Statistics was my favorite subject in college. For some reason, numbers and odds and predictability all came alive to me then. So now, I love to think in terms of tangible absolutes. Measurement is as good as fact for me.
Let's measure ourselves, shall we?
Recently, I have been involved in a discussion in one of my Goodreads groups about the virtue of mankind. We all varied in what we believed about how much evil could be found in an individual human being. Let's look at some evidence and get out our scales.
There are the terrorists in some sects of Islam whose sickening deeds have been blasted through the news lately. Men who decapitate children for the purpose of scaring others or use them as shields to protect themselves are 100% evil.
Not to defend their actions AT ALL, but let me throw in this caveat. Those men think they are doing exactly what their god is telling them to do. In their minds, they are holy men.
How about a person of the opposite extreme. There is a woman who is a missionary in a third world country. She lives with nothing more than what she needs to survive and she doesn't complain about it! From the moment she wakes until the closing of her tired eyes at night, she helps the people in her poor community. She farms with them; she serves them food; she shows them how to care for themselves.
Can we all concede to give this woman a 100% good for her selflessness?
Now, let's look at an average person who is not a participant in mass genocide or a pre-cannonized saint.
Since I may not know you, I will be the guinea pig and put my life up for examination.
You might be able to consider me a "good" person. I attend church every Sunday (and not just because I work there.) I even come on days that are not Sunday. I pray every day and read my Bible when I can. I don't cheat on my husband or beat my children. I floss my teeth. I don't kill spiders. I even do nice things for strangers periodically.
I'm not perfect. I have lied. (Perhaps in the above paragraph? You'll never know.) I am greedy; I am selfish; I have said things I should not have.
But more good than bad, right? Great! So what would you give me? 50% good? Nah, how about 90% good? (I always strive for A's.)
Here are my questions:
How did you come up with your answer? and
How are you qualified to give it?
Hmm. OK, so maybe good and evil must be determined on an individual basis. If we use different people to judge - I mean measure! - a man's actions, it could give us different readings. Your 50% rating might be my 90% rating. It all depends on the standard we use.
We need to use one reliable measurement instrument. There is only One standard, one absolute we can use. Since the goal of doing good is so we can see God and be with Him in heaven, we must use Him as the standard.
We know that God is 100% good. (The word "good" was actually derived from the word "God.") So where does that leave the rest of us, in my opinion? Here's where I came down in my Goodreads discussion: I believe that there is no good whatsoever in a person.
0% good. Every single person.
Wow, that's harsh, isn't it? Too harsh, right? It would be akin to saying that we are no better, no more righteous a human being than one of the terrorists I described above. And if it were true, we would be completely unlovable by a perfect, 100% holy God. I mean, why would God create a purely evil being and choose to love him?
Well, first of all, how are we supposed to know why God does anything? ("As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9)
But secondly, that's exactly the point. God is not picking and choosing people to love based on what they do. Where would He draw the line? The Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt complete forty good deeds in thine lifetime. Only then shall I grant thee welcome into My kingdom."
Nope. Instead it says, "Be holy as I am holy." (I Peter 1:16, as well as 5 other similar references.)
And how is God holy? Completely. There is no imperfection in Him. (Matthew 5:48) THAT is the standard we have to live up to. Do any of us meet that standard? No. Even that missionary woman from Case #2 has committed at least one sin in her lifetime. She is less than 100% good.
For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine)
Furthermore, I propose that if you have ever committed any sin, you are completely sinful. Just as a little yeast works its way through a whole batch of dough, a little sin makes a person sinful. (Galations 5:9)
God is a God of absolutes. It's all or nothing. (How about that for making statistics easy?) If there were anything good in us, if there were any way to make good on our own, what would stop us from being completely good, all on our own?
If that were the case, we would have no need for a Savior. We could get ourselves to heaven and He would not have needed to die on a cross for us.
But He did die on a cross for us. He laid down his perfection to be seen by the Father as our complete imperfection, so that we could in turn pick up His perfection in the Father's eyes.
We can't be full of His perfection unless we are empty of everything that is ours. We must be nothing good so that we have room for his 100% goodness.
God only takes 100% goodness into his home. Since we can make 100% on our own, He offers it to us freely. I accept! 100% has always been my favorite percent.
T.C. Slonaker writes Christian fantasy novels to point others to Jesus. Read more about her Angelmen series HERE.
Right now, there is music blaring from my neighbor's house. Not so much the music, but the beat. It has been going since 7:00 this morning. Since I don't get up until 7:30, it was not a welcome noise.
This neighbor is not someone who gets along with anyone. He does not like kids or dogs, and we all wonder why he chose to move into a neighborhood filled with both.
But I can guess what's going on. I am guessing he has gone away for a few days and his adult son is staying to watch the house for him. I remember when the son lived here, that he enjoyed loud music.
In the past, this neighbor has called the police on other neighbors when their dog barked for too long. He doesn't like noise. I'll tell you what, I don't care much for this noise myself. After listening to it for almost 8 hours now, it is really getting to me. I've knocked on the door, but with the music so loud, of course, no one came to answer.
Now it's MY turn to call the police, isn't it? Time to get that neighbor back for the way he has treated others, right?
But I'm not going to.
This son has had trouble with the police in the past. We don't talk much, but I'm pretty sure my neighbor isn't thrilled about that. So, what would it solve to involve the police in his life again?
It would get him back for always being mean, wouldn't it? Yeah!
But, like I said, I'm not going to. And that's my good deed today.
Good deeds can go unnoticed, and even be things that you DON'T do, like not calling the police when no real harm is being done, even if you can.
Sometimes what you do will be unearned. Like when you DON'T yell at customer service, even when they give you an attitude.
Sometimes the good deed that you do for a day never gets a thank you. You might even get yelled at. For example, the poor teacher who gave a a student a poor grade for not studying and decided it would be best to discuss this with the parent. Of course, the parent yells back at the teacher for having unreasonable expectations. The teacher absorbs to anger but doesn't yell back. Because somewhere down the line, a valuable lesson could be learned.
Sometimes your good deed will seem pointless. Like returning a shopping cart someone left out in the parking lot, far away from the corral. On a cold and windy day, that's one less cart the grocery store staff has to go running out after.
Sometimes, you see an easy way to get ahead, but you don't. You may have just saved an insurance company some money, making rates more affordable for those who struggle.
Sometimes, you DON'T honk your horn at the person who pulled in front of you a little too close, and you may have just saved everyone on the highway from an incident of road rage or resulting traffic accident.
What are other people giving thanks for today? Maybe it's you. Maybe their Facebook post today read something like this: "I had a really awful day. I couldn't get anything right at the register. But I am thankful for the customer who was patient with me while I figured it out."
Often you do a good deed and never see who it might benefit- or if anyone does at all. And when you do these things without even thinking about it, that's when you have earned respectable character. And that's when everyone benefits.
Passion Under Grace,