For some time, I have been pondering the concept of “good.” In specific contexts, it is really easy to understand: good food, a good grade, a good battery, good news, my good side, good music, good friends, good weather, a good book, good health, a good job, a good investment, a good person, a good excuse, a good relationship…
“Good” has a wide range of meaning, but we rarely have trouble understanding the meaning in context.
A good friend is loyal, but a good sermon is inspiring—or maybe just short. A good grade is a high grade; a good book can be long or short, but it is entertaining, or challenging, or suspenseful. A good joke is funny, but good health is, well, healthy. A good investment makes money; or it helps people. And a good liar is not likely to be a good person.
Lots of words have multiple meanings, but typically there is an overarching theme, a core meaning. “Good,” however, seems to be a particularly slippery customer. One on-line dictionary lists forty-six different definitions of the word, covering half of the eight parts of speech: noun, adjective, interjection, and adverb.
Trying to find synonyms is difficult: advantageous, pleasing, encouraging, beautiful, profitable, functioning, appropriate, favorable. None of these approaches the full meaning.
Jesus was interested in the meaning of “good.” He implied that the rich young ruler needed to define his terms. “Good master, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18), the young man asked. Maybe Jesus thought the man was using the term too carelessly. “Why do you call me good?” the Lord responded. “There is none good but God” (Luke 18:19). Wow, that’s a high standard for good. If only God is good, then how could this young man hope to do something good, something God-like? Furthermore, if Jesus is a good master, and only God is good, then Jesus is God.
For Jesus, goodness points to God. Only he is perfect, without blame. The all-powerful God is good. We search for goodness and find the imperfect, until we come to Christ himself.
Furthermore, there is a purpose behind the imperfect goodness we experience. The good things in life point us to God. They point us to our Creator. The good assures us that our lives have meaning. The Creator is good. His creation was very good before the rebellion in the Garden. Jesus has come to restore the goodness. Thank goodness.
Have a good day.