For Goodness Sake
By Mark Anderson
“He was a good man.” “She was a good wife, daughter and mother.” “He did a lot of good in his life.” You might hear these, and other expressions of esteem, as you listen to a eulogy at someone’s funeral. The speaker lists the many virtues, character traits, and noteworthy acts of the deceased person, usually highlighting only the positive ones.
But what does “good” really mean in this context? In Mark 10:17-18, we read, “And as he (Jesus) was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” Jesus’ use of the word “good” in this passage seems to contradict the way that the eulogist uses it. If God alone is good, how could any man or woman be good?
In another Scripture passage, Jesus, telling the parable of the talents, described a master who entrusted his property to his servants as he was departing on a journey. After returning from the trip, the master commended one of his servants who had traded his talents to gain more talents, saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21 ESV).
The use of the word “good” in these two passages appears to be contradictory. Clearly, Jesus was not saying that no man can do good, but to say that we are good may not be truly accurate. Maybe it could help to look at other Bible verses that include this word to see if they can shed some light on the topic.
Seven Bible verses about “good:”
1. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21
2. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20
3. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:5
4. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-25
5. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31
6. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! –Psalm 34:8
7. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
Obviously, the Bible contains a variety of forms and meanings of the word “good.” How might you apply this wonderful and biblical word, “good,” to your life this week?
Mark Anderson lives in Bluffton with his wife and one of his four children and attends LowCountry Community Church. The family recently moved from the Baltimore area, after Mark retired from a career with the federal government. He enjoys writing, walking on the beach, and spending time with new friends.