I know a lot of nice people. In fact, I would estimate that over 90 percent of the people I know seem to be “nice.” Yet, there are many nice folks who aren’t really “good.” What do I mean by that? Well, I tend to define as a “nice person” as someone who is nice to me. I suspect, however, that the reason many people are nice to me is because I am nice to them. Most of us tend to be nice to people who are nice to us.
Being a “good person,” however, involves more than being nice to people who are nice to you. It also involves being nice to those who are not very nice to you. And most importantly, it involves treating God as he ought to be treated. Since God is the creator and ruler of the universe, the most important being there is, how someone chooses to treat Him is clearly an essential part of determining if he or she is a good person. Jesus tells us that the “first and greatest commandment” is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Someone who fails to do that cannot really be considered a “good” person, no matter how “nice” he or she is to others.
Here is an analogy that helps me understand this: Everyone at the office likes Herman (not his real name). He is very friendly, has a great sense of humor and is always willing to help out others. He even brings a box of donuts to share every Thursday morning. You think Herman is really nice guy. One day, however, you learn some other things about Herman. You find out that he regularly assaults his wife. If she irritates him, he often chooses to “slap her around.” He has also sexually abused his two daughters. All the sudden you stop thinking of Herman as a nice guy. You realize he is a creep, and you hope he gets arrested and put in prison for a long time. Yes, he has always been nice to you, but that doesn’t matter. You realize, because of how he treats his family, that Herman is not really a good person at all. In the same way, “nice” people you know, who mistreat God, who do not love and honor Him as they should, are not really good people.
We must realize, however, that those “who do not love and honor God as they should” is a group that includes every one of us. The Bible tells us “No one is righteous…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:10,23) The fact no one is truly good is the reason why the Lord Jesus died on the cross. He suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Even if you are a very nice person, you still need to trust in what Jesus has done for you through His death and resurrection.
Friend, do you want to be not just a “nice” person, but a “good person?”
We need to realize that true “goodness” (the Bible’s word is “righteousness”) is not something any of us will ever accomplish or attain on our own. We can only receive it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. If we rely on our own goodness we will always fall short. Relying on the perfect goodness of Jesus is the only way to be truly “good.”
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church