God is Good…
We know that God is good. How do we know? Jesus said so:
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” -Mark 10:17-18, NAB
Before answering the man’s question, Jesus stops to point out the goodness of God, and of Himself. Similar to the time that He asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (see Mark 8), Jesus is pointing to His own divinity.
Some read this passage and state that it shows Jesus’ separation from God. In a way, Jesus is saying that only God the Father is good; however, I believe He is saying just the opposite. When the man called Him good teacher, Jesus asks Him why. In Christ’s statement, He is putting a logical statement together: the man said that Jesus was good, and only God is good, so that must mean that Jesus is God.
Of course, this is where personal interpretation of Scripture can get us into a lot of trouble. People will still say that Jesus was denying being God, but He never did. He simply redirected the man’s statement to God, to ensure the man stayed focused on God, which, of course, reflects back to Jesus. His goal was not to deny being the Son of God but to ensure that we do not put teachers, rabbis, priests, and religious leaders up on a pedastal that only God deserves.
In our weakness, we quickly make idols out of mere mortals – we even have a TV show with that goal in mind – but Jesus is warning us against this. By asking this question, He is not denying His place as the Son of God; He is simply pointing out that the man must be careful with His choice of words. The man’s words, in this case, were correct, but we must take caution as Jesus has asked.
Have you seen the latest televangelists that draw thousands of people to hear them speak and can even fill up stadiums for their events? Many of these men and women are great teachers and disciples of God. I may not agree with all of their teachings, but no one can deny the good work they are doing for the Heavenly Kingdom; nevertheless, we should not put them on a pedestal, as some do. They are still just average men and women, who are not very different from you and I. Their work shows the glory of God and nothing more.
In Jesus’ short response, we can learn so much. First, He is using this man’s simple choice of words to point out His own divinity. At the same time, He is cautioning this man, and us, to not use words so lightly or to put religious leaders on pedestals they do not deserve. Jesus is God, and He deserves our praise. Let no other man be raised up in this way, and give all of the glory to God, including His Son, Jesus Christ, because only God is good.