Practicing the Better: Good at the Start

Practicing the better was God’s initial and repeated act in the beginning of creation.  Seven times the writer of Genesis uses the word ‘good’ to describe what God was making.

In the Hebrew and Greek languages, ‘good’ is a many-splendored word.  In both languages God’s goodness is the definer of everything else that is good because everyone and everything comes from God and returns to God. To be ‘good’ is, therefore, to be like God in character and conduct. So, each time the writer of Genesis says, “it was good,” it means that the named entity was in conformity to God’s nature and will. 

Every aspect of creation expresses (manifests, represents) the practice of the better.  The cumulative effect of God’s creative acts generated a crescendo of goodness which ended in the statement that what God had made was VERY good. The first creation story is saying, ” Nothing was amiss; everything existed exactly as God intended. [1]

Practicing the better arises from the theology of original righteousness. [2]  Sadly, some Christians start with original sin (Genesis 3), but the Bible does not begin there.  The beginning is goodness (Genesis 1 & 2), and that is where we are to begin in seeing how we are meant to live.

Original righteousness is the theological base for practicing the better.  It is the primal vision of who we are and how God intends life to be.  It is also the ignition of our moral consciousness and the compassion which emerges from it, as we move through the days of our lives celebrating what is good and confronting what is bad. 

The simple test for seeing if God’s goodness is alive in us is to come upon something bad and say to ourselves, “That is not good. I must do something about it.” It is becoming light bearers, who shine into the darkness–and the darkness does not defeat it.

[1] For more on the Hebrew and Greek meanings of ‘good,’ see William Mounce, ‘Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Zondervan, 2006), 300-302.

[2]  For more, see the article “Original Righteousness” in ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’ Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2005).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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