Good or God?

August 20, 2021

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).

The word ‘good’ is agathos. It means that which is beneficial and well. There is another word in the Greek that is translated ‘good’ in the English. It is kalos. It means morally good; valuable and virtuous. What is the point?

The young man came to Jesus, whom he considered to be a ‘good’ teacher (v.16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18), which was a common title given to the Rabbis of the day. So, in essence this man recognized Jesus as a religious teacher like all other religious teachers. Why then did he come to Jesus asking this question regarding eternal life? Since I believe the man to be sincere in his inquiry, he most likely did ask other Rabbis regarding eternal life, but their responses did not satisfy the stirring in his spirit. Since Jesus was very popular with the people, why not ask Him what He thought?

What is clear here is that this man did not regard Jesus as Messiah or Son of God. He did not regard Jesus as kalos - good in the sense of morally pure, but as agathos - good in the sense of an excellent teacher. He considered Jesus to be a mere man and nothing more.

We cannot dismiss this man for his coming to Jesus or for asking his question. There was everything that seemed right and hopeful about him. He was young, so his heart could not have been be very hard and cynical as the elders of Israel. It appears he was of good moral character since he confessed he kept the commandments from his early life (v. 20). He was good natured and gracious in disposition in the way he approached Jesus. He was stirred in his spirit with the question of eternal life. All things considered, many churches and pastors would readily and heartily accept such a person into the fellowship without hesitating. But not Jesus.

We know the outcome of this encounter. The young man left Jesus sorrowful - lupeo: in distress; saddened; in heaviness of heart; grieving. Was it the intent of Jesus to discourage this young man from entering the Kingdom? Didn’t Jesus want this man saved? 

The young man left Jesus grieved in his spirit because he considered Jesus good, not God. And that is the way of the world today and of many who come to the church or to the pastor or evangelist. Many want to enter the Kingdom by their ‘good’ things, not by surrendering to the only One who is good (kalos) - God in Christ Jesus.

“Lord Jesus, may we not make the mistake of believing a person is sincere or saved based upon their understanding of it, but press the question to everyone ‘Who is Jesus to you?’ To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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