The Good Place debuted in 2016 with an interesting premise–does being a good person matter? In this show, yes it does. In fact, each action is weighed and given points that enable a person to get to the “good place.” If you don’t make it, you go to the “bad place” and eternal torment. Initially, the main character Eleanor wakes up from her death experience to find that she has arrived at the good place. The problem is she didn’t deserve to be there. What follows are humorous situations where she tries to fool everyone and then decides to try and become the kind of person that deserves to be there.
Without giving away the whole storyline, let’s just say that they all discover that no one deserves to go the “good place.” Decisions are complicated and one can’t guarantee what one desires is what actually occurs. No matter how hard someone tries they cannot make everything right.
This point of the show really illustrates the moral weaknesses of humans. We cannot always know what the absolutely right thing is in every situation. Even if we did know, we might not have the moral fortitude to even see it through. I appreciate the philosophical conundrum that this show has taken on. It will be interesting to see how they will finally resolve the show. I am relieved to know, however, that there is an answer to the challenges of being a human and that this answer isn’t “try harder.”
We Aren’t on A Point System
The great news of the Gospel is that our redemption isn’t the result of our good choices. Too often, however, we act like we are following the point system like in the show. Even in the church, where we have the Good news of Christ’s sacrifice, we live like we are still being weighed by our actions. This puts us in a fearful state of thinking we are one decision away from losing God’s love. Paul calls out this foolish thinking in Galatians 3:3 ESV where he states, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Throughout scripture, we see people, even godly people making bad choices. In fact, the only person who ends up looking good at the end of it all is God. And that wasn’t a mistake. You see if we become morally perfect and make all the right decisions, we are the ones who get the credit. Like Eleanor, we would be trying to earn our way into heaven.
Leaving Room for God
If, instead, however, we left room for God to do the miraculous, we would see the hand of God in our lives. This isn’t to say we are to just stop trying to do the right thing—we just need to stop trying to do the right thing in our own strength.
We all face challenges in our lives that we struggle to overcome–depression, addiction, anger, selfishness, relationship issues and so on. We are probably defeated in these areas more times than we can count. To the devoted Christian, these things are disheartening, causing us to question whether or not we are even believers. When we face an enemy bigger than us, the answer isn’t to try harder, but to be still.
Watch and See
In an impossible battle, Israel was given the admonition to watch and see. Pharaoh witnessed numerous miraculous acts culminating with the death of the first born sons. Then he finally lets the Israelite people go. And then changes his mind. In wild pursuit, he catches up with the fleeing people at a vulnerable moment. They stand sandwiched between the uncrossable Red Sea and rampaging army. Their obvious response is a full-out panic (despite having also witnessed God’s great works).
But Moses reminds them to trust in God, saying, “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.” (Exodus 14:13 ESV, bold mine).
They had three tasks in this: stop being afraid, stand firm (don’t run and hide), and watch and see what God is going to do.
This isn’t the only time we see God doing this kind of work. We see the people of Israel and its individual citizens overcome obstacles too large for them to overcome alone. And again and again, God says, let me fight this battle.
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We need to remember that the goal isn’t our successful annihilation of the “enemies” in our lives. Instead, our goal is successful dependence on God. If you are feeling the weight of your weakness, take heart. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6 ESV). Because of what He did and what He is still doing, we can feel confident that we are going to a very good place. Our hope is in Him and not in ourselves!