This post is part of a series on Life's Difficult Questions, designed to provide you with concise and scripturally-based answers to difficult questions you are likely to encounter.
“Am I a good person?” You may ask yourself after you’ve committed a sin you instantly regret, or maybe when you’ve fallen back into a pattern of sin.
Maybe you’ve wondered if you’re a good person when it seems like life is just one big trial after another. Perhaps a loved one has asked you this question, and you haven't known how to answer.
Are We Good People?
If you asked the average person on the street the question “Do you think you are a good person?” you may get a variety of responses.
However, the most common one you will probably get is along the lines of "I'm not perfect, but I haven't committed a felony or cheated on my spouse, so I still think I'm good."
But, when we look in Scripture, what do we learn about our nature? We learn that none of us, from the worst criminal to the most selfless humanitarian, is a good person in God's eyes.
This is hard to digest ourselves, and even harder to explain to someone else. As humans, we naturally tend to think of ourselves as pretty good. After all, most of us are not convicted murderers or sex offenders. Of course we gossip, tell white lies, lose our tempers, and give in to sexual desire, but doesn't everyone else? Why does Scripture tell me I am not good enough?
The apostle Paul, writing to the Roman believers of the first century, quotes from Psalms 14 and 53 when he writes,
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12 KJV, emphasis added).
When God looks down from heaven, trying to find a righteous person, He can find none. Not only is no one righteous, but there aren’t even any who do good. Not even one! Later in the same chapter, Paul writes a verse that many of us memorized in Sunday school:
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).”
It’s easy to compare ourselves to other people, but we are not the standard that God uses. God uses His standard when looking at our hearts.
God’s standard is perfection.We need only to look at a few of God’s Ten Commandments to realize that we all quickly fall short of His perfect standard.
Have you lied? Have you always honored your father and mother? What about using the Lord’s name as a swear word? These are just three of the Ten Commandments. Multiply any of these by the number of days, weeks, and years that you have lived, and you can quickly see how many times you have failed.
This is true of every person in history since Adam and Eve. In Psalm 51:5, King David lamented over his sin:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Ephesians 2:1-3 says,
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
This is the disease of all people. We are born spiritually dead. There is nothing good within us. Sure, we do nice things—we can be friendly neighbors, and we can be giving, thoughtful, courageous, gentle-spirited, and kind to children and animals. But at the end of the day, a holy God only sees it as filthy clothes (Isaiah 64:6).
This sin leaves mankind under God’s judgement, for a holy and perfect judge cannot live with sin and must punish those who break His law (Romans 2:7, Romans 6:23). The Bible says that all who die in the guilt of their sins will find themselves in hell (Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 21:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Matthew 13:50).
The Good News
Even though we are not good, even though we have broken so many commands, even though our sin makes us fall short of God’s perfection and headed for hell, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)!
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Ephesians 2:4-5 (KJV)
Why did Christ die? Because we needed someone to pay the penalty for our sin. In order for God to forgive our sin, the debt had to be paid. So, Jesus came to earth, was born of the Virgin Mary, and became a man to take our sins on Himself and die the death that we deserved (Romans 8:32).
The wrath of God has been satisfied. He satisfied that wrath Himself! And now, those who place their faith and trust in Christ alone for the redemption of sins can know that they are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. God sees His people as righteous (Romans 5:9, 1 John 4:10, John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
The entire Bible tells the story of God’s plan to redeem a people to Himself. While reading the Old Testament, we see the narratives, the law, the prophets, and the Psalms all pointing to Jesus. In the New Testament, the story is brought to fullness as Jesus comes to fulfill God’s glorious plan.
So here’s the answer to the original question, “Am I a good person?”: No, we aren’t good by nature, but, if we follow Christ, His goodness is thrust upon us. That is the wonderful news of the Bible!