Okay, I’m going to ask a strange or maybe a dumb question? So, here it is.
Is God “good”?
You may say, “Of course He is and I can tell you why.” All of us could come up with life experience and Biblical references as evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. We can use a lot of other superlatives to describe God as well. God is great, awesome, and wonderful to name a few. As Christians, we refer to or praise God’s goodness in prayers, songs, and liturgies like these:
- “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we must be fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.”
- “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”
- “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.”
We memorize them and can say them without really thinking about it, but do we really believe it. Is God really good all the time? Have we ever been disappointed or upset with God? Did those experiences weaken our faith in His goodness?
Since most of the planet has been wrestling with the existence of “god” from the beginning until now, the issue of God’s goodness or value is very important. But, is it the right question? Do we believe in God because He “is” good or only if He is good to us? How do we define God’s goodness? Is God’s goodness for me and not so good for others and vice versa?
For something to be good, according to our human definition, it has to meet a few requirements. “It” has to:
- Be beneficial and advantageous to someone or something.
- Be desired or approved of.
- Be morally right or righteous.
- Have the qualities required for a particular role.
So according to this list, is God good? Has He met our requirements? Has God met with our approval? Are we happy with His performance and the good results He has produced in our lives? Is His presence in our lives therapeutic, does it make us feel good and better about ourselves? Is God’s existence merely for our benefit? If God exists merely for our benefit, then He is subject to us. “We big, he small.” He is our servant. His value to us is based on His ability to satisfy our desires. When he doesn’t deliver, He is no longer useful or good. We usually don’t waste much time with things that aren’t good or beneficial, unless we “get something out of it”. In a lot of cases that’s just common sense. You aren’t going to go running after things that are bad, painful, or disappointing, at least not intentionally.
For many in our culture the God of the Bible is not desired, beneficial, right, approved of, or has the qualities that are required to be considered good. If He was good, then why is there so much suffering and pain? Why are people treated unjustly and unfairly? Why won’t he fix it? Why does He allow bad things to happen? What they read in the Bible and witness in the behavior of its followers doesn’t always line up or fit their personal definition of what is good. I get it. I ask the same questions. I understand that my behavior is not always the best representation of God’s goodness. There are so many stumbling blocks or obstacles to understanding God’s goodness, and that includes me.
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Romans 14:13 NIV
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” 1 Peter 2:4-8 NIV
According to Peter, Jesus himself, the “living stone” or “cornerstone”, is a stumbling block. Peter says that those who do not believe “stumble because they disobey”. God’s definition of good, His message and instruction are a problem for us. God’s good and our good are not always compatible. At creation God said that all things He created were good, including us. He gave us freedom or free will to make our own choices, even to disobey. We know how that turned out in the Garden of Eden and where it has led us. If God being omniscient or all knowing knew what the results of our choices would be, why did He allow the opportunity for temptation, disobedience and sin?
Of course, we don’t know the answer to this and many other questions, but people, especially those who don’t believe, are asking them. I wished I had an answer for the “If God is good, then why?” questions. It is one of the greatest barriers and stumbling blocks for those who don’t or can’t believe that God is good. As Christians, we like to have an answer for everything. We feel like we have to defend God’s goodness or good name. Since we have such a hard time with the “why” questions, we think that God does too, but He doesn’t. He certainly allowed people throughout scripture to ask questions. He was okay with it, and so should we.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
Question #1 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”. “Chief end” means highest purpose or ultimate goal. Ultimately it’s all about perspective. Everyone, even those of who believe, is guilty of viewing God as a means to an end. God is good if we get what we want. But if worshipping and loving God with all our hearts is our chief end or highest purpose, then God is good. We may not understand everything about Him or what His best for us means, but we trust that in the end He will be good to all of us, in the end we will enjoy His goodness forever.
Hope you have a great weekend!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management