Psalm 14 – Nobody is Good

Psalm 14 tells us that nobody is good. Does this mean I’m incapable of being good?

The one verse that really stands out for me in this Psalm is verse 3.

3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

What in the world does that mean? Am I incapable of doing anything good? Of course there’s the concept of universal depravity, but I want to know what this means for me. I want to understand the implication in my own life. Can I do good? What does this mean? Can’t I buy a mocha for the lady that works next to me that irritates me beyond belief? Isn’t that being good? Can’t I help an old lady fix her car tire? Isn’t that being good? Well, in our understanding of the word, of course it is. And anyone can do things like that. I think, in this context, the word “good” must mean something other than what I think it means.

Jesus said,

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Mark 10:18 (ESV)

Oh great. Now, not only do I not know what “good” means, but nobody can be good but God. Yet I’m called to be perfect.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

So, let’s see what we have here so far. Nobody is good. Not even one person. So I must not know what being good means, because I do nice things for people all the time. So, I feel like I’m good, but based on this Psalm, I’m not. Then Jesus reiterates that in Matthew when he says nobody is good but God. So obviously I’m not good. It appears our modern meaning of “good” must mean something other than what most people think it means. But regardless of what it means, I’m called to be perfect, and being perfect has to have something in common with being good, which I’m not. What’s the heck is going on?

A few verses after Jesus says that nobody is good but God, the disciples ask Him a question and He answers. The answer gives me some hope.

26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:26, 27 (ESV)

The disciples didn’t understand either. They wanted to know how in the world anyone could get to heaven if being good was impossible. And Jesus made it clear that with Him, all things are possible.

My conclusion is that I (along with everyone) was born incapable of being good. Sure, I can do nice things and be pleasant, but I can’t be good in God’s eyes, because He’s perfect. He’s the only one who is truly good. But through Jesus (since he makes impossible things possible), I have the ability to have a relationship with a holy, perfect God – even One who despises my sinful nature.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 14 – Nobody is Good”

  1. Your words speak truth. While Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the Mount that even evil people can do good (which may seem to contradict this Psalm, but only apparently so), there is none of us that does ultimate good in the sense of being righteous before God. James tells us that if we offend in one point of the law, we are guilty of the whole thing. Thus, one bad deed taints all of our good deeds, and makes nothing truly good in the eyes of a holy God.

    But thanks be to Jesus. He becomes our righteousness, taking away the taint of sin, and allowing us to do good to all men, especially those of the family of faith (Galatians 6:10).

  2. I’m sure that God sees the heart, as I don’t always do what’s good, or right or blessed. If being accepted into God’s kingdom depended on my ‘good deeds’, then I’d be lost. As Christians I think that we need to reach out to those that God brings our way and are in need (sometimes we need to search these people out) and do the good deeds that God asks of us –

    Matthew 25:31-40 –

    34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    Now does doing the above make you good? No. But it does mean that you are available to do whatever God calls you to do, in order to bring Glory to Him. Here is a favorite verse of mine which I think ties in –

    Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)

    “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

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