Faith & Insight: The quest to be a good person

Don Baumann

Don Baumann

Unless we are having a really bad day, most of us would like to maintain a decent reputation in the eyes of others. In our time, being called “a good person” is a moral compliment.

We can also fall back on that designation to quell uneasiness about our standing in the eyes of our maker: “After all, I’m a good person.” There’s always someone with whom we will compare more favorably.

Indeed, most world religions involve people striving on some scale of self-improvement, to have their good deeds outweigh their bad so they might attain divine approval – or at least stack the odds in their favor.

The Bible presents both bad and good news about this quest. God himself has searched for that elusive good person, and King David recorded the results three millennia ago: “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

(Psalms 14:2-3)

That’s enough to ruin your day! God’s encompassing judgment also includes me… and you. According to almighty God, none of us can be good enough by our own efforts. A wealthy ruler on a similar self-improvement quest once questioned Jesus, and he did the man a favor with his surprising answer. “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’”

(Luke 18:18-19)

Jesus first reminds the man of God’s survey results: no one achieves goodness. He also pointed to the solution. The man was looking to Jesus as a coach. Instead, through Jesus, God himself had entered human history to do what we could never do.

Our misdeeds and selfishness require an astounding price to be paid: death. Jesus Christ paid that price when he voluntarily died in our place as our perfect substitute. Faith in him results not only in forgiveness, but a brand-new life. God now looks on those who believe in Jesus and sees the goodness of his only son.

If we haven’t placed faith in God, our trust in someone/something to direct our lives resides elsewhere. In the case of this gentleman, it was in his enormous wealth. Jesus urged the man to turn from following his portfolio and “Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22) Sadly, he refused.

Of course, those who follow Jesus mess up regularly (I need only to look in the mirror to find an example). But we are given the ability to be truly good people through God’s goodness, given to us as a gift.

We are capable of doing wonderful things, but we can’t pay for our own waywardness. Thankfully, Jesus has done that for us. Our quest to be good people ends at the feet of the only truly good person, who offers his goodness as a gift to those who trust him with their lives.

Don Baumann is a retired outreach pastor at Hilltop Community Church. 


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