Lately I have been reflecting a lot on what is "good" or what makes something "good." More and more I am coming to realize that things are not inherently good on their own, but it is God who gives something its "goodness." Many times in the Bible God says He has no part of things that would appear to us to be "good" or "religious" or even "Christian"—enough times for me to realize that things don't have inherent goodness in themselves, to realize that good doesn't exist on its own in a vacuum.
When the rich young ruler calls Jesus "good teacher" Jesus confronts him with the question, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:18). There is a direct forcing of a point here that we can't afford to miss as we, on our own standards and definitions, label things and acts and people "good." I believe Jesus is cutting through our loose usage of that word and asking the young ruler, "Are you prepared to call me God, because God alone is good? If I am not God, then don't call me good."
James captures to me the danger and possibility of our separating good from God when it says, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:16-17) There is such a clear warning here and message that we can be deceived, we can be wrong, we can fall into the trap of believing that good can come outside of God
The implications of these thoughts are huge and I'll try and summarize two of them as best as I can because I believe that they are essential to our understanding (and they'll make our Thanksgiving really special!).
First: In sin we are separated from God who is, Himself, life and light and good. We are cut off from He who is the very source and essence of these things and though we walk and talk and stand in bright sunlight the Bible says that we are dead and in the dark in the ways that matter and are eternal. We are cut off from God, and if God is the only source of good then we are cut off from the possibility of doing good—because good doesn't exist apart from God. Carry this out a bit and we realize why God says there are none righteous or good, and why it is impossible for us to approach God or produce goodness on our own. We can't produce what we don't have. God is good and He gives things their "goodness" and so, separated from Him by sin, we dwell under sin and Satan's dominion or rule—and it is a realm of death and decay and deception and disease and hurt and lies and broken relationships and cruel words and jealousy and lust and covetousness and . . .
This really drives home to me the heart of why Christ came. Apart from Christ I am in a situation that is hopeless because it is impossible to save myself because good doesn't exist outside of God. I can't go find and collect enough of it because it is only found in God and I am separated from Him. As a non-Christian, thinking myself "good" by some societal standard, I chaffed against that idea that I wasn't "good" because I didn't realize that at the core "good" can't be separated from God, or defined apart from God. It is not something inherent in things or acts, it is inherent in God . . . He gives it that which makes it good. Understanding this now I understand how desperately in need of a Savior I was, One who could do for me what I could not do alone.
Second: I realize in this understanding of good that in this world turned over to sin and Satan's dominion, there is no good found on its own. Sin and Satan have no good in them because they have no partnership with God . . . and, again, good is found only in God. Remember Jesus' words in John 15 where He says He is the vine and we are the branches—abiding or remaining in Him we produce much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing. It is His life flowing through us that produces good from us. Apart from Him, though active and "productive," I can do nothing. Nothing. Nothing that is of value or eternal life.
Sin is death. It is separation from God and from good. It is the root of all pain and decay. And it is under sin's weight that our world groans. It is impossible for it to produce good because it has no good and so, as I approach Thanksgiving, I do so realizing that EVERY bit of good in my life is a direct result of God intervening in my life with His grace and glory and power and shielding me from sin's effect and curse.
Much of what people blame on God causing I think is simply God not intervening. Of God allowing sin and the Fall to have their natural effect. When there is good in my life it is because God has put it there. Every meal I eat. Every time my cells do what they are supposed to, or my lungs open for air. Every bit of clothing I wear. Every time I smile or am smiled at. I love or am loved. Every laugh. Every beautiful view. Sin can't produce good and so I realize that everyone of those, from the smallest cellular level, is God at work in my life.
God, the star breather, at work in my life personally and intimately at the smallest level of detail. God noticing me and acting on my behalf. God caring and moving. It leaves me in awe that He would be that involved in my life, but I often haven't recognized how active He is in my life because I've not given Him credit for the tiniest level of good.
If every bit of good in my life is God at work in my life, then, wow, I have a lot to be thankful for!