The Truth About “Being Good for Goodness Sake”

Do you remember the old Christmas classic, narrated by Fred Astaire, Santa Clause Is Coming to Town?  Do you remember the line, “So be good for goodness sake”?  I have a news flash for you: we are very rarely “good for goodness sake.”  For the most part, if we are good at all, we are good because of what we expect to get in return.

Think about the last time you were good.  Was it really for goodness sake, or were you hoping for some kind of payback?  Now think about the last time you were good, but didn’t cash in on the payback you were expecting.  What happened then?  Did you decide to do something bad, in order to get back for not getting paid for being good?

I can’t tell you how many people I have counseled who are angry with God because they didn’t get the reward they were expecting from Him for all of their perceived “goodness.”  Here is what these folks are missing: God doesn’t owe us anything—not one solitary red cent—even when we are good!  Even if, by some miracle of grace, we were to do everything we were commanded by God to do, all we would have done was our duty . . . and God owes us nothing for doing only what we are required to do.

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Luke 17:10 ESV)

What obligation have we placed God under when we have done what is good, right, noble, or worthy?  None!  If God is so pleased to reward us, it will only be a result of unmerited favor and another act of grace in our lives.  What we must keep in mind is that our services are not even the least bit profitable to God, because He does not need anything from us, and that includes our “help” to expand the cause of His kingdom.

Can a man be of benefit to God?  Can even a wise person benefit him? (Job 22:2)

As A.W. Pink said, the Lord is self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied, and in need of nothing.  Job knew this truth.  Everything we have been given is a gift of God’s grace.  Our blessings are rooted in our relationship with Jesus, not in our goodness and work ethic.  If it is to be, it is not up to me!  It is up to God and His infinite willingness to pour out His unmerited favor into our lives, for no other reason than that He is pleased to do so.  What we must remember is the good we do is a result of God’s grace at work in us; all the glory and praise is due to Him.

Oh, one final thought for today: even our very best services and good works are mingled with the desires of our sinful and selfish hearts.  Our imperfections mar everything we do.  Who has ever loved God with all his heart for even an hour?  Yet, the Gospel tells us that God will be merciful—in spite of all our unrighteousness—and will remember our sin no more.

I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12)

To put it simply, God will bless even our mess.  How incredible to be loved by a God who loves us when we are unlovable and blesses us when we deserve to be cursed!  Do you see the glorious freedom in these Gospel truths?  We are blessed by the Best, even when we are less than our best.

Unlike Santa Clause, our God is not making a list and checking it twice to find out who’s naughty or nice.  God is not checking a list or keeping score because the score was settled forever when Jesus paid the price for all of our sins on the cross.  And since we don’t need to earn our way into God’s heart to receive His favor and blessing, we can, by the grace of His power at work in us, simply do our best to be good . . . not “for goodness sake,” but for sake of His goodness!

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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