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James 1:12-18

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:17).

Goodness, without a doubt, is one of the attributes of God most clearly revealed in the Bible. James 1:13, for instance, says the Lord cannot tempt anyone with evil, nor can He be tempted to sin. Our Creator is the “Father of lights” and the giver of every good gift, in whom there is “no variation or shadow due to change” (v. 17).

We are accustomed to this idea in the West, but many Eastern religions hold a far different view. Their dualism teaches that good and evil are equal forces locked in a never-ending struggle that neither can win. Scripture reveals instead that the Lord is both good and omnipotent, meaning that good will finally win over evil, ending all suffering for the people of God (Rev. 21). His omnipotence allows His goodness to have the final say. Yet the goodness of our Father is not only bound up inseparably with His omnipotence but also with His holiness. Consequently, we cannot follow the ideas of certain people who appeal to the goodness of God in order to deny an eternal, conscious punishment for the impenitent. These individuals fail to see that God’s wrath actually manifests His goodness. Though patient with sinners, our Father cannot be good and fail to punish sin (Ex. 34:6–7). Good human judges do not allow evil to flourish with impunity, and the perfect Judge of all can certainly do no less.

Other attributes that fall within the scope of God’s goodness are benevolence, love, and mercy. Benevolence refers to the kindness our Creator shows to all people, even though they are undeserving. God gives rain to both the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45b), though He has a special love that moves Him to work in all things for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28).

Love is a favorite, if often misunderstood, attribute of God. True, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but this love is not independent of His holiness; therefore, His wrath does not deny this love (1:5). The same holy love that moves Him to condemn the impenitent also moves Him to discipline His people for their well-being (Heb. 12:5–11).

Mercy is an overflow of our Father’s goodness and love. Mercy is His kindness to withhold the fullness of His wrath to His people in order that He might save them. God can be good to His creation without being merciful, and in fact He does not show mercy to all (Rom. 9:14–24). Nevertheless, His mercy enriches His goodness.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

By faith we perceive that God is good, even when we are walking through the most difficult trials. If you are having difficulty seeing the goodness of the Lord in your current situation, know that His mercies are new every morning and that He will never leave or forsake His children (Deut. 31:8; Heb. 13:5). May we continuously praise Him for His love, which has been poured out upon us in Christ Jesus and thus will never be withheld from us.

For Further Study
  • Psalms 73:1; 86:5
  • Zechariah 9:16–17
  • Matthew 7:7–11
  • 1 Peter 2:1–3
Related Scripture
  • James 1
  • James

God Unchanging

God is Truth

Keep Reading The Marks of a Christian

From the October 2010 Issue
Oct 2010 Issue