“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”
Jesus’ reply to the rich man here is full of surprises. First, in response to being called “Good teacher,” Jesus says, “only God is good.” Was Jesus saying that he is not God? No, Jesus answered this way because the rich man saw him as just a man—a good man, but still just a man. As the rich man stood before Jesus, he was also confronted with the fact that he himself was just a man and not as good as he had thought. Ultimately, only God is good. (And, of course, Jesus himself is good because he too is God, but he is not drawing attention to himself here.)
In our everyday lives, we use the word good to describe all kinds of things. We say, “Good morning.” We appreciated a good breakfast. Seeing that the weather is good, we go out to meet with our good friends.
The Bible, however, mainly uses the word good to refer to what is pure and holy. The point Jesus is making is that only the perfect and holy God is truly good.
And yet, as we find forgiveness through Jesus and we are restored to a right relationship with God, we gain the ability to do good and to be good. All who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and act for his glory will one day hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (see Matthew 25:21, 23).
Father, help us to follow Jesus. Forgive our sins, we pray, and, by the power of your Spirit in us, help us to do what is good. Amen.
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