What does good mean?
We’re asking this question because last week, we talked about what bad is. We talked abbot how when we ask about bad things, we are interpreting bad through our understanding of bad.
And bad things, tend to be those things that impact us personally. Usually somethings bad because it doe snot sit well with me, or it hurts me in some way. And one person’s bad is not necessarily someone else's. If a person gets robbed it’s bad, but to the robber it might not be.
It’s the same thing with good. One person’s good isn’t necessarily someone else’s good. And so when we ask the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people” what is the qualification of a good person?
Are they selfless? Are they helpful? Are they caring? Are they generous?
Do you know who Mahatma Ghandi is? In the early 1900s he was a civil rights leader who helped get South Africa and India independent of British rule. Many people praise Ghandi as a peaceful man, and hold him up as an example of humanities goodness. But the reality is, he was far from the man he’s remembered as.
First, he was racist toward black Africans. When talking about black Africans he would use the racial slur Kaffirs, which is like saying the “N” word in English. And at the beginning of his civil rights career he wasn’t looking for independence, but rather a higher social standing that was above the black Africans.
Second, it is said that he exploited the young women around him. Having them massage him while naked, and sleep next to him naked. Though he said he did not sleep with them. But it wasn’t just the young girls that Ghandi had naked, but young boys as well. At the Age of 77 Ghandi had two 18 year old girls sleep in his bed.
Ghandi has said that fathers have the right to kill their daughters if the dishonor them. Woman are responsible for sexual assaults carried out on them. And many believe that he was physical abusive to his wife, who eventually died from disease because Ghandi wouldn’t allow her the treatment she needed. (https://allthatsinteresting.com/gandhi-facts-quotes-dark-side#20)
All this, yet people raise Ghandi up as what a good human should be. If Ghandi is the best humanity has to offer, then we’re in trouble.
Yet we tend to think that we are good. That we are at least better than someone else. And the older we get the less we can see the flaws in our own lives.
That’s just like a guy that comes to Jesus. He’s a young guy that has it all at the time. I want us to read Jesus’ conversation with this right young guy.
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
It all starts with the word good. “Good teacher…” the man asks, and Jesus gives us this strange reply, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
In that reply Jesus says two important things. The first is, the standard by which someone is good is only God. God is the standard by which we can know if something is good or not. And what is that standard? Well, we have to read the first two chapters of the Bible. What is good, is everything God made at the beginning. And because he only made good, it also gives us what is bad. And that is, everything he didn't’ make.
So first, Jesus tells us the standard of good is only God, and no human has reached that standard.
The second thing that Jesus’ reply tells us is that he accepts the title of Good teacher even though it can only refer to God. In other words, Jesus acknowledging that he is God and is good, because he doesn’t tell the man, “No one is good except God, so don't’ call me God.”
So now, not only do we know that the standard of goodness is God, but Jesus’ life shows us what goodness is, because he is God.
Now here’s the rest of the interaction. The man wants to know what he needs to do, so Jesus goes through the ten commandments. Except Jesus doesn’t, he only goes through the last five. The man says he has done all those things, so Jesus smacks him with the first five.
See the last five commands all have to do with being good to the people around you. But the first give have to deal with being good as God sees it. Anyone can bee good to people around them, because they can benefit form that, just like this young guy has become rich keeping those last five commandments. But the first five, means that you have to live as God wants you to live. That means you put him first, even as your standard of good.
When Jesus challenges the young man to get rid of his possessions and follow him (i.e. God), the man turns away. His standard of good was himself, and when he had to move beyond himself it showed that his standard wasn’t good but was based in selfish motivation.
This is why the prophet Isaiah said this, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
In other words, even our best goodness, is nothing to compared to God’s goodness.
So when we ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people”, the reality is, are there even any good people? So what is bad? What is good? From a human perspective there’s no concrete answer. But since we’re asking God the question, we have to go with his standard, which means he is the only one who is good, and we’re not.
So really the question is this, “Why does God allow our badness to continue in this world? And when we ask that question, then we can find the answer that God is ready to answer.
And next week, we’ll tackle that. But for now, I want us to think through and struggle with this question of “Am I truthful with myself that I’m not as good as I think I am?” Let’s pray