My favorite way of studying my Bible is to have a simple dictionary nearby. The one I use is a 1993 Webster's Dictionary that I got for $1 at the Dollar General Store. It's dog-eared and outdated, and sometimes does not have particular words I'm looking for. But for the most part, it's served me well. I'm always amazed at how the scriptures open up in a remarkable new way for me, just by looking up the definition of words.
This morning, I did a study on Philippians 4:8. (You know..."Whatsoever things are true...") I was amazed at the depth of meaning behind each of the virtues Paul encouraged us to think on. For example, Webster defines "pure" as "free from anything that damages, weakens, or contaminates; innocent; clean." Pretty deep, huh?
I said all that to get to this. Have you ever considered the word "good"? I mean really considered it? It's probably one of the most commonly used words in our daily conversations. "This is good." "That was a good movie." "She's a good actress." "It tastes so good." "He's a good person." "She's a good kid."
See what I mean?
But what does it mean to be good? I know I've always considered it an average, noncommittal compliment. If something is all right but not great, we say it was good. Getting a B on our report card is a good grade, but we really want an excellent grade, an A. If we say something is pretty good, it was maybe better than okay.
One of my favorite characters in books and movies is Anne Shirley (Anne with an e). She always had her own unique knack for saying things. In the second movie, Anne of Avonlea, she is lamenting over her best friend's choice of a husband. Her complaint? That he was "extremely good." By that, she meant he was unadventurous, simple, not exciting. And as a teenage girl, I thought I understood what she meant. And even today, I catch myself wanting to be more than just "good." I don't want to lay in my casket and people have nothing more to say about me than, "She was a good person."
Then one day, during one of my private Bible studies, I looked it up in my dictionary. And I was floored. The meaning took away the plainness of this trait and elevated it to something to be sought after. I realized that I (along with many of my peers and fellow Americans) had been cheapening the word all this time with overuse and misconception. The word "good" means so much more than "okay" or "average." This word is pulsating with meaning and depth. In fact, I'd go so far to say that being good takes more out of a person than a mediocre try. To be good takes intentional purpose.
So, what does it mean exactly? In my faithful Webster's dictionary, it says "good" is "having desirable or favorable qualities or characteristics; morally excellent; virtuous; well-behaved; tractable; proper; excellent in degree or quality; unspoiled; fresh; healthy; striking or attractive."
Did it hit you the way it hit me? Did you catch all of those impressive descriptions? I especially likes "morally excellent." How interesting that we use the word good to describe something that is not quite up there with "excellent," but that very word is used to describe "good!"
I don't know about you, but being "excellent in degree or quality" sounds a little more difficult than just average behavior. To be good means you have to work at it, seek after it, want it. It's not just some throw-away compliment to assure someone that their work is not bad. Good means "excellent in quality!"
So, from that particular study, I was able to walk away with a greater sense of understanding of just how great it is to be good. And think of the many times good (or a form of the word) is used in the Bible. "The fruits of the Spirit are...goodness." "There is none good but the Father..." "whatsoever things are of good report..." God wants us to be good, to possess that invaluable trait of goodness.
When I use the word "good" now, I can't help but remember what I learned. That's not to say I don't still overuse it. ("That was good pizza!") But, when I think about myself, I now strive to be good. And if someday, when I'm gone, if people can say sincerely that I was a good person, I can't think of a greater compliment. May we all strive to be good.
Boy, that was good, wasn't it?
In His Grip!
"A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord..." Proverbs 12:2a