The Endearing Quality of Goodness
GOODNESS is moral excellence, virtue or the state of being good, wholesome. This quality can have real heart appeal. It has tremendous power to move people to do what is good and beneficial for others. According to the Bible, goodness is a fruit of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22) Rightly, then, God is the ultimate standard of goodness.
An incident in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry emphasizes this important fact. A rich young man addressed him as “Good Teacher,” and then asked, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” In reply, Jesus Christ directed the young man’s attention to God, saying: “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God.”—Mark 10:17, 18.
As the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ did possess moral excellence or goodness. However, he did not accept “Good” as part of a title, for he himself was only conforming to the ultimate standard of goodness, that originating with his Father. In refusing to accept “Good” as part of a title, Jesus Christ glorified his Father as the real standard of goodness.—Compare John 7:16-18.
IMITATE GOD’S GOODNESS
Like Jesus Christ, we should be concerned about imitating God’s goodness. This we can do only if we appreciate how Jehovah God has shown goodness to humankind.
The very fact that the human race exists testifies to God’s goodness. This earth is marvelously equipped to sustain life. Even thankless and unappreciative people benefit from God’s generous provisions.—Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:32-35; Acts 17:25.
The Bible shows that Jehovah God could withhold vital sunshine and rain from those not serving him. Yet, in his goodness, he has very rarely used this power, and then only for a limited time and for a specific purpose. (Ex. 10:23; Amos 4:7; Jas. 5:17, 18) As the apostle Paul pointed out to inhabitants of ancient Lystra: “He did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.” (Acts 14:17) Not God, but imperfect human systems are responsible for hindering millions of persons today from benefiting to the full from his bountiful provisions.
Besides making it possible for mankind to live, Jehovah God provided the basis for freeing us from sin and death. This he did at tremendous cost to himself, giving his firstborn Son in our behalf and allowing him to give his life as a ransom. Jehovah God was certainly under no obligation to do this. No human was entitled to this redemption and its benefits as something earned. This is so because, despite our best efforts, we fall short of God’s standard of goodness and righteousness.
Emphasizing God’s great love and goodness in providing his Son as a ransom, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (5:6-8): “Christ, while we were yet weak, died for ungodly men at the appointed time. For hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
From the way in which Jehovah God has manifested goodness, we can see that this is a positive quality. It involves doing good and beneficial things even toward those who may be thankless and unappreciative.
One who imitates God’s goodness goes beyond what mere justice would require of him. While being just, impartial, honest and morally upright, the “good man” is also warm, understanding and sympathetic. He really cares about people. He looks for opportunities to express kindness and consideration, willingly and eagerly aiding those in real need. Appreciating that Jehovah God gave his Son in behalf of the world of mankind, the “good man” wants others to receive the benefits of the ransom provision and, therefore, exerts himself vigorously in efforts to help others to come into an approved relationship with the Creator.
A “good man” stands out in sharp contrast to a stickler for rules and regulations. This is well illustrated in the case of Jesus Christ and the religious leaders of Judaism in the first century C.E. For example, on seeing a man with a withered hand on the sabbath, Jesus Christ took pity on him and restored his hand. The religious leaders, however, were enraged, viewing this cure as a violation of traditional sabbath observance. Adherence to their view of right made them hard and unfeeling toward a man in need. (Luke 6:8-11) Obviously the self-righteous attitude of the religious leaders had no warmth, no appeal. In fact, it violated the spirit of God’s Word.
But what of the person who simply fulfills his obligations out of a sense of duty? As is evident from Romans 5:6-8, even when he is right, he does not especially endear himself to others. People may respect his fairness, perhaps even admire his standing on principle. But they would not be moved to sacrifice for him, let alone give up their life in his behalf.
It would be different with a “good man.” He is actively interested in others and works unselfishly in their behalf, not looking for any reward nor according to himself special considerations. His unselfishly giving of himself appeals to the hearts of others. It makes them want to do good things for him. As Jesus Christ pointed out: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.”—Luke 6:38.
The apostle Paul certainly applied these words. Reviewing his activity with elders of the Ephesus congregation, he said: “Bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me. I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”—Acts 20:31, 33-35.
By his example in displaying goodness, Paul had endeared himself to those elders. Faced with the possibility of never seeing him again in the flesh, they wept profusely as they “fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.”—Acts 20:37, 38.
When considering what Jehovah God has done for us, we, like the apostle Paul, should want to imitate his goodness. To this end, may we look for opportunities to work for the good of others, unselfishly giving of ourselves to help those in physical and spiritual need. Thus we, too, can make ourselves dear to others.