Beware of the apparent good

This is something we have to be most discerning and careful about. We have to realize that there is such thing as an apparent good, which actually is not good but can look and smell like it is. We should do our best that we go always for the authentic good.

And the authentic good can only come from God. The authentic good can only be obtained when everything that we do is done with God and for God. Thus, in that episode of ruler asking Christ how he could gain the eternal life, Christ said that good can only be one, and that definitely is God.

Here is how that episode went. “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good, except God alone.’” (Lk 18,18-19)

And Christ proceeded by saying that to gain eternal life, one has to follow the commandments of God. That is what truly is good—when we obey God’s commandments. Yes, we can do some good, but more of following our own will rather than the will of God, and that is not the true good.

Of course, Christ went further because the ruler still insisted on what else he could do since he appeared to be already following God’s commandments and yet he felt it was not enough. So Christ told him: “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Lk 18,22)

In those last words of Christ above, we have the real substance of what true good is. It is to detach ourselves from everything even if continue to have things since we need them, so that our heart can only be given to God alone and be filled with God’s love and everything about God, which includes loving everybody else the way Christ loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34-35)

We should be wary of our strong tendency to depend solely on our own idea of what is good. There may be some conformities of our own idea of what is good and what the true good is, but these conformities cannot pass the test of time, the test of the different situations in life. There is bound to be some inconsistency.

Just like what happened to the leading Jews of the time of Christ. They were so fastidious about what is good, what is proper, what is ideal. But in the end, they missed the real thing, and often their deeds did not match with their words.

Thus, Christ denounced them with some strong words. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees,” Christ said, “sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Mt 23,2-3)

When we manage to do what is truly good, it is done usually with humility, with rectitude of intention, without fanfare, conceit, or virtue-signalling. It channels Christ’s example and attitude of simply wanting to serve and not to be served. (cfr. Mt 20,28) It is the opposite when one simply does an apparent good. They are there mainly for appearance, for show, etc.

Thus, Christ faulted the Pharisees, saying that “everything they do is done for people to see: they make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces…” (Mt 23,5-7)

To be able to do the true good, we indeed need some training and discipline. We have to learn to follow what Christ clearly said—that we deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him! (cfr. Mt 16,24)

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