Three Levels of Being Good

Everyone wants to be good and do what is just. Deep in every person’s heart is the desire to attain eternal life, enlightenment, salvation, heaven, Nirvana. Yet, it also seems obvious that there are destructive and negative forces within each one that pull, push and drive us to the opposite direction.  We have inordinate desires that enslave and tie us to the ground, self-serving tendencies that would have us harm or even hurt others, narrow-mindedness that prevent us from seeing the greater good.

There are three levels of goodness. The first level is to avoid doing that which is evil, hurtful, or destructive. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. This is the minimum. But often this minimum can be easily distorted through devious disambiguation. Like, if I were to steal just a small amount, does that make me bad? Or, isn’t it better for a criminal to be condemned to die before he causes anymore pain and trouble to others? Or, if I tell little white lies to protect another person, am I doing wrong? The source of the this difficulty is that it is too focused on me, myself. In the end, I end up making decision based on what is good for me.

The second level of goodness focuses on the other: sell what you have and give to the poor. I forget my needs and instead focus on the needs of others. I make my decisions based on what is good for others. I give up my life so that others may live. I shed the excesses I may have accumulated and share these with others. This is a higher level of being good. But one may still be tempted to share only from one’s abundance. The challenge is to be able to share even out of one’s emptiness and neediness. This is the reason to the challenge to sell what one has.

The highest level of goodness is to let go and let God. This is total surrender to God’s will and his providence. I make my decisions according to God’s will. Very few have managed to do this but it is not impossible to do. St. Francis of Assisi did. Mother Teresa did. Mahatma Gandhi did. Albert Schweitzer did. With God’s grace, it is possible. For all things are possible for God.

Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
~ Psalm 32

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “You know the commandments”

He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

Mark 10:17-27

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