We use “good” when describing a friend and “good” when honoring a deed. What about a meal or someone’s heart?
It’s always the same word, right? Good!
When defining a biblical word, we have to understand it with reference to God’s definition and not our first impression. English especially tends to change meanings over time, making it nearly impossible to come to a true and original understanding.
The word “good” has no proof text within the Bible to offer a valid meaning. Used as often as it was, one would think it would be easy to find a clear definition.
The reason lies in the fact that it’s used as a descriptive term only. When studied throughout God’s Word, three important concepts come to light.
First, the word “good” often means something has fulfilled its purpose.
Gen 1:3-4 states, “Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”
When looking at this verse, we might ask, “Can light be bad?” If you are trying to sleep, it might be a nuisance,but light itself is not bad. Therefore, for it to be good is must have fulfilled its purpose.
When God created light, He desired to illuminate the darkness. When the light fulfilled its purpose, He deemed the light “good.”
Another example comes from the story of Joseph. In Genesis 50:19-20 the Bible says, “But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Were Joseph’s experiences good? He was sold as a slave by his brothers, taken to another country and forced to work in an Egyptian home. The woman of the house desired him and – when he wouldn’t submit to her lust – accused him of inappropriate advances. He was then thrown into jail.
Eventually – because he could interpret dreams – he was able to help Pharaoh and save Egypt and beyond from starvation. Thus, he became the number two man in Egypt. But only after years of suffering at the hands of others. To say his experiences were good would be a stretch.
However, looked at from another perspective, God put Joseph in a place to care for and provide for His future nation. Without Joseph, the children of Israel would have starved. God’s people would have died out.
Joseph fulfilled his purpose by keeping God’s people alive, and His covenant with Himself about His people remained intact.
Thus, it was “good.”
There are many examples on how God defines good as “fulfilling a purpose.” The last is in Luke’s telling of the Parable of the Sower. In this story, a farmer was sowing a field, and some seeds fell on the compacted dirt of the path and thus never grew.
Some seeds fell in the rocky areas and couldn’t really take root. Others fell in thorny ground, and when they grew up, were eventually choked out by the weeds. But, the seeds that fell on “good” ground bore fruit.
Luke 8:15 says, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the Word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
The good soil and the good heart allow for fruit to be produced. The fruit is for the purpose of blessing others.
The tree does not produce fruit so that it can eat it, but so that others might – and from there produce more fruit trees. The same is true for the follower of Christ.
God’s people do not produce fruit for themselves – but so they can bless others. Therefore, a good heart is one that fulfills its purpose in loving and blessing others.
We will continue this discussion in a later blog by seeing “good” connected to the morality of right and wrong.