
(We’ll learn about the characteristics of faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in coming posts.)
But what about goodness? What characteristics come with “being good?”
To understand this, let’s first look at how we view goodness in everyday life.
Good as the World Views It
When you think of what it means to be a good person, what usually comes to mind?
Do you think of people like, say, Mother Teresa? Ghandi or maybe a celebrity, like Hugh Jackman?
Do acts such as giving blood, donating to a cause, or running a 5k for charity come to mind?
When the world thinks about what is good, they usually weigh their options based on personal experience or what benefits come with each individual action.
This often leads to a belief that simply “doing good” is enough to claim you a seat in Heaven.
But good deeds are not the same as goodness.
Good deeds are random acts of goodwill. They are indeed good, but they don’t stem from the will of God.
In other words, doing good isn’t enough. We must do good with good intent, with the intent of God.
But how do we “be good?”
Goodness comes from God. It is part of Him, and we can only have the fruit of goodness through Him.
“…for it is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13
It is not us who do good works, but God (The Spirit) through us.
God Alone is Good
As Mark wrote the words of Jesus, “No one is good except God alone,” I wonder if he ever stopped to think about what that actually means.
We often consider ourselves good in comparison to those around us. We don’t cheat, lie, steal, or cuss as much as other fallen humans, so we’re good people … right?
But other people aren’t the standard, God is.
As followers of Christ, our sins are more insulting to God than the sins of unbelievers.
We know the standard, we know our God, and yet we still intentionally, and knowingly sin against Him.
Thankfully, we’re not relying on our own goodness, but the goodness of a loving and forgiving God.
The Goodness of God
“For how great is His goodness, and how great His beauty!”Zechariah 9:17
In order to know the characteristics of goodness, we must first understand the characteristics of God.
It’s easy to think of God as powerful, all knowing, judge, and love. Goodness, however, has its own implications.
Good is a moral quality; it is contrasted with evil. So God, being good, is contrasted to evil as well.
He is the exact opposite of evil, of sin, and of wrong.
Psalms 145 paints a picture of God’s moral goodness:
“The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works.
The Lord upholds those who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.”
God’s righteous goodness is incomparable, and honestly I don’t believe that we can fully describe or comprehend how great it is in human terms.
We may be “good” in the eyes of unbelievers, but when we are put next to the reflection of God, we aren’t even close.
So yes, God alone is good, because only God can be perfectly sinless.
In John 10:11, God is described as the good shepherd.
A shepherd would have been a familiar example to pretty much everyone Jesus spoke to during His time on earth, but since it’s a little more unfamiliar for us today, I’ll explain.
A shepherd takes care of his flock, makes sure they’re fed and watered and picks up the sheep when they fall.
He guides them when they’re lost, he fights off predators, and they know his voice.
They follow him, and they trust that with him they’ll be safe.
That’s what God is to us. He is our good shepherd, and we are his faithful sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”John 10:11
Jesus laid down His life for us, sacrificing His life so that we may live. He saved us when the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord appeared.
We’re Commanded to do Good
But if God alone is good, then how can we obey His command to be good?
How can we possibly be good if God and God alone is the only one who can be deemed as “good?”
We need to understand one concept that gets misinterpreted by thousands of non-Christians and Christians alike.
God isn’t commanding us to be good. He is commanding us to do good.
We, as fallible humans, are susceptible to sin. We grow and learn what is acceptable and good, but we can never be good itself.
This is why God is the only one capable of being good. He is unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
“For I the Lord do not change”Mal 3:6a
So, how do we, as fallible christians, do good?
We do good deeds the same way we love, the same way we practice patience, discernment, kindness, or any other virtue of the character of God.
We are made in the image of God and thus have the capability to do good, through Him.
And the best way to understand the character of God is by developing a relationship with Him and studying His word.
Apart from God nothing can be truly good, but with Him we can at least do good.
How do we do Good?
There are a few passages of scripture that illustrate for us what goodness ought to look like.
1 Peter 1:5-8 is one of those passages that help with recognizing goodness:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Goodness doesn’t stand on its own.
It is built up of so many other qualities that work together to create goodness.
In other words, goodness comes out of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These seven characteristics build a biblical definition for the moral quality of “good.”
Romans 12:9-21 spells out the “Marks of the True Christian,” concluding with the verse “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This insinuates that the Marks of the True Christian are the good that overcomes evil.
The basic theme of the whole section is unity:
- Caring for those who need it
- Rejoicing with those who rejoice
- Weeping with those who weep
- Forgiving those who’ve fallen
The passage also says to outdo one another in showing honor, to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and to be constant in prayer.
Trust in the Lord and Do Good
“Trust in the Lord and do good; well in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:3-4
Nothing, not one single thing that we are called to do by Christ is possible without His Spirit.
He is our Shepherd, guiding us toward the Father, bearing suffering and temptation for our sakes, and sacrificing Himself for us.
If we trust in Him, we can obey His commands. If we dwell in His promises, hold onto His faithfulness, and delight ourselves in Him above all else, He will give us the desires of our hearts. He will give us the desire to obey Him, to love Him, to enjoy Him, and to do good.
Christ is the ultimate example of good, and how better to honor that than to pray to Him for guidance.
A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats
I sincerely pray that all of you would desire to do good. I pray that the God of all goodness and righteousness would shine His Spirit inside of you so powerfully, and so brightly, that you can’t be blind to His beautiful glory.
I also pray for your safety, your health, and your families during this time of uncertainty. We are not under the power of this virus, for God is above all things, but it is still a scary situation that we are facing and I pray that you can find joy, hope, and peace every day.
I pray that this time of isolation becomes a time of reuniting between your mind and God. I pray that through all of this, Christians around the world would be praying for each other, building each other up, and looking upward to God.
Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict
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