Why God Doesn’t Just Weigh Our Good Deeds against Our Bad Deeds

This month’s Solid Ground is Part 2 of a collection of thoughts on various topics from Greg. Here’s what he has to say about what justice demands when God judges behavior:

Good and Bad Deeds in the Balance

God demands we live obedient lives. But what about when we don’t? The most vital issue Christianity answers is, “How can we be right with God when we are not thoroughly good?”

There is profound misunderstanding on this point. Many err in defining goodness according to human standards. God, on this view, is concerned with what kind of people we are “on average.” If the good outweighs the bad—if good is predominant—then God winks at the moral lapses.

But justice never works like that, does it? The law demands that each person obey every law always, not some of the laws most of the time. You can be an upstanding citizen all your life, but a single crime is still going to bring you before the judge.

Further—and this is critical—no amount of good behavior pays for bad behavior. Law requires consistent obedience, and that which is already owed cannot be used to pay off past debts.

God, like all lawgivers, requires nothing less than moral perfection. “But that’s impossible,” you say. You’re right. That’s why we need a Savior. It’s the only way we can be right with God when we’re not thoroughly good.

This is a critical point to clarify for the people you’re talking to (see also “God Cares More about Behavior Than Most People Think”). As Greg says in the section on the Ten Commandments:

In your conversations, use both the Law and the Gospel. God’s Law is the mirror that shows us our need for the Savior. In Paul’s words, each of us is “shut up under sin” (Gal. 3:22). Our mouths have been closed, and we all have become accountable to God (Rom. 3:19). Saved by our own goodness? The Law gives us no hope other than Jesus’ righteousness.

Read the rest of his thoughts here on topics including fetal homicide laws, faith vs. knowledge, the charge that Christians are forcing their ideas on others through politics, the fate of the unevangelized, and more. See Part 1 here.

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Amy K. Hall