“God is good.”
This sentence has become somewhat of a cliché. But it is indeed true. Amid the chaos and seemingly unnecessary pain in this fallen world, God has always been and always will be good! His goodness is one of his fundamental attributes. What does it mean then, that God is ‘good,’ biblically? In the western world God’s goodness is generically understood as God being a nice grandpa in the sky, ready to support our every move and handing out money and candy. We project our human idea of ‘goodness’ onto God, rather than allowing the Scriptures to define what it means. And so, the aim of this article is to meditate on the goodness of God from a biblical perspective.
Perfectly good and righteous
It is firstly made clear that the biblical God is good in the moral sense. He is perfectly good and righteous, and there is no evil or sin in him (Psalm 92:15; 1 John 3:2–6). God cannot be unjust, lose his temper, harbor bitterness, envy, lie, or cheat. As Moses writes, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19). In contrast, we can imagine an evil, malevolent deity who lies and takes pleasure in the suffering of his creatures, just because he can. The God of the Bible, however, is spotlessly good and full of integrity. He cannot do wrong; he cannot even desire to do wrong. It is in violation of his own nature. His disposition and his actions are always perfectly good and appropriate.
We experience reflective rays of God’s glory and glimpses of heaven in our daily lives: stunning displays of sunrises and sunsets, majestic mountains, vast oceans, the sound and smell of rainfall after a drought, delicate flowers, regal horses, graceful swans, and faithful dogs. We experience the blessing of newborn babies with tiny yet perfect little fingers and toes, the laughter and sparkle in a child’s eyes, the sacrificial love of parents to their children, and the beautiful covenant love and care between husband and wife from young and attractive to gray hairs.
Goodness and love overlapping
Secondly, we often see in the Scriptures how God’s goodness overlaps with his love. For example, Psalm 106 begins: “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” The greatest display that God is love (1 John 4:16) is found in the work of redemption for fallen sinners—though we were underserving, hardened, self-exalting, and self-centered idolaters. We were enemies, scoffers, and haters of the one true God (Rom 1:28–32; Tit 3:3; John 3:19–20), who created us in his very own image. In theology, this redemptive love that saves sinners is called particular or ‘special grace.’ However, in this article, I want us to meditate on the demonstrations of love and goodness in our everyday lives that we often take for granted. The grace of God which is poured out indiscriminately and shared by the whole of creation.
This aspect of God’s love and goodness is known as God’s benevolent love or ‘common grace.’ The psalmist declares: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you” (Psalm 145: 8–10). God is, in this sense, good to all indiscriminately. Similarly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets the highest standard of love that has ever existed: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Matt 5:44–45). In order for us to be like our heavenly Father then, we are to love our enemies and do good to them, rather than responding in kind. In Ezekiel 33:11 we read, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…” Likewise, in response to Jonah’s self-righteous anger God says, “Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well?” (Jon. 4:10–11). Here we see that the perfectly holy and just God nevertheless has a disposition of goodwill toward even evil men (and their livestock!). Although he must and does punish sinners, he takes no pleasure or enjoyment in it. The biblical God is thus a benevolent God who desires good for all his creation.
Creation displays the glory of God
Thirdly, the Bible teaches that creation displays the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), including the image of God in humanity—though the image is marred and falls short. Thus, even though the whole of creation is groaning under the curse of the fall and is eagerly awaiting its full redemption (Rom. 8:19–22), we experience reflective rays of God’s glory and glimpses of heaven in our daily lives: stunning displays of sunrises and sunsets, majestic mountains, vast oceans, the sound and smell of rainfall after a drought, delicate flowers, regal horses, graceful swans, and faithful dogs. We experience the blessing of newborn babies with tiny yet perfect little fingers and toes, the laughter and sparkle in a child’s eyes, the sacrificial love of parents to their children, and the beautiful covenant love and care between husband and wife from young and attractive to gray hairs. All these—and so much more—point us to James’ words, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17).
And yet, we often take God’s goodness and underserved blessings for granted, forgetting that we—sinners and one-time enemies of God—do not, in fact, deserve his goodness. When we encounter various trials of life in a fallen world, we complain and ask, ‘Why me?’ However, when well enough to enjoy a beautiful sunset, music, a good book, delicious food, sweet smells, tight hugs, kisses, laughter, the company of family, friends, and cute animals, how often do we pause long enough to give thanks to our gracious Heavenly Father for his bounty? Discontentment, a spirit of grumbling, and coveting what we do not have, are grievous sins (Exodus 16:2–8; 1 Cor 10:1–11; James 1:14–15). We all deserve condemnation for turning our backs on our Creator, and yet God showers us with goodness and mercy every day of our lives: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).
Don’t take it for granted
Like the Psalmist, we should daily ask ourselves, “Who are we, that the Almighty God should care for us?” (Psalm 144:3). Answer: We are but a breath, our lives a passing shadow (v. 4). James warns Christians about taking life, health, and wealth for granted, which are sins of presumption and boasting: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). Humans are but dust compared to God, yet he upholds the whole world in his goodness. Even those who will never acknowledge God or turn to their Creator and Savior are often blessed in this life by the sheer mercy of God. So then, let us pause today to meditate on God’s Word and the salvation he has given us in Christ. Let us thank him for his goodness and lovingkindness, trusting that he is faithful, wise, good, and true in all his ways, even those we do not fully understand.