We Were Created
For Good Works
From the minute we are born we are told what is good, shown how to perform it, commanded to live it and disciplined if we don’t. Consequently each of us grows up with a sense of what is good and, more importantly, how we measure up. Usually our self-assessment is heavily influenced by several factors:
Attitudes Of Authority Figures
If our parents/teachers respond with understanding toward our failures or firm but accepting discipline toward our wayward tendencies we feel fairly good about ourselves even if we shouldn’t.
Positive responses encourage a “warm fuzzy” that fosters a sense of confidence about how good we are. We feel normal and safe. There’s nothing to worry about.
If authority figures are constantly critical, however, we develop a sense of hopelessness. “Can I ever be good enough?”
We develop a nurtured but inaccurate sense of good or bad.
How We Compare To Peers
If we always seem to do better than others, if our peers never get it right while we stay out of judgment’s focus (some kids are always in trouble, some are not), this also makes us feel safe. “Because I am better than him or her I must be good, they must be bad.”
We develop a comparative but inaccurate sense of good or bad.
The Accepted Norm
Of course, when everyone is doing the wrong thing (gossiping, fudging on income taxes, little white lies) without being challenged it becomes a neutral issue. We feel normal, not wrong, doing these things. They cease to become critical issues self assessment.
We develop an averaged but inaccurate sense of good or bad.
Or not, is a huge factor. When a person habitually does the wrong thing they eventually become insensitive to it until someone says “you are wrong.” In this regard law enforcement serves an important purpose. They never let us forget where the boundaries are.
Not getting caught develops an apparent but inaccurate sense of good or bad.
Perspective Is Distorted
All of these factors give us a distorted perspective on how good we are. We are measuring ourselves against people and circumstances not principle. Good is an absolute measurement. Partially good is bad.
The truth is no one can be good in the absolute sense.
Examples And Teachings Of Those Who Did Good
Our “goodness” as a state of being, our ability to be good within ourselves always falls short of the ultimate good. It is always a relative measurement. Both the Bible and observation verify this truth.
- Solomon, the wisest man ever, said: “For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
- Paul said, “We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Romans 7:14)
- David, lamenting his own sinfulness, exclaimed “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity…” (Psalm 51:5)
- Even Mother Theresa found herself doubting the existence of heaven and even God often. I don’t believe anyone would judge her for this but it does represent a failing in the absolute sense of the word. Before you get upset, she admitted as much every time she went to confession.
Unfortunately, the only level of goodness that God will accept is absolute, not relative, and which of us can claim that.
Jesus Alone Was Good
Jesus, however, was born without sin and was able to stay that way. The Bible says he was in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The Bible also says he obtained eternal redemption for us through his sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:12).
In most cases people are motivated to be good so they can be acceptable. Given the teachings of the Bible (no one can do this with the exception of Jesus, Rom. 3:23) we have to wonder why we should bother with “good” at all. And that brings us to our original question. What is the difference between “Being” and “Doing” good.
While the Bible discourages the idea that we can “be” good enough it repeatedly encourages us to “do” good.
- Jesus said,
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
“ . . .Do good to them that hate you.” (Matthew 5:44)
- And Paul said,
We should be “fruitful in every good work . . .” (Colossians 1:10)
Comparing Being To Doing Good
The following comparisons help us understand why the Bible dispels the idea of “being good” but encourages a “do good” approach to life:
- Being good focuses on self. It’s about the way we look. Self glorification. Doing good focuses on others. I’m trying to be helpful. Glorifies God.
- Being good to self-qualify is useless. It doesn’t work. You can never be good enough. Doing good as a means of assisting others has a positive and useful outcome. It works.
- Being good is repelling. We give the impression of being superior not just good. Doing good draws others to us. We become more approachable.
- Being good is an expression of pride. Doing good is an expression of compassion.
“Being” and “Doing” are very different issues. The inability to accomplish one (“Be” good) will never excuse us from the other. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes a conclusive statement expressing the disconnection between these two motivations. It says,
- Be Good – An impossibility
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any person should boast.”
- Do Good – The original design
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The truth is, “Doing Good” makes you a more tolerable person even if it can’t make you perfect.