In life there is doing “good” and being good; these things are not always found together.
A songwriter can write a good song without being a good person. A good person may be totally unable to write a good song. Go figure. Good works and goodness are not always companions.
“What Must I Do?”
Tradition calls him, “The Rich Young Ruler.” He had it all (to his way of thinking) but somewhere inside there was a void possessions and position and power did not fill. So He came to Jesus with this question:
“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
As was His practice, Jesus answered the young man’s question with a question:
“Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
This was the central question. Life was not so much about doing “good” as it was about being good and only ONE is GOOD, God Himself. The implication was that if Jesus was truly GOOD and not just a man doing “good,” He must be of God. From God? God? But this was never spoken; it remained a subtext in this conversation. We, however, will bring it to the surface shortly.
Doing Good vs. Doing Well
When we do something well it means our technique was effective; it does not mean that what was done was good. A really rotten tune can be played really well and a great tune may be poorly played. This is an important distinction.
The rich man was talking about good deeds, thinking that in some heavenly ledger they were recorded and accrued interest with time and repetition like money invested. However, this belief did not fill the empty place in his soul. Jesus answered him in that context:
“You know the commandments…”
He gave him a quick list. The man was prepared with his report, “Yes.” He had checked these things off his “to do” list regularly.” He folded his arms, smiled, and waited for an answer, thinking, “Impressive! No?” Jesus did not answer right away so the man elaborated, locking eyes with Jesus,
“All these things I have kept from my youth.”
Jesus returned the man’s gaze until the proud smirk on the man’s face melted and forced him to study the dust at his well-shod feet. When Jesus finally spoke, the man bravely looked up to see a smile on Jesus’ face. Perhaps the answer to the nagging, never spoken question in his heart was forthcoming.
“You still lack one thing.”
Excitement charged the man’s heart—an overlooked command? Some neglected good he could do? Some service to God and man…”
“Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
The smile never left Jesus’ face, but the hopes of the young man were crushed. He could afford any price for anything but he could not afford this. He disappeared into the crowd before they could see his tears.
More than Deeds
The song of the Old Covenant was “God is good and His mercy endures forever!” Jesus was God in the flesh, a mystery beyond all mysteries. He did “good” because He was GOOD. He still does and he still is. True riches stored in heaven accrue to our eternal reward not just because we do good things but because God is Good and He has promised to reward us.
Luke: 18:18-23 NKJV
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
Micah 6:8 NKJV
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Revelation 22:12-14 NKJV
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
Lord Jesus, You are good and Your mercy endures forever! You very name is Faithful and True. You have imparted Your earth-tested goodness to me, tried in the fires of satanic temptation and found true. I could never have earned such goodness but I can live in its power and victory. You have anointed me to do GOOD in Your name and for Your glory. This is what I will do today. I will do justly, walk humbly with You! Lord, You are Good and Your Mercy endures forever. Amen.
God Is so Good
God is so good! God is so good!
God is so good, He’s so good to me.
God answers prayer. God answers prayer.
God answers prayer. He’s so good to me.
God loves me so! God loves me so!
God loves me so! He’s so good to me.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.