The Root of Goodness

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“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Psalm 34:8

We all make assessments about what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. It’s an inner conscious, an almost inherent sense of morality. But where does our idea of goodness come from? Most people can recognize it, but it’s harder to define it or draw its boundaries. Why is courage admired and cowardice despised, even for the sake of self-preservation? Why is honesty preferred to deceit, even when it causes complications?

We don’t get to determine what goodness is. Goodness is defined not by earthly laws or human morality, but only by the character of God. It is when things are most aligned with who he is. 

Because of the fallenness of the world, because of our freedom to choose sin and selfishness, we are not always in alignment. People and situations can be far from God, and therefore far from good. But God doesn’t change, so that means his goodness doesn’t either. It is not dependent on a positive outcome, a happy feeling, a narrowly-missed disaster. It can be as present in a celebration as it is in a disaster. When we expand our definition, we can recognize it in more places.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

James 1:17

Some people have a hard time awarding something value if it isn’t explicitly from God, however explicitly that could ever be to us, anyway. But if everything good is from God, that means everything, whether or not it is found in a church building. 

Goodness comes from a pure love of God, from wanting to be like him and not from wanting to increase our own virtue. 

When we are told that ‘goodness’ is something we’re meant to have, that we should be filled to bursting with it,  it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We have to confront our weaknesses and decide to act better, and it usually feels like gritting our teeth and trying to force positive vibes. Is that really goodness, though? Jesus rebuked the pharisees who spent their lives trying to check all the right boxes because even though their outward actions seemed ‘good,’ their inner lives were filled with pettiness and corruption. 

You can be outwardly ‘good,’ you can be what the world calls ‘good,’ and still be painfully empty of God’s goodness. 

The true goodness of God is not something you can earn. But it is something that has already been given to you. It was given to you when you were created in his image, and given again when the Holy Spirit took up residency in you. Like a child takes after a parent, you already have the family resemblance. 

Knowing that goodness is a gift and not a prize isn’t permission to stop trying at all. It isn’t a free pass to pursue your selfish ambitions and neglect the work in which God calls us to participate. It is freedom to do the work without the pressure of completing it. 

Stop striving and living like you are fully responsible for manifesting the goodness of the Lord in your life. Rest in his provision and peace, knowing that it’s there even when you can’t feel it. Remain confident. 

And when he calls you into action, into pursuing him and being drawn close, do not turn him away.

Emily Luttrull