Are You Mostly Good?
Read James 2:10-11 (ESV)
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgresor of the law.
What does today’s Scripture have to say about the idea that most people are mostly good?
You are a mostly good person, I presume? I know I am. I mean, I haven’t killed anyone or broken any major laws that are going to land me prison. I try to be a law-abiding citizen and a faithful family man. I like to serve my community and my kids’ school. I try to do the right thing.
The idea that people are mostly good is prevalent in our society and has been for centuries. In her diary, Anne Frank recorded these words, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” Country musician Luke Bryan recently titled a song, “I Believe Most People Are Good.” We all know that no one is perfect but most people aren’t serial killers or evil dictators.
But, James is here today to shatter our illusions. In today’s verses, James said that if we haven’t kept the law in its entirety, we are guilty of breaking all of it. That means, we can do everything right but sin one time and we’ve failed. We’ve fallen short of God’s standard, which is perfect holiness. We were mostly good kids growing up but we disobeyed occasionally or lied to our parents—boom! Fail. We took God’s name in vain in front of our friends one time in middle school, trying to be cool—boom! Transgressor.
Now, you might be thinking, but all sins aren’t equal. And you would be right in the sense that some sins are more serious than others. Some do more damage and cause more pain and destruction. Some sins have more serious consequences than others because they are more heinous. But sin is sin, no matter how “minor” we may think that it is. Any sin, small or large, separates us from God.
In Isaiah 59:2 we read: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
In context, James had been reminding his readers to abstain for showing favoritism as we have discussed the past several days. James is making the point that if you think showing favoritism is no big deal because, after all, you haven’t cheated on your spouse and you’ve never killed anyone, think again. If you show favoritism, you are guilty of breaking the entire law.
Remember, Jesus said that all of the law depends upon just two commands: loving the Lord and loving your neighbor. Every transgression we make, violates these two commands. So if we fail in just one point of the law, we break the whole law.
Hitler’s crimes against humanity are obviously not equal to a teenager disrespecting and lying to their parents. But both break God’s entire law and both separate them from Him. Neither the teenager, nor Hitler was perfectly loving God and others. Solomon’s words were true when he wrote: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Paul agreed in Romans 3:10 when he wrote: “None is righteous, no, not one….”
But friends, there is good news—the Gospel of Jesus Christ! No matter how great or how many our sins, His mercy and His grace is greater still. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved….” (Ephesians 2:4-5). You and I? We might be mostly good by the world’s standards but we have completely missed His mark in numerous ways. We are only righteous because of Him.
Lord, I confess that I have broken your law in both big ways and small ways. I cannot meet your standard of holiness on my own. I rely on Your mercy and grace for my salvation. I am forever grateful for what You did for me. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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