None Righteous, No Not One

A former student of mine wrote the line in the title above on Facebook as a comment to my blog post yesterday – “Do The Good Go To Hell?”

According to the Bible, she’s right, though I think we might all admit it’s a hard truth. The problem is, we measure Man with Man, and as such we see that there’s a wide range—from Jeffery Dahmer and Joseph Stalin to Mahatma Gandhi and Bill Gates.

From our perspective, the man willing to die to bring peace is a good man. The one bent on giving away his massive fortune to those most in need is a good man. The cannibalistic serial killer, not so good. The murderous paranoid tyrant, not so good.

But reality is, God does not measure us one against another. He Himself is the standard and we, all of us, no matter how we compare against each other, fall short, far short.

The sad truth is, we are all deserving of hell.

Again, our cultural thinking makes this fact hard to grab hold of. Our inclination is to think, if everyone is doing it, then no one is guilty. Like speeding. Cars whip by going eighty when the speed limit is sixty-five. So if I go seventy, I’m really doing good, aren’t I? And none of us will be ticketed because all of us are exceeding the limit.

None of us may be ticketed, but the truth is, all of us breaking the law deserve to be ticketed.

For some reason we expect God to act like a traffic cop and let us all go, either because He’s off somewhere else and doesn’t see us breaking His law, or He doesn’t care, or He’s just such a nice guy, He’s decided to give us all a break.

But God is not the traffic cop. He’s the just judge.

Funny how we all want a just judge to preside over the trial of a heinous criminal or one who has wronged us. But do we really want a just judge to preside over our trial regarding the crimes we have committed against God? Wouldn’t we rather have a merciful judge?

The truth is, God is both, just and merciful. He will not violate His justice to extend mercy and He will not violate His mercy to exercise justice.

I think understanding this point is at the heart of understanding hell.

God’s actually very up front. He lays out for us what His standards are and He tells us the consequences for falling short. There ought to be no surprises.

Yet some people kick against these basic parameters. God’s standard (perfection) is too high, His punishment (hell) too harsh and too long lasting (for eternity).

But it’s this very kicking that is the problem. Who is Man that he should try to tell God how to run things? That’s like a three-year-old trying to tell Sully Sullenberger how to land a plane.

God, by nature of … well, His nature, is the only one who gets to make the rules. He is perfect so He knows what real righteousness looks like. He is good, so He knows what true goodness looks like.

We’re operating in the dark from a collapsed mine a half-mile deep, and we’re trying to direct our own rescue efforts. Or more accurately, telling everyone how we’re planning to pull ourselves out.

We’re telling the One Who provides the only way of escape we have no intention of confining ourselves in such a restrictive capsule for a twenty minute ride to the surface. We don’t deserve such ill treatment. In fact, come to think of it, we don’t really need rescuing at all. We’re fine where we are, thank you very much.

How is it we are so shortsighted? so unwilling to let God tell us what’s what?

The great, great news is, He not only wants to tell us how far short we are of His standards and the horrible consequences for that condition, He also wants to tell us about His love and mercy. Of course, only guilty people need mercy, which means all those people confident in their own goodness will turn down God’s offer. They’ll harden their hearts and go their own way—the way that leads to destruction.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. I’m a little lost…so those things done by people -aren’t- good? Or just not righteous. Cause there’s a difference. And God appreciates both.

    righteousness has nothing to do with us, or our works unless you call accepting Christ as Savior and entering into relationship a work, which I pretty much don’t…it’s a reaction if anything else. But a person needs to be somewhat good to want that.

    goodness is totally in our ballfield, it’s based on the choices we make, and the moral compass God places in us from birth, the prevenient grace if you will. There is none righteous without Christ, but all men can do and be good. That’s because getting into heaven or pleasing God completely isn’t just based on our works, though God desires them, but based on Christ’s sacrifice and our acceptance of it.


  2. Miss B, you are a great theologian. You should write a book or something! 🙂

    I truly enjoyed this entry – insightful, truthful, and biblical.


  3. There is none righteous without Christ, but all men can do and be good.

    Scripture recognizes that even evil people can do good things. Jesus acknowledged this, as part of His main point that if even evil people can do some good things, how much more will God, Who is good, do this.

    [W]hich one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7: 9-11)
    Theologians take this, along with other evidence such as the following verse, and build a Biblical doctrine of “common grace.” This also includes God’s institution of civil authorities (Romans 13), even pagan Rome, to restrain evil and promote some measure of justice in the current world. Yet all human goodness, apart from Christ, is still a gift from Him, to keep the world from growing even worse. And we need more than common grace to be saved.

    [The Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
    Even those who adhere to the doctrine of “total depravity,” such as myself (based on Scriptures that describe Christians being formerly dead in sin), hastily qualify that statement not to mean everyone is always as bad as he could possibly be. Instead it only means that compared with God — as Becky has been saying — we are “totally depraved” and totally unable to meet His standards. Thus He met His own, for all who would repent and call on His Name.


  4. Erin, thank you, you’re very kind.

    Stephen, you gave Justin a very good answer, but to reiterate, the good that man does seems good to us but in comparison to God’s goodness it is like a candle next to the blazing sun (I borrowed that image). Using the metaphor from the story I wrote yesterday, it is an uncashable check in comparison to gold coins. In other words, God’s goodness so outshines our goodness so as to render it not very good at all. Our righteousness is worse, and through none of our efforts can we please God.

    One scholar said it’s like us being pulled over for speeding and pleading that even though we were speeding we didn’t deserve a ticket because we stopped at the stop sign a block before, and we used our turn signal when we switched lanes.

    In other words, the good that we do is exactly what we’re supposed to do. We don’t get brownie points that counterbalance our disobedience. Rather, the good is where we should be all the time. And even then we often do the right thing with the wrong attitude.

    How can we ever say we are good?



  5. Actually, the unregenerate never does anything from a right heart desire/motive. When the Bible says no one does good, it means that. Outwardly, can unbelievers do “good” things? By our standards, yes. Nobody is disputing that when an unbeliever feeds the poor or holds the door open for someone that that was an evil act, of course it is good to do those things. But the motive for doing such things is never a good, righteous, and pure motive from a person who has not been born again, because as unregenerate sinners all we desire from the heart is sin.

    And even as a Christian, I see many times when I outwardly do the “good and righteous thing” but its not for the right reasons or right motives. So, what I have done, in God’s eyes, is not righteous at all, but sin. Even our “righteousnesses” are like filthy rags to God.


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