At the writing of this article, another Christmas day had just past. Do you remember how good yours was? Answering that depends on how the one asking is using the term ‘good’, right? They may mean enjoyable good, effectively good, eternally good, or some combination. Those three E’s are the typical meanings we intend, which is a good segue into this week’s question of confidence: “What is ultimately ‘good’?” ‘Ultimately’ implies an eternal good, even if we do not benefit now and every other human disagrees.
As you may know, words’ meanings can change over time. And those meanings generally support or reflect one of three stages of a society: survival, industry, or consumption. The same principles are true for any group in which its members are interdependent: societies, families, work teams, etc.
In groups focused on survival, “good” often means eternal or effective. For when we are under great stress in this world we tend to hope in better things after death. Or, if the person doesn’t believe in God, ‘good’ may simply be whatever is effective to help them survive this life. Either way, Jesus encourages us to rest in God, not in this world or our abilities. (Exodus 4:10-16, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Judges 6:15ff, Matthew 6:19-34) In fact, the Lord tends to use the least of us. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Industrial groups are not usually concerned with survival, so ‘good’ is whatever is effective to bring even more security and progress for them and their loved ones. And, of course, such goals also imply the ‘good’ of enjoying their works. But as human experience and Scripture warn us, when we have more power to improve our lives we tend to look less to God. (note the allusion to Israel‘s history in Psalm 107 – especially vs 23-32, see also Proverbs 30:8-9, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Daniel 4:28-33) The hearts behind the tower of Babel is clear in Genesis 11:4. Human power tends to corrupt.
And consumer groups tend to express the least biblical faith and obedience. That’s because (generally) they did not earn their wealth – they inherited it. So, it’s easier for them to see religion as mere means to their definition of the ultimate good: more wealth to enjoy. But, as we can clearly see in 1 Timothy 6:3-10, loving anything more than God is idolatry. Sadly, the “growth” from survival to industry to consumerism and the simultaneous decline of biblical faith seems to be the norm – unless God intervenes with His grace. In Genesis 4, we can see the trend in Cain’s line. Cain struggled (vs 11-16), then Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain were productive (vs 20-22), and Lamech finally believed he was even entitled to sin (vs 23-24). Seth’s line, however, called on God (vs 25-26).
In this week’s video, you will see three characteristics of God described as His inherent goodness. Discuss the following in light of the Scriptures:
- How can God’s grace bring confidence to the poor, productive, or prosperous?
- How can His fruitfulness bring confidence to the poor, productive, or prosperous?
- And how can His justice bring confidence to the poor, productive, or the prosperous?
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.