Non Christian Goodness
To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
– Titus 1:15
A question that immediately springs to mind when we learn of the sinful nature of man is whether non-Christians can do good. The answer God gives is two-fold. It is both yes and no.
Many times in Scripture, wicked men are commended when they do something outwardly good. (See Ahab in 1 Kings 21.) But, because their hearts are not Godward, those outwardly good things are not “good works.” To please God, we must do what He commands with faith and a mind toward the glory of God.
Non-Christians can do many outwardly good things that are truly helpful. Pagan chemists can invent medicines. Atheist rich people can give away millions of dollars. Unbelieving politicians can enact good laws. All of those things could improve the lives of countless people. Yet, without faith and an aim to glorify God, these non-Christians are performing works of wrath.
All this to say, because of mankind’s sinful nature, a non-Christian cannot please God. Not because he always does the worst thing possible, but because his intentions are not good. This, again, sheds light on what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is not simply someone who does more good than anyone else. Instead, a Christian is one who has experienced something supernatural to make his works pleasing to God. Without a new birth and the gift of faith, along with a desire to glorify God, we are in no way able to please Him.