What does it mean that God is Good?
I have found that everyone's understanding of what is 'good' is different. When it comes to God what matters is what He declares, not what I think.
So, what does it mean that God is good? When the Scriptures declare that God is good it means that God is morally perfect (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19). That God has no moral flaw nor is He capable of anything immoral (Psalm 119:68, 145:9). God is the final standard of what is good. He is the One who is able to define with all certainty what is good and what is evil (Matthew 19:17).
Does your understanding of God match this definition? Let's look at it in more depth.
Much more than....
Goodness is essentially all that God approves of. The next logical question is “why is what God approves good?” To this, we answer, it is good because God approves it. God doesn’t evaluate what is good by looking outside of Himself. God who is good is the standard of goodness.
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 106:1)
O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8)
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
The Law given to the nation of Israel was a reflection of God’s character, a shadow of the true substance. God wouldn’t give His chosen people a law that He wouldn’t approve of. Thus, when we read of the Law of God and the commandments of God we see a reflection of the moral perfection of God, His goodness.
This is also observed in Jesus’s conversation with the rich young ruler in Luke 18.
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18-27, bold added)
Jesus after declaring that no one is good but God alone goes on to expound upon God’s goodness. This exposition is not just the commandments but also giving and following. We sell God’s goodness short when we chalk it up to just the ten commandments. When His goodness is rightly defined as all that God approves of then the bar of justice becomes much higher.
God's Approval Matters
You see this rich young ruler who was an Israelite, kept the law from his youth. Did he really keep it perfectly, no. But I can almost guarantee you that he was much more morally righteous than most all who grew up in an ungodly culture. Jesus isn’t so much concerned with this. God’s approval goes much deeper than outward formalities and traditions.
Jesus declares here that what God approves is the forsaking of this life for another, eternal life. A life dedicated to following His Son. God wants more than outward conformity, He wants the whole man. It is observed here that this rich young ruler loved his riches more than his God. He was more concerned with his earthly treasures than the Treasure in the field and the Pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46). The Psalmist said rightly, O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8)! Forsaking all and looking unto Jesus is what God approves of. This is what is good in His sight. If we were to take all the best of the morality of men and lay it before God it would not be considered good because it is still tainted by sin. Yet, if one poor wretched tax collector, beat his breast, saying “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13-14). Then God would declare this as good, for it is pleasing in His sight. Jesus was and is good in God’s sight. Men are not wicked simply because they break God’s law continually, His moral standard. They are wicked because they don’t look unto the Son of God because they don’t follow Jesus. This is what God has said He approves of. The one who is good in God’s sight is not good because he/she is morally perfect, but because he/she believes God and puts faith in Jesus Christ. This is what God delights in, those who fear Him and trust in His Son (Psalm 147:11, 1 Peter 1:6-7). (Most of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim)
(To discover more about God, see our page, Who is God?)