“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your way. and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9.
Atheists and agnostics like to claim that religion or belief in God isn’t necessary for living a moral life. “I can be a good person without God,” they say. In a certain sense, it’s correct to say that one can be a good person without God. There are people far from the heart of God who live very good, compassionate, and, in some cases, outstanding lives. They feed the hungry, aid the poor, and contribute to worthy causes. They know some things like cheating or bullying are bad and that things like generosity and kindness are good. By any definition, they are good people.
Being a Christian isn’t about being good—or “better” than our non-Christian friends and neighbors. And it’s not about lecturing non-Christians on how their good is not good enough. We have no right to be self-righteous. Our good in and of itself is no better than anyone else’s good.
The question is, can we be good without God? The short answer is yes and no. Biblically, morality comes from God. There would be no such thing as right or wrong without God. Where do the moral values that we all admire and aspire to actually come from? We all agree that justice is better than injustice and generosity is better than greed, and courage is better than cowardice. We all agree that love is better than hate. But where do these moral standards actually come from? In short, they come from God.
The Bible consistently describes God as good. God made everything good. God is the source of moral strength and resolve and is the absolute standard for what is good. Christians have a basis for understanding goodness through what God reveals about Himself in His Word: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good” (Mark 10:18).
God not only sets out the moral law and tells us to obey it but gives us the power to obey it. We can transcend being naturally good, and go beyond all that we have to live by our power because God gives us His power. This enables us to be better people than we could have hoped to be because God is the source of all goodness.
Being a Christian is not just about being a good person. It’s about being in a relationship with a good person. Perfectly good. Fortunately, we do not have to be perfectly good. Through Jesus, God invites us, as good or as bad as we are, into a relationship with Him and promises to help us do what is good, even when it’s not easy, but to love what is good as we grow in our love for Him.
In other words, if God is the source of all that is good in the world He made, why would anyone want to try to be good without Him?
- Can you be good without God? Why or why not?