The Gift of Goodness

We’ve heard of goody-two-shoes. Good riddance. Goodness gracious great balls of fire. And Goodbye. Things can taste good, we like to read good books and tell good stories. We tell our children to be good and to get good grades.

But what does it really mean to be good?

The Random House dictionary has 41 different definitions for the word… and that’s just the adjectives.

But in general, I think we usually say that something is good if it fulfills our expectations – if it does what it is supposed to – and if we get some kind of benefit from it.

Take our cookies for example. If we had taken a bite of the cookie and they were old or dried out… they wouldn’t be so good. They wouldn’t have been all that they were made up to be.

In the same way… we are good when we fulfill the expectations of ourselves and others and if we benefit others as we do so.

I keep using the word benefit… and that is because there are lots of things that fulfill their purpose that we would never call good. For example – those cookies might taste good – but if you never got to eat them… if I never shared them… they would have been good to no one but myself.

Or, think about what makes a good chef’s knife. It is sharp, it cuts the way that it is designed to, and we can use it to prepare food and to eventually be fed. We benefit from the design and use of a good chef’s knife.

But in the hands of someone unskilled, like a child, the knife becomes dangerous and what we thought was good could harm them.

In the hands of someone who is angry or revengeful – the very thing that we called good only a moment ago can turn into a weapon. It still has the same qualities that fulfilled its purpose… only it is being used for ill rather than good.

So to be good… we must fulfill the expectations of ourselves and others and benefit others as we do so.

Throughout the scriptures – we hear stories of men and women who were good: Noah was a good man and so his family was saved from the flood. Lot was a good man and so his family was rescued from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rahab the prostitute took in the spies from Israel and her family was saved from the battle of Jericho.

But there are plenty of people who were not so good. Who didn’t do what was expected of them. Who lived not to benefit others, but to benefit only themselves.

And it is to such people as these that the prophets were sent. Prophets like Samuel, Elijah and Elish, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habbakuk, Hosea… and our prophet for this morning: Nathan.

We have here a story of paradox. David was a man after God’s own heart. We always think back on all of the good things that he did – his trust in God, his loyalty to Saul, his music, and his love… but in some ways, David was a kind of bad dude.

As we heard this morning, David breaks two commandments all in a weeks time. He sleeps with another man’s wife… one of his soldiers Uriah’s wife Bathsheeba… and then to cover up the fact that he has done so – he has Uriah killed out on the battlefield.

Nathan’s job here is simple… bring God’s judgment upon David for these acts. But what I want to look at this morning is how the goodness of Nathan shines through.

First, Nathan helped the truth to come to light… Ephesians 5 says that God’s children live as children of light… “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.” He didn’t shy away from the fact that David had done wrong, but made sure that David knew that he had done wrong.

Second, Nathan knew what David had done wrong… He knew that he was unrighteous

The right thing to do as soon as David confessed would be to have David stoned… but goodness goes beyond simple righteousness… goodness goes beyond simply pointing out the wrongs in others.

He not only told the truth, but nowhere do we have any indication that Nathan is prepared to follow the letter of the law. He instead waits for a response from David.

As people of faith, too often we are quick to bring judgment upon others and stand waiting with signs of condemnation. We are good at bringing unrighteousness to light. We are terrible about leading people into repentance.

When our righteousness is only about what is right and what is wrong, it becomes a weapon of judgment.

But by telling David a story, Nathan does just that. He helps him to see what is wrong, and in doing so, he also provides an opportunity for David to confess, to repent, and to live a different life.

Third, Nathan blessed David because of his repentance

He didn’t just bring the right thing to light, but he went the extra mile. Nathan did what was needed to set David back on the right path… what was needed to build him up and to help him live a better and more faithful life.

There would be consequences from his actions… and yet there was also room for God’s grace and mercy to flow back into David’s life and Nathan not only acknowledged that, but helped to point it out.

As Christians, we believe that all have fallen short of the glory of God. All of us are in need of grace and repentance.

I believe the basis of righteousness is fact that God sets us right. God forgives us. God leads us on the right paths. It has nothing to do with how many answers we get right or how many good deeds we do. It has everything to do with God.

But you see, that grace and that mercy that flows into our lives is not ours alone. It is meant to be shared.

If we fail to extend grace and mercy and love and forgiveness to our brothers and sisters, than we merely turn the precious gift we have been given into a weapon of destruction.

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