This article is another installment of our Questionable Quotes (?Q) series, where we aim to take popular, commonly used quotes about the church, God, and the Bible and put them under the microscope to see if they really hold up to the truth.
“I’m a good person.”
It’s one of the saddest things a person can say about their relationship with God. It’s also based on the faultiest of foundations of just about any statement ever made in human history. But, “I’m a good person” is something a massive number of people say when confronted with their sins. “God wouldn’t send me to hell, I’m a good person.” “Yeah, I’ve sinned, but I’m still a good person.” “I think God just wants us all to be good people.” “I’ve done more good than bad.”
A couple of weeks ago I wrote on a Questionable Quote that’s probably most common among regular churchgoers, “I’m not good enough.” The irony is that both “I’m not good enough” and “I’m a good person” stem from the same root. Both completely misunderstand the nature of sin. When people admit their defeat and say “I’m not good enough” and worry that such an admission will keep them out of heaven, they unintentionally imply that it’s possible for any of us to be good enough to overcome our sins.
On the other hand, when someone says, “I’m a good person,” they agree with the person who feels inadequate in that they both think sins can be overcome by meritorious work, but they go one step further by being arrogant enough to assert that they are strong enough in themselves to do so. At least the “I’m not good enough” crowd understands the difficulty of the task set before them.
This belief in our own goodness is just another sign that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of Christianity in the world today, and sin is at the center of a great deal of it. People can only say things such as “God won’t send me to hell, I’m a good person” when they clearly haven’t been taught what the Bible says about sin. When people declare themselves to be “good,” they don’t understand what they’re saying. They’re making four disturbing, uninformed claims about God and His word: first, that sin isn’t that big of a deal, second, that Jesus didn’t need to die for their sins, third, that God didn’t really know what He was doing when He sent Jesus to die, and fourth, that all the verses in the Bible about God’s justice and the payment for sin aren’t actually true, verses like –
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; The Lord has caused the iniquity of all of us to fall on Him.” – Isaiah 53:6
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 3:23, 6:23
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” – Ephesians 2:1
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6
Some simply don’t know that the Bible gives those strong condemnations of all sin. Unfortunately, there are somehow still others who look at those verses and admit that they have sinned but still believe that they can do enough good to tip the scales back in their favor. What do those verses say, though? Sin = death. Sin cannot be paid off with good deeds, church contributions, or any number of assigned prayers. Sin can only be paid off in one of two ways: your soul being given over to the second death (hell) or the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. That’s it.
Most seem to find this unfair, yet they forget that the most unfair thing that ever happened was Jesus dying on that cross for them, so that they could be forgiven a lifetime of not being good people.
People are carrying this inadequate excuse with them into the judgment on a daily basis, and they are going in unprepared. We can’t continue to let people think of themselves as “good” in the sight of God when they haven’t even recognized their sin – not to mention addressed it by submitting their lives to Him. And, lest we get overly confident in looking at how others have misunderstood sin, Christians can’t fuel this notion by pretending to be good people in our own lives, either. As great as the temptation may be to present ourselves as well put together, “good” people, we need to remind them that our sins are constantly being cleansed. We need to have the attitude of Paul, who had no problem referring to himself as the chief of sinners. We need to show them the heart of the tax collector in Luke 18, constantly begging, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
The truth is, you’re not a good person. I’m not a good person. The best person you know isn’t a good person. Only God is good (Luke 18:19). We are all sinners who deserve every ounce of the wrath of God. You can either accept that and submit your life to the One who can make you clean in the sight of God with His blood, or you can continue to delude yourself into thinking that you’re a good person. Either way, you’re going to find out the truth in the end.
By Jack Wilkie