Is There Any Good In Man?

by Rayola Kelley

Q: I am struggling with the Bible’s statement that there is no good thing in man. Yet, there are unsaved people who do good things. This has caused me much confusion. Would you help clarify this matter? 

A: Your struggle with this issue is not unusual. Likewise, I used to see the good things people did in regards to giving in times of disaster or supporting people who were hit with personal crisis or loss. There are also those who advocate the popular philosophy that there is some good in every person, and we need to find it so we can have a right attitude. However, this is totally contrary to the Word of God and the redemption of Christ. If there was some good in man, Jesus would have had no need to die on the cross. Man could build on that goodness and establish himself in righteousness before the Lord.

       The Bible clearly tells us there is no good thing in the flesh. Jesus clearly pointed out that only God is good. Therefore, all goodness originates and comes from the Creator of the Universe, and not from any personal attempts of man. In other words, unless a person is born again with the life of Christ, and is being conformed to the image of Jesus as His life is worked in him or her; there is no measure of goodness in him or her. The reason for this is because the flesh perverts, adjusts and changes the things of God to compliment its way of doing, thinking and being. This is why the best of the ways of man are considered filthy rags before God.

       The question is what are we witnessing when we see unsaved people do noteworthy deeds? The answer is simple; they are doing what is decent. Decency has to do with what is appropriate for a situation. When you consider that America is a nation of abundance, such noteworthy acts are not sacrificial or really honorable, they are decent.

       Some believe that decency is actually left over from before the fall of man. In other words, it can be found in the conscience of man. It is the conscience of man that possesses a sense of right and wrong. This sense comes from an inward knowledge that there is a holy God. We can ignore this aspect of our conscience, dull it down with denial or even sear it with rejection of any standard of godliness. However, if this is true, it reveals that such decency also comes from God. Clearly, no person can glory in any deeds.

       This brings us to the Christian. Christians are not called to be decent but honorable. In other words, unless the emotions of the conscience are stirred up in an unsaved person in some way to do what is decent, he or she would never be prompted. This proves decency is not a natural response of the flesh. However, for Christians they are called to be honorable in all that they do. To be honorable means to do what is right because it is the person’s reasonable service. Therefore, in Christianity, being honorable should be a natural response, not one that needs to be stirred up by some great crisis and loss.

       As we can see, there is a difference between being honorable and decent. In fact, this is why Christianity should stand distinct from the practices of the world. It should be a light that brings contrast between the Christian life and the fleshly activities of the world. Sadly, it seems that some Christians are losing sight of what is honorable. As a result, those of the world appear to display more decency in their actions, than “professing” Christians who are indifferent or failing to be honorable and benevolent in their practices. As Christians, we need to accept the challenge of the Christian life by letting our light so shine through our deeds that our Father in heaven will be glorified.

       I do hope this answers your question.