Giving Good Gifts
Half-baked thoughts: I believe people are essentially bad, but not without hope.
How/why would I believe that "nonsense" when many could just point to the Billy Graham's or Bader Ginsberg's of the world as examples of how spectacularly good people can be -- if we would only think and act rightly?
I guess I believe it because God appears to have said as much in Matthew 7:11: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" This makes sense to me because I have three suspicions about what is thought of as good today. See if they make sense to you...
(1) good always seems to involve two or more persons. When someone does something that is *only* good for themselves, to the detriment of others, we call that bad/evil.
(2) our good does not outlive us. It needs other people to appreciate and sustain it. Otherwise, it becomes neglected, corrupted, forgotten. We love the life of the hero because they embody the best of what we should be.
(3) But the heroes of yesteryear can be despised today (and vice-versa). Tomorrow's heroes might be those who tear down today's lauded accomplishments. Our definition of "good" is not fixed.
Given these three suspicions, I don't see how anyone could trust their personal conviction of "good" in the same way we all trust the sun to come up in the morning. To my way of thinking, such "good" doesn't exist, we just really want it to. Ironically, people who dogmatically believe in the existence of something -- despite evidence to the contrary -- are usually labelled as naïve, superstitious, religious nutcases. How can we escape any other conclusion?
The escape from this paradox comes in Matthew 7:11. Jesus asks us to acknowledge God as the first giver of good gifts. The ultimate, eternal life of God overcomes all the weaknesses of my three suspicions because God IS good. He is not measured by it, he is what good is measured by. Big difference. And the life/death/resurrection of Jesus is God's greatest good gift in that ultimate way we can never do.
So while I do believe we can do good things on this Earth, I also believe these acts are good only to the extent they conform to the way, the will, and the word of God. We can know what is good, and do it, when we acknowledge our great need and come to the Father who gives good gifts first. The origins of our best efforts to fix our world lie not in the heart of people, but in God's. Anything less than this is simply no good at all.