The sin of being good

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

-- Romans 2:1

I came of age in the '70s, when bad was good. If you told your friend, "Man, that's one bad ride," you were actually complimenting the gentleman for his fine automobile. If you called someone a "bad dude," it meant this fine fellow excelled at whatever endeavor he undertook. "Bad" was good.

The Apostle Paul has just argued in his epistle to the Romans that it is bad to be bad (ref. 1:18-32). Now he is going to tell us that good can be bad, too (ref. 2:1-11). That is, until we are transformed from bad to good. Then, good is what the good do.

Bad is bad

In the previous chapter, Paul states that non-Christians are unrighteous and ungodly in the eyes of God. They are bad and they engage in bad behavior, following their lustful feelings and turning their backs on God. God eventually gives up on such bad people, fed up with their litany of bad deeds.

Therefore, God's wrath is for every cognizant human being who has turned their back on God in order to live an unbelieving, ungodly, ultimately bad life. And, Paul added, "They are without excuse" (ref. 1:20). Does this make you feel good? You should not. If you do, "You have no excuse" (ref. 2:1) either. For, good can be bad, too.

Good is bad

Good is bad when you judge bad people because you think you are so good. Paul used a witty wordplay here to point out those who judge others are actually piling on judgment for themselves. Speaking of pointing, it's like the old ditty when you point your finger at someone, you have three pointing back at you.

Good is bad when you think you are too good to do bad things. Do you think you are too good to have ever engaged in such bad sins? Then I've got five words for you: The Sermon on the Mount (ref. Matthew 5-7).

Good is bad when you think God's blessings have come to you because you are good. This is the exact premise of the prosperity Gospel, the insidious notion that God can be bought. Good is bad when you seek glory and honor for yourself instead of God. There are a lot of good people who have an insatiable lust for recognition, fame, fortune, power. Such good people will receive the shock of their lives, when their lives are over, and nothing but the bad, awful, wrath of God comes pouring out on them.

Bad is good

We humans turn good into bad. God, however, turns bad into good. It is called "repentance." This is the grace whereby God turns a sinner from their unbelieving, bad, wasted life to faith in Christ, and the faithful, truly good, godly life of a genuine Christian.

God's goodness led this bad boy to repentance and faith in 1982. Everyone thought I was good, especially me. I was from a good family, was a good student, was a good athlete, had a bunch of good friends, lived a really good life, and was looking forward to a good future. Then the Gospel exploded into my good life and revealed it to be bad, because I was living for my glory and my honor. When I realized I was bad, it hurt so good, for that is when I found grace, in repentance and faith, and began to live my life for the glory and honor of God.

Good is good

How do you define the good life? Most people would say a good education, a good job, a good family, a good neighborhood, and good retirement account, and maybe even throw in a good church, or temple, or synagogue. But what good is this life, really, if one is not a true Christian, but rather a none or a nominal or a hypocrite?

Good in God's economy cannot be measured in dollars and cents, real estate and retirement accounts, treasure and trips. What is good with God is real repentance, genuine faith, and the good works which flow out of it, for the glory of God. This good is the real good, and it endures forever.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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