The Highest Good

By Linda Tancs

The Latin phrase summum bonum means “the highest good.” So what is the highest good? Literally, it is God; it doesn’t get any higher than that (Luke 18:19). You’ve heard it said hundreds of times, “God is good.” Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that God represents every good thing: love (1 John 4:8), light (1 John 1:5), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), compassion (Exodus 33:19), generosity (Psalm 84:11) and so on.

It is impossible to be as good as God (Isaiah 55:8-9), but we should aim to be as good as possible. In the philosophical context, our highest good is a virtuous life. Paul defined those virtues as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s your highest good and your highest calling. Jesus left you an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21), so follow Him.

The Better Love

By Linda Tancs

St. Augustine of Hippo remarked that there are two loves: love of God and love of the world. We should look at each of these as dually faceted—love of God relates to your love toward God and God’s love toward you, and love of the world relates to your love of the things of this world as well as the world’s love of you (in the form of adulation, reputation, etc.).

The Bible is replete with evidence of God’s love for us. After all, He gave us His only Son so that we might have eternal life (John 3:16). He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) that brings with it a spirit of adoption as children of God by which we cry “Abba” (Romans 8:15), an Aramaic word for father. Conversely, we are able to love others (including God) because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God is love (1 John 4:8), and therefore He commands us to love Him as well as our neighbor (Luke 10:27).

Augustine aims at the fact that when we’re unable to love, then we do not know God. And when we do not know God, then love of the world is likely to ensue. First John 2:15-17 instructs that all of the things of this world— the pursuit of self-sufficient materialism that drives the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—are at odds with God. Likewise, the importance you place on the world’s love of you is a barrier to God’s love dwelling in you. The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” epitomizes the point. It manifests in an upset of the love people/use things equilibrium. When one desires to be on a par with everyone else or to increase one’s standing or reputation at the expense of others, the result is often the use of people to get more of the things one loves, failing to recognize that other people or circumstances do not dictate our riches. Only God gives, and God can take away (Job 1:21).

God’s love is the better love, and Augustine exhorts us to let it take over. Will you?