What Is Goodness In The Bible

Defining Goodness in the Bible

For many believers, the Bible has long been considered a source of moral guidance, offering teachings on what it means to be good. But how is goodness defined in the scriptures? As a foundational principle, Christianity emphasizes the idea of moral uprightness. Being good means being righteous and living a life of virtue. This is expressed in many verses that are widely known, such as Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
But what makes this definition more concrete? It helps to begin by understanding that the Bible, along with its associated works, speaks to a variety of topics, yet all of these teachings, in the broadest sense, contribute to the scripture’s central message of how to live righteously. Themes such as justice, love, mercy, humility, and forgiveness are all admonished throughout the scriptures and directly correlated to being good.

The Bible’s Message of Love and Mercy

Undoubtedly, one of the Bible’s core messages is love. In essence, to be good is to love others. This spirit of humility and compassion, poured out equally to both neighbors and enemies, is ingrained deeply within the scriptures. Many passages of the Bible, from John 13:34 to Exodus 22:25-27, instruct the faithful to love their neighbor and to go even further and forgive those who have wronged them.
Moreover, love is seen as an overarching principle, mentioned as early as the very first lines of the Bible in Genesis 1:26-27, where it is clear that humans are made in God’s image and must treat each other with kindness and respect. The mandate to treat others with love pervades the scripture and is seen in any number of gospel teachings, such as in Mark 12:30-31 and Galatians 5:14, among many others.

Justice, Kindness and Righteousness

The Bible’s message of justice is equally clear. Goodness, in many respects, means upholding the law. This principle is rooted in the overarching notion of righteousness. Verses from throughout the Bible, from Proverbs 6:20-23 to Exodus 21:1-11, provide detailed instructions on how to ensure justice for others.
Naturally, these teachings go beyond traditional justice, admonishing believers to perform acts of kindness and compassion outside of the letter of the law. Acts such as caring for widows, orphans, and the poor, which are seen in passages from Isaiah 1:17 and James 1:27, are deeply ingrained within the scriptures and seen as consistent with the overall theme of goodness.

Promoting Humility and Forgiveness

Humility, too, is encouraged in the Bible as an essential component of living righteously. In contrast to pride and arrogance, a humble attitude is seen as a cornerstone of Christianity and is extolled throughout the scriptures. Matthew 7:3, for instance, tells readers to “First take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In other words, first seek to address personal flaws before attempting to correct faults in others.
Similarly, in certain passages, the Bible explicitly outlines the importance of forgiveness. This message is seen in many respects, including in the stories of Jesus forgiving his opponents, as depicted in passages from Colossians 3:13 and Luke 23:34. In similar fashion, other tales from the scriptures and gospel stories highlight the power of mercy and the pleasure that it brings to those who forgive.

Steering Away from Evil

In a more general sense, living a good life involves avoiding bad habits and detrimental choices. The Bible speaks to much of this, including sins of the tongue and mind, such as pride, envy, and lust. In essence, being good demands temperance and self-control. Passages such as Romans 3:10-18 emphasize that being a source of goodness often involves being vigilant and taking specific steps to resist various forms of evil.
Moreover, even in the midst of trial and tribulation or difficult circumstances, the scriptures often call upon people of faith to maintain a spirit of goodness and righteousness. This too is seen in numerous passages, including James 1:2-3, which says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

Moral Consistency and Commandment Keeping

In a larger sense, living a good life requires staying true to God’s teachings and following the Ten Commandments, as outlined in Exodus 20:1-17. Notably, this list of moral imperatives begins with “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” These core principles illustrate that being good often means resisting the types of temptations and false idols that can lead a person away from the path of righteousness.
Moreover, Jesus himself spoke extensively on the topic of maintaining moral consistency and keeping the commandments. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, shall pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”

Reducing Conflict and Showing Respect

The Bible also emphasizes that being good includes minimizing conflict and striving to maintain harmony with others, even in challenging situations. Living righteously can mean being a peacemaker and refusing to engage in arguments and disputes.
Towards this end, Leviticus 19:17 provides guidance on how to interact with others: “Don’t slander your neighbor or insult him. Instead, show him respect.” This verse underscores the importance of treating others with dignity, regardless of personal disagreements.
In similar fashion, the principle of respect is also seen in 1 Peter 4:19, which advises readers to “love each other deeply,” an idea echoed in Proverbs 11:12, which states: “When the wicked triumph, there is no joy for anyone, but the sincere joy of the godly will last forever.” In essence, being good primarily involves bearing love and kindness for all and refraining from gossip, disrespect, and malicious behavior.

Putting Others Before Self

Ultimately, living a life of goodness involves putting others before oneself, or in other words, living selflessly. Throughout the scriptures, numerous passages point to the importance of helping and looking out for those around us. This is seen in verses such as Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead, in humility value others above yourselves.”
In similar fashion, Jesus wrote extensively on the topic of brotherly love, as seen in many gospel stories, highlighting the importance of caring for others and showing kindness to enemies. This principle of loving others is regularly expressed in the Bible, perhaps nowhere more clearly than in the simple instruction that Jesus gave to his disciples in just two words: “Love one another” (John 13:34).

Doing Good Works

Goodness is also strongly associated with performing good works. As James 2:14-17 explains, faith without works is dead. To maintain an active faith, believers must demonstrate their commitment to the communities in which they live by taking part in any number of acts directed at helping others.
This principle of being an active member of the community is deeply rooted in the scriptures, such as Matthew 28:19, which calls upon believers to go and “make disciples of all nations.” This type of active service is seen throughout the Bible, from Abraham providing hospitality to strangers in Genesis 18:2-8 to Jesus tending to the sick and feeding the hungry in multiple passages throughout the New Testament.

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

The overall message of the Bible, then, is that being good means consistently striving to fulfill God’s will and his greater purpose. In essence, all of the scriptures point back to this, emphasizing that living righteously is ultimately about being devoted to the Lord and seeking to follow his will for the believer’s life. This idea is often expressed in multiple verses, such as Colossians 3:17 which exhorts readers to “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Moreover, living this sort of good life is seen as a way of honoring and glorifying the Lord, being an example to others, and earning favor from the Lord. This message runs throughout the scriptures, from Romans 12:1-3 (“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”) to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where readers are told: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives, so that we may be given a full & complete understanding of every good thing we must do in order to live a truly godly life.”

Learning to Live in Faith

Ultimately, then, the underlying message of the Bible is that being good is a matter of having faith and trusting in the Lord. This means that believers must rise to the challenge of seeking justice, loving others, and performing good works. This is primarily done by relying on God for direction and strength, and seeking to stay in the Lord’s good graces by following his teachings and the will of the Father. By adhering to this principle, believers will eventually strive toward a deeper and more profound understanding of God’s living word and its teachings on how to live a life of goodness.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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