Why Being Good is Overrated

by | Apr 2, 2014 | Encouragement, Lent

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As I walk across the street to the neighbor’s house, a long-ago memory from a different address emerges.

Behind a long length of garden, a single mom and her young son share a small dwelling beside the house my mother and I rented, the house with uneven floors and cockroaches coming out the wall sockets. In the summer, we greet our neighbor more often when she sunbathes slathered in baby oil, in a bikini lying on a towel in the dandelion grass. 

One evening, after returning from dinner, she extends an abrupt invitation to both of us for a visit. When we walk inside her tiny living room, every chair and table is piled with stolen merchandise. Holding each piece of clothing up to her chest with tags dangling from cuffs, she smiles like she won the lottery, assuming we’ll  be happy for her success. But instead, I feel like I want to throw up.

I’m a voyeur to the bad choices of other people often in my childhood. I learn how to live through the school of reverse mentoring but this memory comes with a wrong assumption. The way to earn God’s favor is goodness. 

“Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to be good to be in relationship with Jesus,” my pastor once said from the pulpit. “There is no curve. And you are comparing yourself to the wrong standard because what standard is good enough?”

Is it Mother Teresa, the Pope, Martin Luther? Perhaps your parents, a teacher or an admired friend.

We can feel good about ourselves in comparison to the lowest common denominator of humanity, guilt-ridden when it’s great men and women of faith. But the measuring stick of our value isn’t goodness, it’s the righteousness of God through Jesus. (Romans 3:10)

Window shopping life, I grew up defining my worth by watching others and missed the fine print hanging from the cuff.  Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. (Romans 3:23-26)

Goodness is a byproduct of desire, not a requirement for intimate relationship.


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  1. DeanneMoore

    Amen sister! “Done.” Love it!

  2. Joy Lenton

    Well said, Shelly. How we all suffer from those unwise comparisons and forget we are already loved far more than we’ll ever know, already made perfect in God’s sight even as wobbly ‘works in progress’. I especially love the succinct summing up here, “Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. ” Oh yes! 🙂

  3. ro elliott

    The Lord just spoke to my heart about man-made religion. I thought I had walked away from it… pushed those walls out… but His love showed me that I still have these invisible standards… my ideas of “good and expectable” … I am thinking… pushing these walls of man-made religion just might be more of a life time journey than I thought. yes…yes… the finished work of the Cross…DONE!!!

  4. Jillie

    Excellent, Shelly! LOVE what your Pastor said! From one who consistently struggles with being “good enough” for God to love me, I am seizing hold of messages like yours. Still hard for me to fathom the “Pre-approved” message, but I’ll keep working on that. Thanks so much for this. It’s going in my “keeper” file!

  5. Heather

    Thank you for this, Shelly. I’m challenged by it.

  6. Maggie

    Thanks for sharing such a great message. I love the DO and
    DONE! How many times I have compared myself to others and either excelled or fallen short. I need to fix my eyes in the right direction. blessings

  7. Lisa notes...

    “But the measuring stick of our value isn’t goodness, it’s the righteousness of God through Jesus.”
    This is SO freeing.Yes, being good is overrated–love that title and your courage to post it. 🙂

  8. Ashley Haupt

    Sharing this on facebook. 🙂

  9. Steph @ BeEmbraced

    I love your last line. What a powerful story!

  10. Holly Solomon Barrett

    “Goodness is a byproduct of desire, not a requirement for intimate relationship.” Yes! Love this post, Shelly!

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