A man once came to Jesus and asked a question that most people might ask if they were in the same position. “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) Jesus answered by saying, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good…” (Matthew 19:17*) Intriguing. Isn’t Jesus mixing apples and oranges here? First, he talks about “what” is good, but then states “who” is good.
Jesus went along with the man when he said, “if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments”. (Matthew 19:17) The man knew that keeping the commandments was not enough because he said, “all these I have kept; what am I still lacking?” (Matthew 19:20) Something told him he was in need.
Jesus went on to tell him what to do but, because of the hold riches had on him, he left Jesus sad. He did not have the ability in himself to do the one “good” thing that Jesus asked of him.
Maybe the problem was in his initial belief that there was something he could do to earn salvation. He wasn’t looking to Jesus (or to God) to be his Saviour. He wanted to be his own Saviour, but discovered he couldn’t.
But, there was one redeeming thing in the man’s question: He looked to Jesus for the definition of “the good thing”. He could have decided on his own what to do “to obtain eternal life”, but knew that this was outside of his understanding. Ah, if only he had realized that it wasn’t the good DEED that he needed, but the GOOD ONE.
The question of the goodness of God has been around since the Garden of Eden. It’s the one thing that Satan attacked directly, placing doubt about God’s motives in Eve’s mind (see Genesis 3:1-5).
But, what else do the opening chapters of the scriptures say to us about “the good”? Well, firstly, God defined “good”. Verse after verse in Genesis 1 records God saying the components of his creation were “good”. And what made him the Judge of what is “good”? The very “goodness” of his nature. God is good, therefore he knows what is truly good.
The error that Eve made was to make an arbitrary decision on her own about what was good: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6) Out of her doubt about the goodness of God came a decision to disagree with God’s definition of what is “good”; a decision with which Adam then complied.
Within the context of Genesis 1-3, what Jesus said in Matthew 19:17 makes a lot of sense. As with the rich young ruler, the first man and woman did not repent and find the forgiveness that only the Good God could provide. Instead, they ended up hiding from God, blaming him and each other for their sin.
As we see in God’s pursuit of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:8-11, the goodness of God does not push anyone away. In fact, it invites man to dialogue and relationship.
Periodically you may hear someone say, “if God was so good, why is there so much trouble in this world?” The simple answer is that trouble does not change who God is. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble”. (Nahum 1:7)
He would have been totally just in condemning this world and squashing us like an annoying bug but no, God is good! In fact, the goodness of God leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) God is not some kind of meany that is uncaring. The Psalmist wrote, “the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works”. (Psalm 145:9)
And what about “unanswered” prayer? What about the times when God doesn’t do things the way we would like him to? Just like Adam and Eve, and the rich young ruler, do we arrogantly proclaim what is good? Read Genesis 3:1-6 again and watch the subtle doubt that developed. Are we guilty of believing the same lie?
The goodness of God is not wrapped up in my convenience or my happiness; otherwise I become the judge of what is good and what is not good.
No matter what situations we find ourselves in, we can worship God, who alone is good. We appreciate your Comments