“Teach Me Goodness”
ONLY two persons responded when the elderly woman suddenly collapsed in the crowded subway car. The other passengers, their patience worn thin by rush-hour delays, saw her plight as another inconvenience. ‘Can’t somebody move that woman out of the way?’ screamed one irate commuter. To their fellow passengers, the dying woman and the two riders desperately trying to revive her seemed to be no more than obstructions. Thus they were “repeatedly trampled.”
Such scenes have been witnessed in many parts of the world. They dramatically underscore the Bible’s prediction that “in the last days . . . men will be . . . without love of goodness.” Christians, however, want to please Jehovah. They must “turn away” from individuals lacking goodness. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) But merely guarding our association is not enough. Goodness must be carefully cultivated as a fruit of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22) But how? And what is goodness?
Goodness and Righteousness
Goodness is moral excellence and virtue, the quality or state of being good. But it is more than a passive state. When discussing the ransom provision, the apostle Paul said: “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.” (Romans 5:7, 8) Here goodness seemingly is contrasted with righteousness. But are they exact opposites?
No. Paul apparently had in mind the thought that righteousness involves conforming to a standard. In fact, righteousness has been associated with judgment. (Compare Revelation 19:11.) The “righteous” man is law abiding. He meets a criterion, fulfills a quota, but may do little beyond that. Thus he wins respect but not necessarily hearts. Few would be moved to die for him. However, the “good” man does more than fulfill obligations or avoid wrongdoing. His goodness motivates him to exert himself for others, to do things for them.
Those who exert themselves in doing good things for others prove to be real neighbors. Jesus’ parable about the neighborly Samaritan illustrates this point. “Moved with pity,” the Samaritan dressed the wounds of a beaten robbery victim, a Jew. Then this doer of good “mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:29-37) Is it any wonder, then, that some have called this illustration the parable of the good Samaritan?—Compare Matthew 12:35; 20:10-15; Luke 6:9, 33-36.
Goodness is not passive but is dynamically active. Recipients of the “good” person’s kindness, generosity, and self-sacrifice might even be moved to die for him! So it is with good reason that the psalmist prayed: “Teach me goodness.” (Psalm 119:66) But how does Jehovah do this?
Jehovah’s Example of Goodness
Jehovah teaches us goodness by his own example. He is the very personification of goodness. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, He said: “I myself shall cause all my goodness to pass before your face, and I will declare the name of Jehovah before you.” How did this take place? Shortly thereafter, “Jehovah went passing by before his face and declaring: ‘Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.’”—Exodus 33:18, 19; 34:6, 7.
At that time Jehovah’s goodness was highlighted in various ways. Prominent was his mercy and love of truth. Knowing mankind’s imperfect state, Jehovah is considerate and patient toward those who really want to do what is right. Yet, he does not condone badness. Surely, then, we can benefit from meditating on the example Jehovah has set.
Jehovah has also manifested goodness through his creation. In fact, he was able to view his creative work as being “good.” (Genesis 1:12, 18, 25, 31; Romans 1:20) God went beyond the bare minimum in equipping this planet to sustain life.
“The pouring rain” is a good example of this. (Isaiah 55:10) With remarkable scientific accuracy, Elihu said that Jehovah “draws up the drops of water; they filter as rain for his mist, so that the clouds trickle, they drip upon mankind abundantly . . . He gives food in abundance.” (Job 36:27-31) An estimated 132,000 million million gallons (500,000 million million liters) of water are involved daily in this cycle, the sun ‘drawing’ most of this water from the oceans.
According to a report in The New York Times, “researchers studying the dynamics of South America’s tropical forest have produced scientific evidence showing with precision for the first time that a forest can return as much as 75 percent of the moisture it receives to the atmosphere.” The report further indicated that “the amount of water a forest gathers can be returned to the air in large enough amounts to form new rain clouds.” And, of course, rain is one of the vital factors in food production. Indeed, Jehovah has efficiently and abundantly provided for life on the earth. What goodness he has displayed in making all these provisions available even to thankless and unappreciative people.—Matthew 5:44, 45.
But an even more striking example of Jehovah’s goodness is the way he has worked to fulfill his original purpose for humankind. (Genesis 1:28; 3:15; Romans 5:12) His goodness moved him to make a ransom provision for sinful mankind by giving “his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16; Romans 3:23, 24) Through God’s Kingdom his goodness toward the honest hearted will soon be manifested in bringing about the end of this wicked system of things. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10; 2 Peter 3:9, 10) And what goodness of God will be evident when this earth becomes a paradise under Kingdom rule!—Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5.
Imitate Jehovah’s Goodness
Regular study of the Bible keeps Jehovah’s perfect example of goodness constantly before us. In turn, this should move us to imitate his example. True, many necessary activities could interfere with studying the Scriptures regularly, among them cooking, cleaning, shopping, and household repairs. Yet, we must keep spiritual things in first place. Jesus Christ indicated this when visiting the home of Mary and Martha. While Martha busied herself with household duties, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and “kept listening to his word.” When Martha sought Mary’s help with the chores, Jesus said: “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.” You, too, can choose what is good by giving priority to such spiritual matters as personal and family study.—Luke 10:38-42.
Jehovah also teaches us goodness through the Christian congregation. There we associate with people who are “full of goodness.” (Romans 15:14) Many experiences illustrate this. One witness of Jehovah (already a mother of two) recalled her amazement at learning she had given birth to triplets! ‘How will we ever get to Christian meetings?’ she wondered. ‘How will we pay this hospital bill? How will we ever afford to feed and clothe five children?’
Soon, however, this woman had evidence that her Christian brothers and sisters are “full of goodness.” “Upon arriving home,” said she, “I found that several of my Christian sisters had cleaned our apartment. Further, the sisters arranged to have meals brought in and did the daily chores until I got my strength back.” Many of the brothers contributed materially, one even sending anonymously $1,000! During the winter, though, this family ran up a considerable heating bill. So imagine this woman’s anxiety when she received a telephone call from the fuel company. To her relief, however, she learned that a Christian sister had paid the bill! A notice to discontinue service intended for this struggling family had inadvertently been mailed to this fellow Witness, and goodness had moved her to help them.
Such goodness not only touches the heart but is also contagious. By Jehovah’s Witnesses “I have been taught to love and to be kind,” one former wife beater told his mate after she attended her first meeting. “That is why I don’t beat you anymore.”
Blessings of Learning Goodness
Even now we reap blessings from learning and loving goodness. Our association with our brothers and even with people of the world thus becomes more pleasant. (Proverbs 11:10; 1 Peter 3:13) Most important of all, if we endure suffering because of “doing good,” “this is a thing agreeable with God.” (1 Peter 2:20) In fact, our exercising faith and manifesting goodness will lead to our being protected during the “great tribulation” and ensures our entry into the New Order.—Hebrews 10:36-39; Matthew 24:21.
So allow Jehovah to teach you goodness. The rewards? Why, there will be “glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good”!—Romans 2:6-11.
[Picture on page 27]
The generous supply of water to sustain life demonstrates Jehovah’s goodness