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.
“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.