Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Goodness is the only investment which never fails.” This is a pretty sentiment, and it is true. However, it is only true if one’s understanding of goodness is rooted in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Why is this the case? Is it not possible for goodness to exist outside of Jesus Christ? To answer these questions. Let us look at the story of goodness, given to us in the Bible.
1.) Goodness Created
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1: 31)
God created for six days. As he looked at it all he saw that it was indeed “very good.” Everything God made had goodness in it. The first good comes right after God creates for the first time:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:3-4)
Therefore, Goodness comes from God, and it cannot exist outside of God. He did not discover goodness for the first time in Genesis 1, God knew goodness for an eternity before, because He is goodness.
God’s goodness was given to the first humans, Adam and Eve. As a gift from God, they partook in God’s work alongside Him. But we all know what they did next. They had the knowledge of good, but they desired the knowledge of evil also. So, they ate of its and, as Pastor Colin Smith says, “we have all lived it with ever since.”
Having sinned and carrying with them the knowledge of evil, humanity could no longer partake in the unhindered union with God. 1 John 1:15 explains: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
2.) Goodness Restrained
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Exodus 33:19)
Moses was the leader of the Israelites. He was God’s chosen man, and he led the people out of slavery. Moses stood up to Pharaoh. He did miraculous signs. Surely, this man was good.
But even he was not good enough to be in union with God’s goodness. Consider the language here. God says that “my goodness” will “pass before you.” There is not much union here. There is a witnessing, but not a connection.
And if you know the story, you know the witnessing was very restrained. Not only does God place Moses in a cleft of a rock, but God also keeps His hand over him until the very end (Exodus 33:21-23). That’s not a great view!
I often go to Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs play baseball. There are a few seats throughout the stadium whose views are obstructed by support beams. Consider if you asked me to take you to a game, and I said, “Sure! But you’ll sit directly behind a support beam, and I’ll have my hands over your eyes until the very end.”
That’s not unhindered access. Things are not as good as they were in Eden. There’d be no point in me doing this to you at a baseball game, but why did God do this to Moses?
It was an act of grace, for God told him, “man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Since mankind had darkness in him—thanks to the knowledge of evil—unhindered access to God’s goodness would have killed Moses.
3.) Goodness Near Us
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)
The more time the Israelites spent with God, the more they learned how to live near His goodness. God gave them instructions on where He was to dwell, so that He could dwell amid His people, and so they would be safe.
Psalm 23 offers a beautiful praise to the Lord, believing in His faithfulness and goodness. The psalmist has complete confidence—God will always be good, and He will always be near.
Notice, however, the implied separation. The psalmist says God’s goodness will “follow” him. And he talks about dwelling the in the Lord’s house. Goodness exists in the house of the Lord—not in the psalmist. Goodness follows the psalmist but is not equivalent to the psalmist.
Once again, the big problem inside humanity is the presence of evil. God cannot exist in an impure place—“In him there is no darkness at all.” Humanity needed something to change on the inside, and that’s exactly what God had planned.
4.) Goodness Came for Us
God sent His incarnate goodness, Jesus Christ, into the world in order to defeat the sin and evil inside of all who believe in Him. Here’s a wonderful passage of the Bible to memorize:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy… whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7, emphasis added)
5.) Goodness Inside Us
“…have tasted the goodness of the word of God…” (Hebrews 6:5)
Jesus promises believers that He gives the Holy Spirit to us (Acts 1:8). Unlike in the days of the Old Testament, the Spirit does not live near us in a tent or a temple, but inside us (1 Corinthians 16:19-20)!
This can happen because in Christ we are made pure. And, similar to how Adam and Eve ate of the fruit that brought them death, Christ offers us fruit that nourishes us and brings us life.
The word of God nourishes believers. And much more than the kind of restricted witnessing that Moses did, we can taste the very goodness of the word of God. True believers will not only taste goodness but will eat it up! And then, true Christians will produce goodness, according to the power of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness… (Galatians 5:22, emphasis added)
How amazing is that! The Lord has not only redeemed us to His goodness, but He also once again made us to play a part in His work! And, guess what? That’s not even the end of the story.
6.) Goodness Perfected in Us
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God. (3 John 1:11)
In our current state, the Lord’s grace has enabled us to imitate His goodness. This is how we know we can be sure of our salvation, in that we do good works. So, do good works and enjoy assurance!
The word imitation is important here because when we do good works we are not doing them out of our own power but the power of God. Any goodness we have comes from Christ, any righteousness we display is Christ’s, and any love we show is Christ’s.
This is why we struggle still in doing good. Christ is perfect, but we have not yet been perfected ourselves. But, God promises He will do that in the life to come (Philippians 1:6). There, we will have a kind of union with Jesus and His goodness that is unparalleled here on earth, or even in Eden.
So true goodness in us comes from God. When we invest in goodness, we know it will never fail. God never fails!