Are You A Good Person?

Text: Matthew 5:17-26

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

A question for you this morning: are you a good person? Yes, are we good people? Well, I suppose it depends on what criteria we use to answer this question.

In a recent article titled, “15 Simple Traits of a Truly Good Person,” the author, Kyle Robbins, states that 15 qualities make a person truly good.[1] Let us examine the traits to see how we are doing:
  1. A good person is honest with others.
  2. A good person complements other people.
  3. A good person calls their parents frequently.
  4. A good person is polite - not showing off but respectful.
  5. A good person is kind to everyone – looking past the negative and finding the positive in everyone and everything.
  6. A good person is generous – gracious to others in need.
  7. A good person remembers their manners – no mam and yes sir.
  8. A good person thinks of others.
  9. A good person goes the extra mile – they finish what they start and then do a bit more.
  10. A good person is super kind to their loved ones – not taking the love of family members for granted.
  11. A good person smiles a lot – they light up the room with joy.
  12. A good person makes the best out of every situation – they see the glass as half full, not half empty.
  13. A good person is a good friend – there for you when you need them.
  14. A good person does not take things for granted.
  15. A good person is consistent from situation to situation. 
So, how did you do? Are you a good person? Did you get all 15? Or, did you get at least 10?

Now, if you did not get a perfect score, do not worry, because according to Mr. Robbins, it is not that hard to be a good person, but it does take a steady approach. That is to say; Mr. Robbins says that you can choose to change from being a bad person to a good person, by simply implementing his 15 traits.

But is Mr. Robbins correct in his article? Is he correct when he says that all we need to do to be a good person is to put these 15 traits into practice?

Surprisingly and contrary to what we might think, Mr. Robbins’ article and criteria are fairly accurate. In other words, he does a pretty good job of describing what we call outward civic righteousness. In fact, what Mr. Robbins describes should be self-evident to us all – do good to others and do not harm anybody else. Yes, be nice; be kind; do good, and be a good person.

So, if Mr. Robbins is basically correct that being a good person depends on a little grit and determination, what do we do with our Gospel reading from this morning?

In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shows us that there are two kinds of righteousness – two ways of being good. He shows us that there is external outward righteousness like Mr. Robbins speaks of. However, Jesus also shows us that there is inward spiritual righteousness. Yes, there is outward righteousness and inward righteousness – there is civic righteousness and spiritual righteousness. For example, according to our culture and society, we are good people when we do not murder one another. However, according to Jesus, there is another kind of righteousness, and that has to do with how our hearts and faith view our neighbor. So, while we might not murder our neighbor, if we have hate and nastiness in our hearts toward our neighbor, well… we are guilty – we are not a good person, but a bad person for the nastiness in the heart condemns us.   

Let us rephrase it this way: our world will determine if a person is good based on a person’s external and visible actions; however, God does not regard people on everything that glitters and shines on the outside. But rather, God looks deeper. God looks not only to our outward actions but also to the intentions of the heart. And the fact that God looks to our hearts should terrify us.

Several years ago I talked to a lady who said that she didn’t care about what people said about her because only God could judge her. According to her way of thinking, God’s judgment was somehow less severe than other people. Her friends, family, and the church were a bit too judgmental for her, but that didn’t matter because only God could judge her. Now, tragically, she had everything completely backward. You see, those in secular society look to the outward acts and will many times grade on a curve; however, God looks to the heart and demands complete and total perfection in deeds, words, and most especially thoughts. Frankly stated, this lady and all of us should want to be judged by those around us rather than God, for our neighbors can only see our outward actions. However, God judges the intent and motives of the heart. And while we can keep up appearances to a certain degree on the outside, when it comes to our hearts, I am afraid that Jeremiah is right when he once said, “The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” [2] Dear friends, when God judges us, He sees the filth within. He see the layers upon layers of sin embedded in our hearts. And according to our hearts, we are nowhere close to being good people.

Dear friends, we must guard ourselves against basing goodness solely on our outward actions, while forgetting the corruptness of our hearts. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of in our Gospel reading. Yes, Jesus is showing us in the Gospel reading that the Pharisees had put trust in their outward works and deeds while forgetting the corruptness of their hearts. They had cleaned the outside of the cup and failed to realize that the inside was dirty. They were like white-washed sparkly caskets, which were filled with dead man’s bones. They were hypocrites – flashy and clean on the outside, corrupt on the inside.

And so, Jesus is showing us in His Word today that there are two kinds of righteousness: outward civic righteousness and inward spiritual righteousness. And here is the catch. While the world will generally demand outward civic righteousness – pay your taxes, pick up your trash, be nice to your neighbor, and mow your lawn – the Lord, though, demands outward and inward righteousness. In fact, outward goodness without inward goodness is nothing before God. God doesn’t want a bunch of pretending frauds – only pretending to be good on the outside. God wants good people on the outside and the inside. God wants perfect people on the outside and the inside. As a Christian, you should not commit murder outwardly, and you should not have anger, cursing, and ill fillings toward your neighbor on the inside.

So, this brings up our original question. Are you a good person? Keep in mind that you may be a good person according to Kyle Robbins; however, Kyle Robbins is not the Lord of Creation, and Kyle Robbins is not coming back someday to judge the living and the dead. So, I say again, are you a good person according to Jesus? You may not have murdered someone, but have you hated them in your heart? If so, are you a good person? You may not have committed adultery, but have you turned your lustful eyes and thoughts to someone who is not your spouse? If so, are you a good person? You may confess the Lord every week in the Apostles’ Creed, but have you confessed the holy creed with your mouth, while your heart and mind are set on the Viking’s game occurring after church? If so, are you a truly good person?

Ouch. This hurts, doesn’t it? Jesus’ view of righteousness hits us where it counts by going to the heart. Jesus shows us that none of us are righteous. When we look past our outward civic righteousness to our hearts, we are left confessing that no one is good, not even one. We all fall short. Well… except for one person, though.

Dear friends, no one has ever walked this earth and lived a perfectly righteous life with external deeds and a perfect heart, except Jesus. That is what makes Him unique. That is what sets Jesus apart from everyone else. Sure, there are a lot of people who we would deem as good people externally speaking – people like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela to name a few, but none of these people were able to tame their hearts. The heart is bent toward rebellion and evil all the time.[3] And that is why we all need Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who is good externally and internally speaking. If we could depict this world like an old Western, all of us would be wearing black hats, except Jesus. His hat is white, for He is the only good person the world has ever known. He is the only one who kept the Law perfectly externally in His actions and internally in His heart. He is the only one who is truly good in God’s sight.

So, dear friends, as bad people our only option is that we look to the only good person the world has ever known.  We look to the One who said that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. We look to Christ Jesus – the good one.

And as we look upon Christ – the good one – we see that He does not keep His goodness to Himself. But rather, as the good one, Jesus gives us His goodness as a gift to you and me .

It is like this: in Christ by faith, you take hold of perfect goodness that is given to you as a gift. It is for you! In Christ, you are given righteousness (i.e., goodness) to receive, not perform. It is righteousness that you wear as a robe.  And yes, this righteousness is enough for the kingdom of heaven, for Christ did not abolish the Law, but fulfilled it externally and internally. He fulfilled it for each and every one of you! He fulfilled it and gives it to all of you as a gift!

Are you a good person? No, you are not, and I am not either, but Christ is. And you have Christ, and Christ has you. So in Christ, you have goodness. Therefore, when the Father looks down upon you, He sees the goodness of Jesus that covers all your sins and says,

“Well done, good and faithful servant… well done, indeed. Inherit the kingdom that is for you.”

And we say in return,

“All glory be to Jesus, our goodness, our righteousness, our hope, and our salvation.  We do not deserve His goodness, but thanks be to God that Jesus is good and gives it to us and considers it well-worthwhile.”

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Kyle Robbins, “15 Simple Traits of a Truly Good Person,”, (Accessed July 5, 2018).
[2] See Jeremiah 17:9.
[3] See Genesis 6:5. 

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