A good man will obtain favor from the Lord, but He will condemn a man who devises evil
This proverb is the essence of moral living, but it also hints at at least one of the problems of viewing moral living from a foolish perspective.
This proverb says that the person who does the good thing – the morally helpful thing and not just abstaining from the selfish and/or morally reprehensible thing – will receive favor, blessing, and grace from God. At the same time, the person who plots and schemes to accomplish selfish and sinful ends will be guilty and receive a compensation or consequence because of it.
One needs to spend some time thinking about the idea of goodness. This is the opposite of evil. Evil and wickedness in the Old Testament is behavior that is beyond the Ten Commandments; therefore, stealing, lying, adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, rebellion, murder, coveting others property are all forms of wickedness. Much of morality has been discussed and framed as stopping before one commits these violations of the Ten Commandments. That is true but it is not being good. Good is a positive, not the absence of a negative.
One could make a case for the boundaries of morality being in the place they are because it is at that point when the selfishness-track that the person is on begins to do significant societal damage. The actions that are being perpetrated at that morality point are now going to collect damage and difficulty to the person and others at a point where it begins to destabilize the individual’s life and the peace and security of the society at large.
Goodness is doing the opposite of the negative and, thereby, benefiting society and another person. Being good or doing good is worshipping God and putting Him first. Goodness is speaking blessings into others’ lives. It is adding value to authorities rather than rebelling. It is meeting the needs of others rather than being angry and violent. It is developing a strong and loving marriage rather than being selfish and unfaithful. It is being generous and charitable rather than stealing. It is being truthful instead of lying. It is being content rather than covetous of others’ blessings.
We must make sure that we do not begin to define being a good person as one who didn’t do really bad stuff or being a nice person. That is not a biblical definition. Goodness is doing really good stuff. This means that we need to set out each day to do positive things into the lives of the people that we meet that day. I am amazed at how many well-meaning Christians never escape thinking about themselves every day. They somehow have not gotten this idea of being good – doing something positive and need-meeting into the lives of people. They believe that if they are nice and not overtly evil or selfish that this somehow is okay and good. It is not; especially for the person making a claim to godliness.
Pour into the lives of the people and relationships of your life positive, helpful, need-meeting activities, words, and attitudes so that people will know you as a biblically good person.
One must also realize that this is not good in the ultimate sense as God is good. That would require perfection in goodness. No one but God has that level of goodness and because of that, no one but Jesus Christ has ever earned a place in God’s presence with their life.
One of the hints or subtle truths of this verse is how long it takes for the favor of the Lord to show up. This is not talked about in this verse directly but think through the process of goodness and foolishness. The fool is one who lives for self and immediate gratification. They want what they want right now with no waiting. If they do not personally see a benefit to an action immediately, they will rarely do it. This is the opposite of the person of wisdom. They are motivated not by self but to glorify God. They are able to be patient and wait for the personal benefits that come from righteousness and goodness. Because of how the wise person and the fool approach benefits and results, it is obvious that the favor that the good person receives will not come as a candy motivation to keep doing good things. Instead, the favor the Lord bestows on those who do good and slowly builds up and envelops the good person. They may not even be able to point to specific benefits as to why they came; they just surround the good person. For while God rewards those who live righteously, it is not a Pavlovian reward but instead a higher more patient benefit.
In other words, realize that the benefits of the good actions you perform will come to you over time and by the hand of a good and benevolent God who knows how to reward those who seek Him. Do not do something good and then look heavenward for where the candy reward will fall.
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.