“The Bible consistently describes God as good. But some say [God] isn't good or that some of the things [God's] done aren't good. Are there different definitions of good?”
Tim Kirkpatrick (“God is Good,” Life Hope & Truth Website)
Southerners like to say, “God is Good,” by way of greeting—similar to the “Namaste” greeting in Hindu, which is, “God in me honors God in you.” Some of us follow with the salutation, “Have a blessed day.” The greeting is meant for good, for blessing, but it always raises questions in me. I have learned, over the years, to keep my questions to myself on this subject, because I know the intention behind it is positive, and because people look askance at me when I ask them. Nevertheless...
There are several definitions of what it means to be “good.” As Tim Kirkpatrick says in his article, it can be a matter of perspective. From my perspective, if I receive something positive—say, I win the lottery—that would be good because it benefits me. God is good if I win the lottery, right? But, what if my winning the lottery means that you, who may need the money more than I do, lose. Good for me, bad for you. Hope you didn't need that money for a liver transplant, or something. Is God implicated in that?
Kirkpatrick writes, “How people define 'good' can also have to do with the matter of time.” In other words, there is a short-term perspective, and a long term one. If God pleases me today, say, by letting me win the lottery, then God is good. This leaves out the possibility of what happens next year, or five years from now. What if I become a derelict sot as a result of winning big money; what if I become a compulsive gambler, leave my family and my job to live all day in a casino. Short-term good sometimes leads to long-term not-so-good. How does God figure into that?
Some of us consider “good” to mean niceness, or good manners. Kirkpatrick calls our term, “politically correct,” institutionalized niceness. We Southerners can say nice things with a forked tongue, let me tell you. We can say lovely things that have no basis in truth or honesty. We can smile to your face, and be generous with our compliments, fain humility and loyalty, and not mean a single word of it. I'll bet you have some experience with that, too. Where is God in all that?
Perhaps God's goodness is on the long-term plan. What if all that happens—good or bad, by our definition—is part of God's working out the kinks, of tweaking God's creation. Sometimes the “bad” things that happen in our lives utterly change us, change our hearts and our trajectory. Sometimes loss, even disaster, is exactly what we need to turn our lives around, and take a different direction toward a better outcome. Who knows? Only God—and God is good, right?
In the Spirit,