To do good or to be nice? That is the question.

Good vs nice, is there a difference?

Parents often admonish their children to “Be nice!” Or to, “Play nice!” While that sounds like a “nice” way to raise a child, I do believe it stunts the child and will eventually lead them into a completely “me centered” mentality. Is there a difference between good and nice? I believe there is, and my prayer is that I would never be accused of being a nice guy… let me explain.

I read a book a few years ago entitled: “No More Christian Nice Guy.” I was intrigued by the title and when I began to read it I found myself agreeing with the premise of the book. Basically it comes down to this, nice people will say anything to cause a situation to not become unpleasant. If it means compromising on fundamental beliefs, if it means not doing something because someone else is uncomfortable, if it means you avoid conflict in order to maintain the peace, then you are a nice person.  A nice person will smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. Of c ourse, part of the dictionary definition of nice are the words: kind, amiable and pleasant. I do not disagree with those words, I simply disagree with the concept of being nice so nobody is offended. I pray I am never accused of being a nice person. Before you write me off completely, let me explain further.

The word, “good” as a noun implies that someone is in a position of blessing. “He did good to those people.” ” He did it for his own good.” When the word “good” is used it means that someone benefited from the actions of another. Let’s try that with nice. “He was nice to those people.”  “He did it because he was nice.” “He was nice to the new person.” In any case, the word good implies that one person did something to benefit the other. The word nice, on the other hand, implies that someone was not contrary, was pleasant, did not cause a stir, etc.

Now, before you throw rotten eggs at your screen or leave an unkind comment in the box below, let me give you an example. In the book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis, the story is told of Michael Oher, the poor black young man, from the wrong side of the tracks in Memphis, who goes to a private Christian high school and is taken care of by a wealthy, white, husband and wife, Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy. He lives with them and is helped by them, they even become his legal guardians. Along the way the Touhy family is changed by the experience as much as, or more, than Michael Oher, who is now the starting left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Many people have probably seen the movie made of this story, “The Blind Side,” in which Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Touhy. In one scene she looks over at her husband and asks him, “Am I a good person?” That one question encapsulated the whole story. What would a nice person have done vs. what would a good person have done?

A nice person would’ve donated clothes or bought some meals or helped out in some way. A good person goes out of his or her way to change the circumstances of another person. A nice person will smile at the disadvantaged young man and then go home and talk about how terrible it was that he ended up like he did and how horrible must all the adults be in his life. A good person will go toe to toe with gangbangers, drug dealers, a red tape nightmare and whispering friends who doubt everything she is doing, to do what is necessary to rescue the disadvantaged young man. A good person gives out of what he or she has in order to better the situation of another, or others.  Nice people feel bad for someone else and even give a kind word of encouragement while good people stand up for the disadvantaged and are ready to take a bullet if necessary to see that the end is accomplished, the raising up of those in trouble. Good people will offend bad people to see that good is accomplished while nice people won’t raise a finger to bother anyone. Good people are more interested in making peace while a nice person wants to keep the peace. I want good friends and I want to be a good friend, I care nothing for nice friends.

Now that you know my philosophy on the matter, does God have anything to say about it?

Christians who know some of the Bible, or maybe even much of the Bible, will often quote Psalms 37:23,  The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Yet they will not be able to define what exactly is a good man. So, I asked myself, what is a good man? I want God to order my steps. I want God to direct what I do. It says he does this for a good man. What is a good man? I think that is a GOOD question. Here is what I found out from the Bible:

Notice a very interesting statement about this concept in Romans 5:7,  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. Paul said that virtually never would anyone die for a righteous person, yet, from time to time you will find someone who would lay down his or her life for a good man. A righteous man is righteous for himself, a good man is good for others. I find that concept amazing. People are not impressed with your righteousness if it is not associated with goodness. Jesus gave a very strong condemnation of this in his parable of the Good Samaratin. The righteous passed by, the one who was noticed was the good one who paid from his own pocket to see that an unknown, disadvantaged person would be cared for. Good people do good for others, they do not just talk about it from the pulpit.

The description of Stephen shows that he was noticed for his works: Acts 11:24,  For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. His goodnees was mentioned in addition to his faith and how many were born again because of him.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:35,  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. A good man is made from the heart, and he gives that goodness to others. You cannot be a “good” Christian and not be a giving Christian. Goodness demands a giving heart.

Psalms 112:5,  A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Good people will show mercy, or favor, to other people – yet he will do it with discretion. A good person cannot help everyone, he has to help those that are in his power to help, and those that the Holy Spirit puts in his path. But, he does not shut up his heart and look the other way, he does something about it, from his own goods. Many people will happily give away the money of others, but when it comes to their own they are Ebenezer Scrooge II.

Luke makes mention of the character of Jesus Christ in Acts 10:38, How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. It was said of Jesus Christ that he went about doing good. In other words, he bettered the situation of those who were in need. He did it while he battled with the religious leaders of Israel and those that would take advantage of the poor. Jesus was a friend to the sinner and the outcast, he stood up for them, he “took a bullet” for them, so to speak, he was their advocate and their champion when nobody else would lift a fingere. He was a good man.

But, the question still remains, what is a good man. Obviously it is someone who does something else for someone, and I believe that the principle is given in the following verse. The very essence of what a good person does is found in the following verse: Proverbs 13:22, A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.

The first meaning of this verse is obviously for the father to leave something for his grandchildren. The first teaching is for the man to be responsible and to lay up something for his family, to care for his own. Yet, there is much, much more here. Let me summarize this verse in the following way: A GOOD MAN LEAVES THINGS BETTER FOR THOSE WHO COME AFTER HIM, EVEN THOSE HE HAS NOT EVEN MET YET.

A good man does not leave a mess and expect others to clean it up. A good man does not throw garbage on the ground, a good man does not make a mess of his life and wait for someone else to clean it up. A good man does not father children and then hope someone else raises them. A good man will raise his own children and the children of those who have abandoned them. A good man cares for his own, and for those he has not yet even met. A good man leaves things better for those that come long after him.

Are you the kind of person that people are glad you came or are they glad you left? Titus was a good man. If you are a good man, you will arrive, make things better, and leave them wanting more of you and from you. Let me give you a personal example from my childhood: One Wednesday we were driving to church, it was about 6:45 p.m. and we were one block from the church building sitting at a 4 way stop. We went through the 4 way stop and my dad pulled the car to the right side of the road and stopped the car. He got out and went into the middle of the intersection (cars were driving all over the place) and picked up a broken, jagged wine bottle and put it in the trunk. He got back in the van, smelling of fermented grape juice. I have never seen my dad with a glass of alcoholic beverage in his hand, ever. To see my dad and smell wine on him was not something I had ever experienced or imagined. I asked him why he did that. He said because someone may drive over it and pop their tire and he could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen. He did not have to do what he did, the city had people to clean that up. But, he took his time, his personal cleanliness, his own safety, to go into a busy intersection and pick up something that could cause harm to someone else. He cleaned up after someone else who probably threw it out of his window. I have seen my dad wipe up the sink in a public bathroom because someone else might like a clean sink. I have seen him clean snow off of dozens of cars on Sunday night after church, in January, so people would not drive home in snow covered cars and be in danger of having an accident.

Ask yourself the question, are you a good person? Would you stand up for innocent people being harmed by evil people? Would you stand in the face of the evil person and insist on what is right, at your own peril? Or would you complain that society is so bad, our government is against us….blah, blah, blah…? Would you be like Leigh Anne Touhy, and stand up to a drug dealer because he threatened your black, disadvantaged “son?” Would you go nose to nose or toe to toe with evil in order to see that good prevails? Would you structure your life in such a way that when you leave, those who are TWO generations or more behind you will be blessed because you were alive?

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, the Bible says. I wonder, how many steps of how many people does God really have to order? Does he order yours? If you are just a nice person, the answer is no. If you are a good person, the answer is obvious, the Bible says so.

In closing I think the best synonym for, good, is kind. Be ye kind, one to another… Kindness is goodness and goodness is kindness. A good person is not always nice and a nice person is not always good. I’d rather be good and risk being called “mean” than to be nice and risk not being called good.


About bjnibbe

Missionary, pastor, director of RU Romania, church planter, husband, father, friend, lover of that which is right and those that do good in their lives. I live in Cluj-Napoca, Romania with the lovely and gracious Lynette Nibbe, the wife of my youth. I have 4 boys with my name and one more who we call a part of our family. I love the Hebrew language and my goal is fluency. I love to write, love to preach and love to help people find the answers to their troubles. I am very opinionated but have been known to change in mid sentence if I find my position untenable. I think the mind is a terrible thing to waste and push for mental development through spiritual enlightenment. I think that God made everything, that mankind wrecked whatever it has touched and that only Jesus Christ has and is the answer to all of the problems. I loathe extreme positions and believe that all things are done decently and in order. I also admire someone who will try the "impossible" because with God, all things are possible. I like basketball, golf and softball and I love the Minnesota Vikings (a labor of love, not of pure pleasure, I can assure you...) I love my wife, without her I am just an empty suit.
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