They Certainly are Good People! Right?

hands-talking-750770-m“There is good in everyone,” is one of the most common objections voiced against the Gospel that I hear. Closely following that objection is usually this rational,  “People are naturally inclined to be good, and the church just tells everyone the opposite because the church just wants money.”

There are several pieces to this argument, and many times there is more than just the argument itself. The times that I have heard this objection, has always been from someone who was hurt by the church in some way. Either they were upset with the Pastor, or the way that a particular issue was dealt with. This shows itself clearly in matters of church discipline, and in times of visiting with inactives. Sadly, this issue even arises in times of death, as those outside the church view the works of a person as something that saves them. For those who raise this objection, typically they were given the Law, when they needed to hear the comfort of the Gospel. The first step in dealing with this issue is to find out what is the center issue for that person.

However, in dealing with the statement above, there are two connected pieces to the problem, the objection and a conclusive statement based on that objection. The objection is that people are naturally good. Using this as the objection, the person concludes that the church just wants money. The thought that people are naturally good can be shown to be untrue in several different ways.

One worldly way is to look at Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. According to Darwin, the principal at work is survival of the fittest. This concept says that only the strongest and the best survive. Inherent to this phenomenon is the idea of competition. In competition, the creature looks out for himself or herself first. What is not seen is the innate goodness of man to help their fellow man. The person wonders and worries how they will survive, but not how their neighbor will survive. Some will even say that the intent in not just upon themselves, but upon preservation of their family; however, the goodness towards all men in still missing. The focus still remains upon themselves; it is directed at the “self”  and what is closet to it. The Theory of Evolution is, of course, a theory.

Another way to see this as being untrue is to look at our societies. If man was naturally good, and were naturally inclined to act this way, then there would be no need for Government, Laws, or Police. None of these things would be needed, because they would have no use. The Government is in place to protect its citizens. If people are naturally good, then what would they need protection from? Protection would not be needed because people would have the betterment of themselves and their neighbor in mind.

This of course is not the case. All someone has to do is turn on the television, radio, or read a newspaper to find out how untrue this is. Our world is riddled with dishonesty, violence, crime, and war. Everyday we see many examples of how humans cheat, lie, steal and kill. Some have motives, some are pushed into it by others, but some do it because “they feel like it.” If people were naturally inclined to be good, then we have more examples of people doing just the opposite. There would be no violence, dishonesty, false witness, or murder. Society would run smoothly because people would not just have their own interests in mind, rather they would be thinking for the benefit of all humanity.

This can even be seen within the individual themselves. If a person has ever had a racist thought, a thought to harm someone, a thought to take something belonging to someone else (no matter how big or small it might be), that still shows a tendency towards evil. The natural tendency towards good would not allow these thoughts, and these thoughts would not even be present. However, every individual has at some point in their lives had a bad thought toward someone. It may have been a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone they do not know.

This objection, that that everyone is naturally inclined to be good, is also shown to be untrue in light of Scripture. There are several passages written by St. Paul that I will examine. These passages of Paul help to expand the teachings of Jesus. One of the passages is found in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. St. Paul write in Ephesians 2:3, “We were by nature children of wrath.” Our nature is not inclined to be good or do good. It is in fact, just the opposite. We are born sinful. Our own natural tendencies can not get away from this sin. Our natural tendency is to evil, not good.

Jesus speaks of our evil tendency in His Sermon on the Plain. He says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.” (Luke 6:43-44a NIV) Because we have the seeds of sin inside us, we are not able to produce “good fruit.” We are not able to do good works, nor to have completely good thoughts. Because of our sin, we are only able to produce “bad fruits.” Our natural tendency is toward anger, hatred, glory and pride. We are inclined to think of ourselves, before we think of others. We naturally want to place ourselves as being above people, or better than others. We set ourselves on a pedestal.

St. Paul again speaks of this in Romans. He writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NIV) This statement is very clear. There is not one person who escapes this judgment, ALL have sinned. Because of this, there is not one of us who is good. In fact we are exactly the opposite, we are sinners.

Based on the previous examples, we can see that humans are not naturally good, nor are they inclined to do good. In fact, as we have seen humans are just the opposite. Because we are not able to do good, we have no hope for salvation on our own. By our own nature, we are naturally inclined to help no one, not even ourselves. Our own eternal salvation can not depend upon ourselves. Because we are sinful creatures, we have no hope in ourselves.

The good news is that there is hope, and we are not left alone. St. Paul continues in Romans 3:24, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” By Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us on the cross, we are no longer dead to sin but alive in Christ. Christ died to take away our sins. We are naturally inclined to do evil, but God can only do good. God can and does work through us to help our neighbor, and by His free grace we are saved.

We now come to the last part of the objection, “the only reason the church tells me I am bad is because they want my money.” Based on the previous examples, it has been shown that man is not inclined to be good and the consequences of that state. The church spreads the saving message and good news of the Gospel to the fallen, sinful human beings. The church is not “out to get people’s money,” but rather to spread the Gospel of Christ to save souls.

About Pastor Joel Koepp

Joel Koepp is the Sole Pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Wood Lake, Minnesota. He was married to Markie (Gusler) Koepp on August 19, 2005. God has given them three wonderful children, Joel, Elizabeth, and Kaitlynn. Pastor Koepp graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2005 with a B.S. in Social Work and he received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2010. He is currently working on his Doctoral of Ministry degree from Sioux Falls Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His sermons and church information can be found at yourstlukes.com.

Comments

They Certainly are Good People! Right? — 2 Comments

  1. Good article, Pastor. Question: is part of the problem that we define “good” by the wrong standard? Because even an atheist will feed his children.

  2. “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” – Anne Frank

    This is taught in schools across the world at every level.

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