Calling Men "Good"

Salvete, omnes!

Earlier today, I was tweeting a comment wherein I stated that I applauded the “good congressman” who is out and among the people of his Baltimore constituency during the present turbulence in the city, and it got me to thinking…

Was I wrong to refer to this man as “good”? In fact, are we wrong (or even sinning) in calling any human being “good”, as in “the good doctor” “he is a good man”, etc., since, as Jesus says, there is none good but God?

When I think about why I called this congressman “good”, I believe my intent was to comment on the good intentions he showed by his actions (which I cited above). Of course, I didn’t mean that he was good 100% of the time (as in, having no sin). I was honoring what I believed to be his sincere intentions as manifested in his actions.

But, wasn’t this the same thing the man who approached Jesus on this occasion was doing? Surely this man didn’t have the notion that He, as a man (sans divinity, as he would’ve likely perceived Him), was completely and totally good all the time.

Furthermore, even if I am in the right on giving men this title, by making such statements around people who may not be clear on my meaning may have some notion that I am saying that a person is “basically good” as most secularists would have us today believe. Would even this possibility be cause for me to avoid making such statements in the future?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

All goodness comes from God. I don’t create goodness on my own, but let God’s goodness mediate through me.

To avoid saying that someone is a “good” person would be a bit ridiculous, I think. Everyone knows what “good” means in common usage. It obviously is not intended to mean “as perfect as God.”

That would be being overly scrupulous; when Jesus says

Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven

He means something specific; otherwise we couldn’t call our own biological male parents “father”.

I wouldn’t worry about it. :slight_smile:

No man is good. Only God is good: Mark 10:18

So, it seems that most who have replied here would argue that calling a man “good” is at the very least wrong.

I still encourage other people to contribute to this thread and to provide arguments for whatever position they support here.

Also, let me look with a bit more focus on the “good man” phrase. If one calls someone a “good man”, I have always taken it to mean that he is “good” in relation to other men, not that he is “all goodness” as is God. Is this kind of phraseology permissible?

Again, still interested in other responses to the above questions as well.

So we should call everyone evil?

I don’t think that the Bible says that. But the Bible does say: “No one is good–except God alone.” Mark 10:18

There isn’t anything wrong with doing so. I prefer to be precise when I speak and write but do so with my own style and expression. This won’t apply in every situation but using “good” festoons the statement with emotion or modest flourish.

Catholics don’t interpret much of the Bible literally.

The Catholic Church does NOT teach that we can’t call someone “good.”

Speaking merely for myself, it is way overscrupulous to think its sinful to call someone good.

I agree. There is a certain emotional gentility as well as compliment (though I don’t think it goes to the point of flattery) in such phrases. Perhaps these phrases are a bit archaic as well, though my mind usually tends to work that way, anyway! :slight_smile: Still, I think most people even today understand these things about phrases like “good doctor”, etc.

Your “Woman Out Of Time”,
M. :slight_smile:

Not to sound harsh, but, can you give me evidence for your statements? Also, do you have an answer for my observation that the man calling Jesus “good” in our passage was not also speaking as I was about the “good congressman”?

Of course, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, even to the extent of taking every single word in the Bible literally, leaving no room for allegory and symbolic speech… as overly scrupulous as that may be.

So, it seems that, now, the majority of folks on here would say that calling men good, as long as it is done within reason, is fine.

However, why did Jesus seemingly correct the man who called Him “good teacher”, if, again, the man seemingly was addressing Him in a way that we might, say, call a doctor good?

Was Jesus simply using the opportunity that this presented to make the point that no-one was truly good but God? So, then, He wasn’t technically correcting the man for calling Him good? Or, did the man, rather, have some disordered intention/reason for calling Him good, more than just calling Him “good” as we would the “good doctor”? Or, maybe, in this instance, the man was trying to flatter Jesus and He said this because of that? Are any of these possibilities valid? Why or why not? Is there a better/some other way to understand what is going on here?

Indeed, are there any examples within the context of the Church (Fathers, other writers, other incidents within Church history) where someone called someone else “good” without correction or rebuke?

I mean, it would seem that, on the surface, Jesus is, in fact, correcting the man for calling Him “good” in the sense that we do doctors or the congressman I mentioned.

What, exactly, is going on in this passage?

As Catholics we believe that human beings are indeed good. It is Protestant theology that says human beings are wretched and become good only through proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ. Catholic theology assumes we are inherently good yet act sinfully.

Get a Catholic study bible, concordance, and Catholic bible commentary (as has been suggested to you at least a dozen times) and find out.

The bible must be read in full context. Genesis tells us that everything God created is inherently good. It must be good, simply because He created it, since He is goodness itself. The goodness of creation, including the goodness of the Good Samaritan, flows from God. And Jesus wants to make sure we know that fact. Man has no goodness on his own, apart from God, and all men, unless doing Gods will, stand outside of and apart from that goodness, from the very nature and purpose He created them with and for. Fallen man thinks otherwise, that he is righteous apart from God, but the gospel reveals that only the “righteousness of God” which He, alone, can give, will satisfy and accomplish mans justice-can justify us…

A huge amount of words have a very wide range of usage. A decent dictionary will give dozens of meanings for some. I’m so blessed I was able to learn languages and enjoy wielding words (including English when translating) in all sorts of ways. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for exploring all that ground. It’s a great gift also, to “stop and think” about it as we are doing.

In Mk 10:1-31 Jesus is teaching the rich young man and the rest of them to be fivefold-ministry oriented, i.e make the purposes of God in His Church our foremost priority. The rich young man hadn’t seen this, but was a status quo-oriented (Old Covenant mentality) person.

It’s interesting you mention flattery which reminds me of the obsequiousness that a lot of people think appropriate towards bishops for example. It’s all that’s left after one fails to grasp them as fellow labourers on Kingdom building.

St Paul risked his previous impeccable reputation and “gave his life away” constantly alternating between different circumstances in order to build up the faith of believers in their mutually dependent callings (Paul’s “crown” and “credentials”). Paul is an example of what Jesus says in v 29-30 and is calling the young man to in v 21, where “poor” means the fellow believers who need discipling and forming to enter into their own productive and profitable callings. (The talents, the giving of rations while the master is in the far country, the lampstands and many other Bible passages interlock in varying degrees.) (Paul being apostle has an overtly variable life, some of us being called to more steadiness of circumstances of course.)

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