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God’s Goodness

Posted in Attributes of God

By Benjamin Tangeman

For a recent home group meeting, Eli asked us to think about the attribute of God that had been blessing us specifically lately.

I immediately began ruminating on all of the usual attributes: grace, love, justice, mercy, holiness, omniscience, etc. But I wondered how I could pick just one.

Is there one attribute of God that “covers” all the others or one He exhibits more than the rest? I quickly reached the conclusion that there was no answer to that question. Unlike us, God is able to be all good things, all the time, to everyone. Encouraged by this truth, I decided to explore God’s goodness.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Beavers tell the Pevensie children about the lion, Aslan, king of Narnia. Susan questions if he is “quite safe.” Mr. Beaver then responds profoundly when he says, “Safe…don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver is telling you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He’s the king, I tell you.”

As a lion and a king, there is nothing about Aslan that fits the children’s definition of “safe.” He is uncontrollable, unpredictable, and he can’t be completely understood. But he can be trusted, because he is good. I believe this applies to our perception of who God is.

Luke 18:18-30 tells the story of a rich ruler who approaches Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies, “Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone.” Jesus continues by telling the ruler to follow the commandments of Moses. He has since his youth, so Jesus tells him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man leaves, choosing not to relinquish his wealth to invest in Jesus.

In the same fashion as Mr. Beaver challenged the children’s views of Aslan, Jesus challenges the assumptions of the ruler and makes it clear that the attribute of goodness is exclusive to God alone.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “good” as “of high quality; virtuous, righteous, commendable.” By calling Jesus “Good Teacher,” was the ruler not trying to constrain Jesus within the “safe” context of his “good” obedience to the Law, comparing his own high moral virtue to Jesus’s?

Jesus’ response to this comparison is simply, “There is no one good except God.”

Ultimately, the safety the young ruler felt was not truly in God and His goodness, but in his own. In the end he clung to that false hope.

Though he measured up to the letter of the law, he fell short when measured against the intent of the law: a heart that follows after God and trusts His inherent goodness.

According to Genesis, Man was made good in the image of God. But Adam and Eve lost that inherent goodness when they disobeyed the only commandment they had been given for the same reason as that of the ruler: they decided to trust in their own wisdom rather than the goodness of God.

All too often, I encounter things in my life that do not make sense, that don’t happen the way I want them to, that do not fit my definition of “good”: the death of my father at a young age; moving away from everything familiar to everything new; watching my mother raise us without a partner; challenges at work; financial limitations; personal temptations and struggles.

Yet God has used and continues to use these things to clearly reveal His goodness to me. He provided for my family for every need and more and became my father. He provided a home and friends and strength to my mother. He provides me with a job, with opportunity, with influence. He shows His goodness by not allowing me to be tempted beyond my weak ability. He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

Saints, God is God. There is nothing about him that fits into our definition of “safe.” He can’t be controlled. He can’t be predicted. He can’t be completely understood. But He can be trusted, because He is good. Even though He is exempt from our understanding and control, He exists according to His own perfect standard. He is YHWH, “I Am,” the ultimate creator and sustainer of everything. Everything exists within His definition. He is Good because He is God.

“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” James 1:17

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposes.” Romans 8:28

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