I have seen this sign and similar bumper-sticker sayings in the past. I am sure it is unintentional but this group is doing more to promote faith than destroy it. By talking about ‘good’ they are bringing up something that can actually turn people to faith.
It is true a person without faith in God can certainly do good, and even great things. I wish every people on the planet, regardless or culture, beliefs, ideology, or religion would all do good to one another. The world would be a better place.
The question that comes up though is whether good can exist with God. What if, as it is believed by many, ‘God is Good’. What if the reason there is a deep, ingrained desire to do good exists is because we have been created in the ‘image of God’, who is good. In the end when really considered the idea of goodness is yet another sign of God.
Here is a long blog I wrote about goodness and how it points to Jesus.
It is amazing how even a small gift of goodness can change your day. A simple smile. A kind word. Encouragement. A small text message, note, or email. All have an incredible power that can change attitudes and break us out of cold heartedness.
Somehow, even doing good ourselves seems to have the same effect. Those who receive are blessed by our actions, but for some reason the giver receives by giving. It is here, under these circumstances, that the verse, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38a), can be best understood. Those who give the most are those who most often seemed blessed in many ways. It may be in peace, in appreciation, or in reputation. Giving causes those who do it to feel good about themselves and the world they are living in.
Sadly, there are signs that there is not always enough goodness going around. One indication is that when some people have received goodness they don’t know how to react. They may just be in shock goodness has found them. They may not know how to accept things. They don’t know how to respond to a compliment. Our past sometimes makes it difficult to accept even that God is as good as He says He is. We have been let down so often we have a hard time believing this level of goodness is even possible.
An example would be forgiveness. The Bible teaches when Christ forgives, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). It means it is put away and not to ever be held against us. Yet, how often do we keep going back to ask forgiveness again, trying to do penance over and over. We can be caught in the lie that because of our mistakes God could never really accept us. Why do we think this? Because we limit how good God could be by measuring against how good we are. We need to be thankful His goodness, grace, and mercy are not limited by us. Instead He is just good all on His own.
We all certainly want to be on the receiving side of goodness at times. We need it. The world, it seems, could use a lot more of it. If there was a goal each of us could set it should be to fill the world with goodness. It could be the means to overcoming hatred, evil, injustice, and lifting people out of despair. How truly wonderful goodness is.
A question some ask is, “do we need God for us to be good? Is it possible for someone who does not have a belief in Jesus, God, or some faith to do good or to be a moral person?” These questions and their answers are often used by Christians and Atheists groups to discredit each other’s beliefs. However, I would like to present a different perspective.
Some Christians have argued that the belief in God is necessary for real morality. That humans on their own will always fall to the lowest levels without God. This belief is seemingly backed up by scriptures like Romans 3:10, which says, “No one is righteous–not even one.” Or perhaps, Psalm 53:1-3: “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” The idea many have taken from these scriptures is that life without God means you, and everyone, will be morally corrupt.
Some atheists say that people can do good and be moral without faith. I also believe it to be true. In fact, there are those who are opposed to faith in Jesus, or faith in general, who are doing great things for society and their neighbors, who are loving people and fighting against injustice in many ways. Some would argue that because they are capable of doing good and being moral it shows God is not necessary for goodness and morality.
Looking at this under a new lens may be helpful, though, because both side’s arguments may be flawed. The truth is, those of faith, and those without, have proven that they are both capable of doing good, having morals, doing evil, and causing harm. We can look at the lives of both groups and find examples for whatever we are trying to prove. Even looking at the scriptures above, how can we say that with the millions or billions of Christians, “all have turned away, no one does good?”
One reason there has been such a backlash from non-believers has been because of the condemning message and attitudes from those of faith. Through the use of scripture we have emphasized they are not good, or capable of doing good. Without Christ they can have no purpose and will remain second class citizens to us. It seems we have had a message that we are good, and you are not, even if appears you are doing good.
When someone called Jesus ‘good teacher’ he had an interesting response: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good” (Mark 10:18). Notice His response was not, “Yes God is good, the religious people are good, and everyone else is bad.” He said only God is good. These verses were not meant to divide humanity into the ‘good group’ and the ‘bad group.’ Jesus put us all into the same group together. The religious, the faithful, the skeptics, the doubters, and those opposed.
Instead, the real implication of this message is incredibly Good News. Yes, God is good. He is pure. He is light, with no room for darkness. Next to Him none of us compare. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, or something else, each one of us has moments when we have thoughts or actions that are less than desirable. We have had ideas and thoughts that included harming others, deceit, and the like. Even those with great morals, ethics, and faith have done these, and will in the future. No one is immune. It is part of being human. I believe this is why it says in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
So, yes, if Jesus is the measuring stick for goodness none of us quite measures up. No one can say they have never acted outside of God’s, or even their own, standards of morality at some point in their lives. So our lives are not absent of some darkness. However, all of these scriptures were never spoken to divide people, but rather, to show we are all in the same boat together.
There is even more to this, though. We sometimes take a very negative view of humanity in general. This is all so obvious in how the news is usually focused on all the negatives but not as many positive stories, even though they do exist. However, if we take a look even into Genesis we see how God was involved with creation. What was His reaction to how things were made? To humanity and creation, He said, “It is good.”
Further, we see it revealed that humanity was created in the image of God—That there is something of the divine nature within us. We have been created as free thinking conscious beings, again, having the ability to do good and evil.
It is claimed by some that because those without faith can live moral, good, and outstanding lives outside of God, it is a proof He does not exist. However, it can also be argued that the fact that all of us, in and out of faith, are capable of goodness, and of having morality, shows there is a common bond between us all. Could it be that the divine imprint of goodness is in all of us? I have come to believe that this common bond has only strengthened my belief in a creator.
It feels good to do good. Have you ever considered why? If there is no God, no real moral code, no absolute right and wrong, where does this internal reaction come from? These thoughts, feelings, or emotions that seem to exist in most of humanity again show there is some connection between us all. They speak an incredible message to us.
Could it be possible that the scripture Ephesians 2:10, is the key? “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” If so, then, for a moment when we do good, we are stepping into the reason for our existence. When we do good we are experiencing a God moment. It is a taste of what God is; He is good. For these moments we are walking in what we were created to be. It is a taste of what the Kingdom of God is and our divine purpose.
So I believe that morality and goodness can exist without one having faith in God. However, it is not a proof of the non-existence of God. Rather it may be one of the biggest signs of how real He is. Even His goodness is not limited to those who believe; instead He is good to all. “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45b). For Christians to ever say those outside of faith cannot be blessed, or even used for His purposes, even His redemptive plans, is to deny scripture. This scripture even increases a believer’s responsibility to do good to everyone, not just those who agree with them, because the one who they follow does.
One thing that is evident is that goodness has a contagious power. It is true we can easily come up with examples or people of faith, and not of faith, who have done great evil. However, you cannot negate the truth that millions, if not billions, of people have sacrificed to do good for their fellow human beings. When we let this divine nature grow in us, and we embrace the goodness we were created to walk in, we begin to walk in the Kingdom Jesus ushered in.
This understanding of the goodness of God gives us some hope, even in tough and difficult times. Despite circumstances, He is always good. It is something we can know and keep our hope in; if everyone else fails and the world seems to be falling apart, we know something still remains. His goodness. He still hears us, loves us, and He never fails.
James 1:17, sums up where all of this goodness comes from: “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” He is good. Goodness comes from Him. Ask him to help you walk in the good He has prepared for you.
He is the beautiful goodness.