“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:7-8
Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. He says, “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50).
As we look closely at Jesus’s parable, we find that He speaks with definitive statements—good, bad, righteous, wicked—which bumps up against our cultural sensibilities. Our culture’s definition of good, bad, righteous and wicked are always changing. What was good 50 years ago is no longer good and what was bad 50 years ago is no longer bad. We live in a society that calls almost everything good and the only bad thing today is to call something bad or sinful. To speak in definitive statements that question the moral choices of how someone lives their life is what our current cultural climate cannot stand. We have a standard in our society, but it is constantly changing, situational and elusive. There is almost an idea of “You live by your truth and I’ll live by mine. You follow your path and I’ll follow mine. Don’t put your morals on me.” Yet, Jesus does not leave any wiggle room for “sometimes good” or “most-of-the-time good.” This begs the question, What is defined as good, bad, righteous or wicked? It also raises these questions: Who gets to determine what qualifies as good or righteous? Who gets to determine what is considered bad or wicked? By what standard is goodness measured?
For the listeners of Jesus’s parable, the answer is obvious. They are the covenant people of God and their measure of goodness is informed by the Old Testament law, which they follow scrupulously. Some of us, when we get a list of commands, tend to look around our culture at people whose lives are falling apart and measure ourselves against them. The truth of the matter is that we tend to minimize our own evil behaviour and amplify the behaviour of others around us. We are self-deceived about our own goodness. Meanwhile, we are way more sinful than we think.
Jesus tells us, “No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:18). None of us by God’s standard is good or righteous, but the good news is that Jesus came to die for sinners.
Lord Jesus, thank You for saving sinners like me. I confess of the times when I compare my own behaviour to others, thinking I am better, when there is no one good except You alone.