The Sin of Trying to Be Good -- By: Willard Maxwell Aldrich

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:379 (Jul 1938)
Article: The Sin of Trying to Be Good
Author: Willard Maxwell Aldrich


The Sin of Trying to Be Good

Willard Maxwell Aldrich

Trying to be good is commendable under most circumstances. At all times it is better than trying to be bad. Few there are who pursue a path in life definitely avowing evil to be their goal. Few that hold as a philosophy of life that bad is better than good, consequently, all will agree that for the most part trying to be good is a praiseworthy aim. Yet there is a circumstance in which trying to be good is definitely evil. Reference is made to the common practice of multitudes of people who attempt to be good enough to win their way to heaven apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ. Such folks base their hope of eternal glory on the claim that they are doing the best they can to live by the golden rule, the ten commandments or the sermon on the mount.

I mean to say as emphatically as I know how that if one presents to God as his claim upon eternal life the cleanest, most cultured, kindest and most philanthropic life of which he is capable by working at it all of the time that God will both reject the claim and pronounce the whole effort to be sinful.

Inasmuch as many of those committing the sin of trying to be good as a way of getting to heaven have derived their conceptions either directly or indirectly from the Bible, and because it is God’s Holy Word and speaks with final authority on the subject of personal salvation, its plain and unmistakable teaching will form the basis of our discussion.

Trying to win salvation by being good entails at least six sins which are peculiarly offensive to God.

1. The Sin of Failing to be Good

A certain lawyer stood up and tempted Christ, saying, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Christ’s answer turned him to God’s requirement of those who would be saved by doing. He said, “What is written in the law?”

The lawyer said in reply, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”

“Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25–28). Note the Saviour’s answer. “This do, and thou shalt live.” The requirement is doing or keeping the law, not merely attempting to do so.

The first commandment, which requires wholehearted love for God, is flagrantly violated by the person who rejects the Son of God, the Father’s Well-Beloved; and, consequently, however much his refinement and cultural attainment and however commendable his character, he...

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