Shouldn’t “Being Good” Be Good Enough?
WHAT a fine world it would be if everyone alive were truly good! No one, regardless of sex or age, would need to be afraid of being mugged, raped, or abused. Prisons would be nonexistent, and there would be no policemen, no military men. Yes, what a fine world it would be!
Admittedly, under present conditions, to expect such a world appears quite unrealistic. Still, people who strive to lead good lives are praiseworthy. Their efforts may seem to bear little fruitage in creating a better world, but at least they are not contributing to its becoming worse.
But is “being good” good enough? Perhaps that would please our friends and neighbors, but is it good enough to please our Creator? Persons desirous of gaining God’s approval would like to know.
What Is Meant by “Being Good”?
“He’s a good child” often means scarcely more than that he is not bad, that is to say, not noted for doing bad things. But when used in a religious sense, being good would have to include more. Why?
Beyond denial, many atheists, agnostics, and unreligious people are morally good. They are not noted for doing bad things. But is their being good in this sense good enough to please the Creator, whose very existence they reject, doubt, or choose to ignore? Obviously not.
Thus, accurate knowledge of what God considers good is necessary, lest we, “because of not knowing the righteousness of God” seek “to establish [our] own.” (Romans 10:1-3) This would be a mistake, because human standards of righteousness—what we consider to be good—fall seriously short of the divine standard.
During his earthly ministry, God’s Son Jesus Christ indicated what this divine standard of good is. A rich young man asked him: “What good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” The report of their conversation is most revealing. We read: “‘Observe the commandments continually.’ He said to him: ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said: ‘Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him: ‘I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?’ Jesus said to him: ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.’ When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.”—Matthew 19:16-22.
Especially in view of today’s laxity in morals and social behavior, would you not consider this man to have been good? He had never murdered, never committed adultery, never stolen, never borne false witness, never failed to honor his parents or to love his neighbor as himself.
But Jesus indicated that this man’s being good was not good enough. Something was still lacking, something that kept his being good from being perfect, or complete. What? Self-sacrificing love for God that would motivate him to become Christ’s follower. Self-sacrificing love that would also cause him to participate actively in preaching God’s Kingdom, the work that Jesus was training his followers to do. Since the scripture says that this man “was holding many possessions,” it is quite possible that they occupied much of his time. By following Jesus’ practical advice to rid himself of these material possessions, distributing them to the poor, he would be relegating material interests to a position of lesser importance than spiritual ones. This would permit him to keep on “seeking first the kingdom” with far fewer distractions.—Matthew 6:33.
So being good in God’s sight means more than just refraining from doing bad. It means actively doing good by being Christ’s follower. This would include bearing “witness to the truth” about God and his purposes, making ‘his name manifest’ to others, as well as zealously defending him in the face of false charges and lies, even as Jesus did. (John 17:4, 6; 18:37) It would also mean “the sharing of things with others.”—Hebrews 13:15, 16.
How to Become Better Than Just Good
Since being good is not good enough, what must we do to become better? Luke 10:38-42 offers us a hint. There we read: “A certain woman named Martha received him [Jesus] as guest into the house. This woman also had a sister called Mary, who, however, sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties. So, she came near and said: ‘Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me.’ In answer the Lord said to her: ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
What does this conversation reveal? Although administering to Jesus in a physical way was commendable, listening to his teachings, thus showing proper appreciation for spiritual matters, was even more so. What Martha did was good. But at that particular moment not good enough. So, what Mary did was better.
This placing of emphasis upon spiritual values, in contrast with physical or material ones, was also stressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. He said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.”—Matthew 5:3.
Do you know any good people who, despite being so, are not particularly “conscious of their spiritual need”? You may. In fact, you may even realize that you yourself are one of them. If so, you would be wise to put forth effort to learn God’s standard for good by turning your attention to spiritual things.
By doing so you can have the prospect of living to see God’s new system of things soon to be established earth wide. There, no one will ever again run the risk of being mugged, or be afraid of being raped or abused. There will be no more prisons. Nor will there be policemen or military men—for these will have found more rewarding employment.