Summary: We usually think of good as excellence, or good as effective purpose. Goodness has become individualized. We evaluate good or evil by evaluating the impact that one person has on other persons. When you and I determine good or evil, we compare imperfect p
Opening illustration: She thinks that because she made some bad choices in high school that a few actions make her a bad person. To look at her, she’s an all-American girl. She’s pretty, kind to small animals, lives in a nice home, drives a reliable car, and wears sensible shoes. But she thinks she is a bad person. Ironically, she thinks the world is good. She is on one end of the three types of people in the world: those who think the world is basically good, those who think it is bad, and those who fall somewhere in between. Because she thinks the world is a good place, her self-identity will not allow her to fit into such a good world. And so she smiles, greets people, is very friendly, but she wonders if she can ever be a good person.
Across town there lives an older man who thinks the world is a terrible place. He hates all the violence in the world, even though he watches it on Fox News all day long. He talks about young people in gross stereotypes even though he doesn’t really know any. He’s mean to small animals, lives in a messy home, drives a beat up car, and wears uncomfortable shoes. He sleeps with a .357 under his pillow sure that one day someone will break into his home. He thinks the world doesn’t stand a chance. But he thinks he’s a good person.
Most of us fall somewhere in between; and most of us want to know how to be good. Maybe it is too simplistic, but I have noticed that people who think the world is a bad place often think of themselves as good people. But too often self-proclaimed “goodness” comes across as self-righteousness. And I don’t think God looks at that and calls it good. I have also noticed that some people who think the world is a good place at times have low self-esteem. And I don’t think God looks at self-loathing and calls that good.
But scratch all that. I just want to know what it means to be good. I know that most people say of other people, “He’s a good man” or “She’s a good person.” No preacher slides into the seat behind the pulpit at a funeral and says, “This guy was a real heel.” It’s led many to believe that only good people die. You never read an obituary that announces, “Finally she died. People hated being around her.” So what is it to be good? I know what we say. I know how we use the word “good.” But what does it take for God to look at something and say, “That is good.”
Start at creation and the answer is quite simple: That which God calls “good” is what He makes. If you want to be good, start praying that God will daily shape you in His image. God made the giraffe, the hickory tree, and the Amazon River and said, “That’s good.” But does He look at me like He looked at Adam and say, “Very good”?
Let us look at 1 Peter 3: 8 – 17 and see what God really believes to be good and whether we line up to it.
Introduction: Goodness is the fruit that virtue and the rest of characters combine to produce endearment. It is the character that makes people liked and even lovable by others. It is what is attractive and luring, that catches people’s attention and respect. This is the quintessential element that attracts people to you and finds and keeps friends. It builds marriages and shows God’s love to others around us. It is virtue in action; it is being a role model and putting into practice excellence in all that we do to God and others. Goodness enables us to be liked and enjoyed, even if an enemy comes against us (Proverbs 25: 22). It is the taste of what is to come, the flavor of how we are to be (Psalm 34:8; 119:103). It is our expression of worship and gratitude to Christ played out in our lives, so we can enjoy Him and He can enjoy us, and so that life can be more enjoyable for all.
Old Testament: The Hebrew word for good is tayub and has about the same range of meaning as the English and Greek words. Simple concordance work shows this. Various enlightening illustrations will be discussed below, but first a point needs to be made that the original languages do not open up any great insights on this word. The first place in the Old Testament where something is called good is Genesis 1. As God spoke into existence each phase of creation, He saw that it was good. What does this mean? How could it have been bad or evil? I believe the point here involves expected function. God’s creation did what He intended it to do. It accomplished its purpose. It met His expectations. And that is one of the basic ideas of the goodness the Spirit wants to manifest in our lives.