September 13, 1994
A Canadian doctor, after 12 years of doing surgery in war-torn places, has come to this conclusion: “There are only bad people and worse people.” He hopes he is “only one of the bad.”
Many people say war brings out fine attributes in people such as courage and national pride, but this doctor seems totally disillusioned. For him, there is no human goodness and war makes it obvious.
According to the Bible, the doctor is correct. It is those who see a positive side of human nature, wars or not, that are disillusioned. Consider this verse from the Old Testament: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). That means everyone, even those who seem the most saintly, have sinned.
A second passage from the New Testament adds more: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
Certainly by human standards, people often do good (the doctor did some good during his 12 years of service), but the Bible teaches that by God’s standard, sin pollutes every person and every deed. God even says the good we do is polluted. One of His prophets explains: “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.”
For God to condemn what we esteem, must mean He sees something behind our supposed good deeds that we cannot see. Consider our motivations. I honestly must admit I am often influenced by selfish desires for personal gain or recognition. I know God sees that and does not approve.
If sinful motives were not enough to condemn even the good we do, God expects even more. He says “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Not only do selfish motives fail His test, deeds done in unbelief fall short. He wants us to be motivated by faith.
According to God’s Word, all sin, even sin not apparent to us, needs to be exposed by God and acknowledged to God. His purpose is not so He can condemn us (sin already does that) but so He can forgive and cleanse our sin from us. Accepting and believing His evaluation of our condition is the first step towards good deeds that are not motivated by selfishness and unbelief.
God, through grace and the power of His Spirit, provides a way to be rightly motivated in godly activities. Our hope is in the righteousness of Christ, given freely to all who admit their need. Romans 3 says “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The goodness of God is a genuine gift. No one can earn or deserve it; we do not have the capacity. We cannot even claim the smallest measure of goodness. Nothing we do without Jesus can satisfy God’s high and holy standard. Without His offer of salvation by grace through faith, none of us would even seek that degree of goodness.
Even with faith in Christ, the good we do is clearly from Him. Any believing Christian who thinks otherwise simply proves our sinful tendency toward pride.
As the doctor said, war does amplify the extremes of our sinful nature. While we respect those who courageously risk their lives to defend homeland and families, we should never forget it is because we are sinners that we go to war in the first place.