17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’[a]” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
As we continue in our series in Galatians 5, “Cultivating Christ Like Character” we come to the sixth virtue in the fruit of the Spirit, Goodness. Early on at the beginning of our English language, the word “good” carried the same connotation as the name “God.” Goodness may appear to be the most obviously understandable fruit, but it is often misunderstood and even made fun off. While God wants us to grow in goodness, our current culture tends to make fun of those who are “goody-two-shoes” kinds of people. While love, joy, and peace seem to hit home runs, sending the ball out of the park, goodness struggles just to steal a base. Today there are many who don’t consider goodness to be an important or even desirable virtue. Goodness may be the hardest fruit to teach on partly because we have so overused the word good. We say that we had a good vacation, a good cry, or a good meal. But what does it really mean to be good? To answer that question, we are going to turn in our bibles to the book of Mark chapter 10 where we see Jesus revealing several startling truths about Goodness as he encounters a man who considered himself to be very good. It’s here that we see this wealthy man running up to Jesus and falling on his knees before him asking, “Good teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus turned to the inquisitive man and asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” The man did a quick inventory and said, “I’ve kept all these since I was a boy. There’s got to be more. Is there something that I’m still missing?” Surprisingly, Jesus did not argue with him or point out that he couldn’t possibly have kept all these commands. Instead, he looked intently at him with eyes of love and then said, “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.” When the young man heard this, his face fell. He walked away sad because he had a lot of money. It’s here in this passage that Jesus reveals three powerful truths that will serve to guide us toward growing in goodness. First:
- God is Good
This man was a seeker of truth and from a worldly perspective he had everything anyone could want. He was young, He had power, Luke tells us that he was a ruler, and along with power he had possessions. Not only was he a ruler he was a rich ruler. He had youth, money and power quite a cocktail, it’s what our society says is the secret to success. But do you notice it’s not enough, despite having social status and worldly success he was still not satisfied. That restless caused him to not only search for something more, but to run to and fall at the feet of Jesus. He had worldly treasure but what he really needed and was searching for was truth. Deep down he was not happy with his legalistic, performance driven, graceless religion. He could sense that something was missing. His act of running up to Jesus shows us that he was earnest. Remember rich rulers down run, their servants do the running. For this man to run to Jesus would have been very undignified, but notice he is not concerned with social expectations and peer pressure. It’s not about looking good it’s about running to God so we can live out His goodness. Also, his kneeling demonstrates his sincerity. From a social perspective Jesus was a carpenter turned teacher while he was a king. It’s really quite a picture, the loaded leader kneeling before the peasant preacher. Now somewhere along the way he had picked up the idea that he had to do good things in order to be saved. Maybe it’s something that his parents had taught him, or religion had instilled in him, but that belief had influenced his behavior. So, he starts out by calling Jesus “good.” This is where things get interesting because this is where Jesus stops him and says, “Why do you call me good when only God is intrinsically good?” His answer must have surprised the man because at first glance it had no connection with the man’s question. Instead of answering his inquiry, Jesus makes the man realize the essence of goodness as exhibited in God. As 1 Chronicles 16:34 clearly communicated: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Or as the psalmist declares as he worships God in Psalm 119:68, “You are good, and what you do is good…” Or as many Christians confess, God is good…all the time. Now as the rich young ruler addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” he may have been trying to compliment or even flatter Him. Whatever his reason he had come seeking truth and so Jesus taught him a foundational truth, that he could not be “good” if He was a mere mortal man. Only God was good and that could only mean one thing. Jesus was revealing that if only God was good then to call Jesus good meant he was calling him God. The first hurdle to salvation is we have to be prepared to acknowledge who Jesus really is. That he is not just a good man he is the God man. So, let me ask you, who is Jesus to you? Was He just a good prophet or the perfect God who laid down His life for us on the cross of Calvary? And if you see God as good, is He only good sometimes or all the time? Gods goodness is not tied to your circumstances but to the cross. So, when your circumstances crumble don’t look for the good in life, look for it in the Lord of life. As Christians we need to stop focusing on our circumstances and start focusing on the cross.