“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands, no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)
People say it all the time.
They say it out of pride.
They say it to gloss over bad behavior.
They say it to remind others that no matter how bad they are, someone else is worse.
Maybe you’ve even said it yourself.
“I’m a good person.”
Seems harmless enough, right? Deep down, it’s basically true…right?
Well. Let me be direct.
No, no, no, no.
It’s not true. People are not ‘basically good,’ regardless of how insistently our culture has tried to convince us that we are. From the moment we are born, we are self-seeking and sinful. Our focus, though it may be unintentional at times, is almost always on ourselves: how I can get what I want, when I want it, how I want it, where I want it, from whom I want it, and for whatever reason I want it. You know that’s true. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do anything without a selfish motive, but our natural inclination is almost always self-focused.
What gives anybody the right to say they’re a “good” person, anyway? Ask ten different people and you’ll get ten different answers. “Good” has become a relative term. Ice cream is good; friendships are good; our day was good; the dog got a treat because he was good; and even God is good. But therein lies the problem. Look at the list again. All of those things I just mentioned are not at equal levels of goodness, but in giving them all the same descriptor – “good” – we start seeing them all on the same level. Let me put it a different way: when we call ourselves “good,” we are both elevating ourselves and lowering God.
Take a breath and read that again.
When we call ourselves “good,” we are both elevating ourselves and lowering God.
I think we can all agree that God is not on the same level as us.
Over time, we’ve lost the real meaning of goodness. There is only one human being in the history of ever who was and is perfect. Jesus. While we should strive to be like Him, we should also remember that God set the bar high, far too high for any of us to reach. That’s why Jesus was worthy to die on the cross for us – because He is goodness. He is the very embodiment of everything good. He had to be that good, because our sin is that bad. Your sins, from the littlest lie to your secret pornography addition to your habit of gossiping, are what killed Jesus on the cross. It’s painful, isn’t it? The moment we skim over the badness of our sin is the moment we open a door for Satan to tiptoe in and quietly convince us that we really are good after all. And that is a dangerous place to be.
Truth booth: I’m in a frustrating season of my own making. I don’t feel close to God right now because I haven’t invested in my relationship with Him, and I have no problem acknowledging that I know I’m not a good person. I’m more than aware of my shortcomings, and I can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing inherently good about any of us when we are left to our own devices. But I know with absolute certainty that the following is true too: there is hope. There is hope for us weak and flawed humans. When we choose to follow God and transfer our hearts and our lives over to Him completely, He develops within us the only true piece of goodness we will ever have: Himself.