The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is “Being Good” All That Matters?
“I LIVE my life the best way I can and try to be a good person,” says a young woman named Allison. Like her, many believe that such an approach to life is all that God requires.
Others feel certain that even if they sin gravely, God does not care as long as their overall life pattern is positive. They believe that God is more inclined to forgive than to condemn.
Of course, definitions of “being good” vary from person to person. But what does the Bible say? What must we do to have God’s approval? What does it mean to be a good person in God’s eyes?
Accepting Our Creator’s Guidance
As our Creator, Jehovah God has the right to give us moral direction. (Revelation 4:11) In the Bible, God provides laws and principles to guide our conduct and worship. To his people, God said: “Obey my voice, and you must do things according to all that I command you; and you will certainly become my people and I myself shall become your God.”—Jeremiah 11:4.
So “being good” from God’s viewpoint requires learning what his standards are and adjusting our life to meet them. Imagine that you wanted to become someone’s friend. You would naturally want to know how that one prefers to be treated, and then you would act in a way that pleases him or her. The Bible indicates that like the patriarch Abraham, we can become Jehovah’s friend—that is, someone he looks upon with favor. (James 2:23) Moreover, since God has much higher standards than we do, we cannot expect him to make changes to fit our personal values.—Isaiah 55:8, 9.
The Importance of Obedience
Will God really disapprove of us if we disregard “minor” commands? Some may reason that obedience to certain “lesser” commands is not important. However, no law established by God can be dismissed as unimportant. Note that at 1 John 5:3, the Bible makes no distinction when it says: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” When we do our best to keep all of God’s laws, we prove our unselfish love for him.—Matthew 22:37.
Jehovah is not an exacting perfectionist. If we are truly sorry for our errors and try hard to avoid repeating them, he willingly forgives us. (Psalm 103:12-14; Acts 3:19) But can we intentionally ignore certain laws, thinking that this will be offset by our obedience in other matters? A Bible example shows that we cannot.
King Saul of Israel chose to obey God’s commands selectively. When warring with the Amalekites, he was instructed that he should not spare their livestock. He was to “put them to death.” Although he followed other instructions, Saul disobeyed and spared “the best of the flock and the herd.” Why? He and the rest of the people wanted these for themselves.—1 Samuel 15:2-9.
When the prophet Samuel asked Saul why he had not obeyed God’s command, Saul protested and claimed that he had obeyed. He listed the good things he and the people had done, including sacrifices they had offered to God. Samuel asked: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:17-22) So we cannot compensate for disobedience to God in certain matters by offering sacrifices or doing other works that are good.
God’s Standards—Evidence of His Love
Jehovah lovingly does not expect us to guess how to please him. In the Bible he gives clear moral direction, saying in effect: “This is the way. Walk in it, you people.” (Isaiah 30:21) When we follow his direction, we avoid the frustration and uncertainty of sifting through the conflicting moral opinions of humans. And we can be confident that God’s guidance is always for our good, ‘teaching us to benefit ourselves.’—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
What is the danger in choosing for ourselves what constitutes “being good”? We have all inherited a tendency to act selfishly. Our own hearts can deceive us. (Jeremiah 17:9) We could easily minimize the importance of God-given requirements that we construe to be difficult or restrictive.
For example, two unmarried people may choose to have sex, thinking that since no one else is involved, it is purely a personal matter. They may realize that their actions do not meet Bible standards but may conclude that as long as “no one gets hurt,” God is unlikely to object. Their desires could blind them to the full significance and consequences of their actions. The Bible warns: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.”—Proverbs 14:12.
All of Jehovah’s laws reflect his love for humans and his desire to see us avoid suffering. Sidestepping God’s standards regarding sexual morality or other conduct has not led people to greater happiness and success in life. For many, it has greatly complicated their life. On the other hand, following God’s laws helps us in our efforts to lead a good life and to avoid causing needless harm to ourselves and to others.—Psalm 19:7-11.
If you are sincere in your desire to be a good person from God’s viewpoint, then make every effort to follow his direction. You will experience for yourself that “[Jehovah’s] commandments are not burdensome.”—1 John 5:3.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ Why should we accept our Creator’s guidance?—Revelation 4:11.
▪ Must we obey all of God’s commands?—1 John 5:3.
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Do you have God’s view of morality?