Where Is The Good In People

This is an age-old question that every generation will ask. Are people generally good or are we evil?

Tracking daily events around the world would probably lead most of us to conclude that there’s something not right with humanity – that there seems to be a serious lack of good in the world.

Yet instinctively, we carry a sense and a desire to see goodness and selflessness in ourselves and others. We have this almost unconscious belief that there must be good out there somewhere.

The search to find good people to relate and have friendship with might seem like a lifelong quest for some people. In his famous classic folk-rock song, Heart of Gold, Neil Young writes:

I want to live
I want to give
I’ve been a miner
For a heart of gold
It’s these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching
For a heart of gold
And I’m getting old.

Like Neil, your search may have taken you around the world. You may have tried many things or joined many communities, always looking for that goodness in people that you could be a part of:

I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean
For a heart of gold
I’ve been in my mind
It’s such a fine line
That keeps me searching
For a heart of gold
And I’m getting old.

As we continue our search for good in the world, over time we discover that human goodness is limited and flawed and that even those we esteem to be very good people are capable of some very foolish or even evil things.

As we “get old”, we can become disillusioned about the goodness of humanity and even lose hope for this world.

So where is the good in people and in this world?

We know from scripture that the world wasn’t always this way. When God first created the universe, he repeatedly said of His creation that, “It is good.” After making Adam and Eve in His image, He went even further saying, “It is VERY good.”

After making Adam and Eve in His image, He went even further saying, It is VERY good.” 

So there was a time when humanity was truly good and flawless.

It was only after Adam and Eve chose to disobey and sin against God that corruption entered the human race. Now despite all our best efforts to do and be good, we all fall short.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent.” – Romans 3:10 TLB

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Romans 3:23 NLT

It’s only by putting our trust in God’s goodness to redeem us and restore His goodness back to us that we find true good in ourselves and in the world.

As Christians, we now recognize that we are not the source of goodness in our lives. It’s God’s righteousness and goodness that’s being worked out in us through the Holy Spirit as we trust in Him.

“In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith.” – Philippians 3:9 CEB

So how do we recognize God’s goodness versus our flawed human goodness?

1. Human goodness seeks approval from God and others, but God’s goodness recognizes we’re already approved because of what Christ did on the cross. There is nothing we could do to earn God’s approval and there is nothing we can do to keep his approval. We have been approved.

2. Human goodness ultimately leads us to conclude that we’re not good enough. One of the most unbearable emotions a person can experience it that of not being good enough. Nothing hurts more than trying your absolute best and finding you were still not good enough. Thankfully, through Christ we have been made “good enough” because Jesus was truly good.

3. Human goodness will say, “I am a good person.”, but in Christ we recognize that it’s God’s goodness in us that makes us good. The miracle of the new birth is that God imparts his goodness inside of us and we now have the capacity to walk in his goodness. 

4. Human goodness always strives to try and be good but in Christ we are simply responding to God’s goodness to us. When we come to Christ we no longer have to strive to try and be good. As we respond to His goodness, we experience the grace and strength to do what is good. 

5. Human goodness says “I have to do good” but God’s goodness changes us and makes us “want to” do good. God’s goodness in us helps us recognize that it’s a privilege and we “get to” do good and selfless things also.

6. Human goodness consists of following “do’s and don’ts” but God’s goodness leads us to faith and action. The Christian faith is not focused on a set of rules that we strive to follow in our own strength. In God’s kingdom we walk by faith and our actions follow.

Here’s a helpful chart to keep us aligned with God’s goodness in us:

Human Goodness God's Goodness
Seeks approval Already approved
Not good enough Good enough in Christ
I'm a good person God's goodness in me
Striving for goodness Responding to God's goodness
I "have to" do good I "want to" do good
Do's & Dont's Faith & Action

When we recognize that our human goodness is limited, we can receive and walk in God’s goodness. His goodness in us will have a far-reaching impact in our lives and the lives of others.