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4 Ways to Be ‘Good’

We need a resurgence of Christ-followers who are determined to be ‘good’—people who are committed to obeying God.

By Dennis Rainey

It was Thoreau who said, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

“An investment?” you ask. That’s right, an investment … in your spouse, your children, your employees, or even a stranger.

Our grayish culture of no absolutes has bleached out the once colorful connotations to the word “good.” Today if something is “good” that means it’s “just okay.” Good is third in line at Sears behind “better” and “best.” And we know to steer clear of a “good” used car—it’s probably been a rental car driven for 225,000 miles and then used in a demolition derby!

To recover the once lofty meaning of “good,” I am reminded of the conversation between the rich young ruler and Jesus in Matthew 19:16-17. Jesus’ words to him in verse 17 were: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good …”

There’s our first clue: Only God is good. The Psalmist adds, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5, NASB). Merrill Unger writes of God’s goodness, “It expresses the supreme benevolence, holiness, and excellence of the divine character, the sum of all God’s attributes.”

Are you beginning to grasp God’s perspective on “good”? Enlightening, isn’t it?

How to be good

Our children often taught us about being good. Sure, we trained them, but occasionally (without knowing it) they’ll take us to school. When our son Samuel was eight years old, he typed out a treatise entitled “How to Be Good.” The following is Samuel’s own, unedited work shared exclusively with verbal permission for your benefit:


Obay you parntes and GOD.

Do want other kids want to do.

Do not be selfish.

Be good to babbysearts.

Do want parntes say.

Do not cheat.

Play right.

Be a good player.

Dont be a por sport.

Do not cuse.

Not bad, huh?

So how can we be good? Samuel’s insight mirrors Christ’s command to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 in the last half of verse 17: “… If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Learning obedience

At the heart of goodness is obedience. Since “being good” is tied to obeying God’s commandments, maybe we should consider how they apply to us today. I wonder how many of us could even name all of the commandments. Why not pull out Exodus 20 and read and discuss them at dinner tonight. I’ll give you a head start by discussing four of them below.

1. “You shall have no other Gods before me.”

I’m convinced that one of modern Christianity’s worst forms of idolatry is our worship of things. Materialism. Barbara and I constantly struggle to stay out of this quicksand. We never wanted to leave a legacy of materialism to our kids. (By the way, this is the one commandment to which God attaches a warning that He will visit our sins on the children—even to the third and fourth generation.)

Another form of idolatry is our worship of self-fulfillment. Careers, the number of children we decide to have, our attitude about divorce, and our general preoccupation with “what’s in it for me” have all been sired by the personal rights movement. The Christian Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said it best: “The time has come to speak not so much about human rights, but about our human responsibilities.”

2. “You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain.

Taking God’s name in vain is more than just using