Doing Good Without God? Huh?

What does it mean to be a “good person,” and how good must we be to merit eternal life with the God of the universe? Man often compiles his own list of “dos” and “don’ts” that seem reasonable to him, without wanting to give credit to the eternal God for having compiled the ultimate list in the Ten Commandments, which He fleshed out in the Sermon on the Mount. The problem is that no amount of willpower or positive energy is sufficient to keep us on track: every time we fail, we see how much we need a Savior.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 NASB)

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40 ESV)

THE STORY GOES THAT Benjamin Franklin created his own non-doctrinaire guide to “good works” that emphasized the virtues associated with the Christian faith’s walk with Christ but eliminated the role of God as the source.

The idea behind this, no doubt, was the rationalist’s view that most moral  platitudes — the variety of “dos” and “don’ts” — are self-evident and that ascribing their origin to an unseen Diety — holy, perfect, and judgmental —was both unnecessary and unwise!RulesYouCanYouCan't.gif

After all, the rationalist would argue, if the ideas were generated by some source superior to oneself, there’s no telling what additional platitudes might be lurking behind the ones we’ve identified.

Once that happens, well, look out because we might not want any of THOSE platitudes. Nope. We want complete control over the list. This will be our list, not one handed to us by an outside source.


OKAY, SO WHAT WAS on the list that Mr. Franklin compiled and what was his point in compiling the list in the first place?

Apparently, the list included these 13 verities: temperance, silence, order,  resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

Well, at least Jesus got a mention in the 13th item, “humility,” — “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”


Jesus was reduced to “a good man,” “a moral man,” “an excellent teacher,” “a wonderful role model.”

So often, the skeptics and non-believers will recognize the beauty and grace of Jesus’ life, as long as they don’t have to attribute His virtues to obedience to God the Father. It was His divinity that poses the problem for them. No doubt, that was the reason behind Mr. Franklin creating his own list.


AFTER ALL, THEY SAY, we’re basically good people. I’m a good person, and you’re a good person. Okay, we have our quirks, our flaws. Some of us are better people after we’ve had our morning coffee than we are when we’re tired, and others do better when the sun’s shining than when it’s raining.

JesusWithChild.jpegBut, basically, we haven’t murdered anyone recently, have we? (Smirk, wink.) I mean, really now, what gives?

So, let me ask you this question: How good is good enough? What makes  you think you’re a good person, or, for that matter, that I am?

Would you like to know what Jesus says about whether you’re a good person? Here are four verses from Scripture that should give us a good idea what He thinks:

    • “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT)
    • “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
    • “As it is written, ‘There is no righteous person, not even one.’” (Romans 3:10 CEB)
    • “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:8 NASB)

Not enough? Would you like more?

How about this one from Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NET):

“The human mind is more deceitful than anything else.

It is incurably bad. Who can understand it?

I, the Lord, probe into people’s minds.

I examine people’s hearts.

I deal with each person according to how he has behaved.

I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.”

Had enough? Well, there’s more:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” — (Proverbs 21:2 NIV)

28-king-david-in-prayerThen there’s David’s prayer:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!

    Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)

We’ll end with this one. Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover feast when many people, who saw the signs and miracles He performed, believed in His name.

The apostle John notes, however, that Jesus was not impressed with their adulation. Here’s what John wrote:

“But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need any testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.” (John 2:23-25 BSB)

You see, He knew their hearts.



I know, it depends on who’s judging, but, in the end, it’ll be God who judges, so we’ll be judged by His metrics, not ours. We might think we’re goOpenBible.jpegod, but He doesn’t. He judges us by His perfection.

The really good news is that God has provided a way out for us. Knowing how sinful we are, He purposed a way to reclaim us, to reconcile us to Him. It’s called “The Good News,” “The Salvation Story,” or just simply “God’s Mercy.”

It centers on Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life and who became the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins, past, present, and future. That offer from God is so loving, so amazingly incredible that it defies belief.

Except that it’s true.

By the way, remember Franklin’s list of verities? Well, God has His own list, the Fruit of the Spirit, given to us through the apostle Paul:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

FruitOfTheSpirit.jpgWhen we recognize God’s gift of redemption and claim it for our lives, we can readily see we’re better off following His list of verities than Mr. Franklin’s list, no matter how well-intentioned he might have been.

Man’s list may come from his recognition of what works to keep the peace, but God’s list comes from the creator of life, a source far more reliable than a mere copy.


PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, forgive us our prideful selves that long to be gods and goddesses, knowing all things and having total control. Only You are God, our creator and life-giver, and You alone are all-knowing. You’ve taught us to be humble and to have faith in Your promises. We falter when we forget, and we are strong when we call on Your name. Lord, lead us onto the straight path and guide our steps. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen

Author: Ward Pimley

Journalist/Author (retired) Evangelical Christian, Politically Conservative. Eager to share God's Message of Salvation and Grace.

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