A popular worship chorus declares: “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.” The divine attribute of goodness refers primarily to who God is and only secondarily to what He does. Of course, the two are related— God does good because He is good. God does not measure up to the standard of goodness. He is the standard.
This helps us to understand the surprising response to the man who fell on his knees before Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:17). This man’s view of goodness was too limited. He treated it as if it were merely a matter of personal achievement, a standard independent of God to which he might attain, if he tried hard enough.
Jesus makes it clear that all goodness is derived from God. Since no one is good but God, no one can be good apart from God. Jesus is good because He is God. We can be good only through our relationship with Him.
Why Theology Matters
It might be said that goodness is really the quality of “godness.” It is moral character that is a reflection of all that God is and does. God’s goodness can be imitated only when it is the product of the Holy Spirit’s ministry (Gal. 5:22). It is the “fruit of the light,” a reflection of the new life that has come to us through Christ (cf. Eph. 5:1–10).
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about how God’s goodness affects our moral behavior, read The Goodness of God: Theology, the Church, and Social Order by D. Stephen Long (Baker).