“Why do you call me good?” It is a compelling question; it’s what Jesus asked the rich young ruler who had addressed Him as, “good teacher.” Surely the eager seeker valued goodness, for he had embraced it, lived it, and now sought it still more. “Do not commit adultery.” Check. “Do not murder.” Check. “Do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother.” Check, check, and check. “But what must I do…?” he implored. Such a good boy! (And rich, no less!)
Jesus’ response began at “first things, first,” as getting to the real heart of a matter was His pattern (and, in fact, still is). “Why do you call me good?” He asked, adding, “No one is good except God alone.” The moment was fleeting—it came and went in the course of a mere breath—but the eternal truth spoken in one divine exhale echoes throughout time, for Jesus pointed all humankind to true goodness, a goodness so great that our own, by comparison, is like a candle flame that flickers briefly and brightly to our eyes, yet casts a slight shadow in the presence of a more brilliant and eternal glow.
We appreciate goodness when we see it lived out around us in acts of compassion, dependability, generosity, and all of its many forms. They shine as calm in a chaotic world, as hope in an unfair world, as care in a selfish world. Yet the highest accolade we can offer to those who often do good in action is that their actions point to the God who always is good by nature. Hasn’t He shown himself to be the Good Shepherd, not leaving us to our wanderings, but rather pursuing us in them? When we still insist on our wandering, don’t we find Him to be the one who watches over us, even as we bear the consequences of our rebellion against Him? Isn’t He the one who calls us to raise our sites above the worldly fray that pits neighbor against neighbor and to look to Him who would unite us all within Himself? Who else but God could place in our heart a compassion for those we once held in unforgiveness, so that we offer in humility the same grace that gently but surely humbled us? And who else speaks a word so powerfully that it heals our soul with a balm that our minds could never concoct?
We appreciate, admire, and applaud the goodness that springs forth from humanity, for it genuinely warms us, but the goodness of God wells up inside us and spills over into praise and worship of Him who is goodness itself. Jesus is this God who has come in the flesh and returned again to the heavens. And this question He asked during His brief span on earth burns in us still today, “Why do you call me good?” So, today, prioritize some time to stop, consider, and answer this for yourself: Why do I call God good? Think of the ways you have experienced His goodness. As you do, like King David, let thanks and praise pour forth from your heart to God’s, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).