Handsome Hispanic man accepts a canned food donation while volunteering during community food drive. Female volunteers are working in the background.

The New Testament shares a story about Jesus in which a person of wealth called out to him, exclaiming “Good Teacher! What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” (Mark 10:18)

The Old Testament says, “There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:3)

Yet a recent study found that of 2,000 U.S. residents, 81% believe that humankind is inherently good. It also found that three in four people (75%) believe they are individually good people as well.

The same study indicates that the cited 75% not only believe that they are good, but also believe that they are better than most people they know.

The great Eastern religions such as Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism teach that the essence of the world is made of a divine energy called “Maya.” This Maya is an energy that can be easily moldable by means of the will and faith. In other words, this creation is always changing; it is as illusory as the false beliefs and mental projections we surround ourselves with as we try to live out our desires.

Remember when “American Idol” first came to television? One of the things I remember most was the number of contestants that appeared for auditions. Many of those young people had extraordinary performance abilities, while others, not so much.

As a pastor for the past 21 years, I know for a fact that while all choir members can sin, not all can sing. In the same way, most of us believe that we’re really good, when we’re really not.

Confucius once said, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.”

Rabbi Hillel, who lived 2,000 years ago, also said, “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary.”

Most people would agree that in order to be a “good person” one must simply refrain from “doing to others what we would not have them do to us.” While true, there is more to being good than to simply restrain ourselves. Goodness requires beneficial, selfless deeds and acts of sacrificial service.

One of the ways we can learn to be extraordinarily good human beings is by studying the lives and works of the saints of every religion. Whether Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or Jain, we will find that while virtually all saints live disciplined holy lives, they also endlessly serve selflessly. 

The saints of all religions also teach us that for the sake of the greater good, sometimes one must stand against false beliefs that harm innocent people.

A current false belief, in my opinion, that plagues our nation is the notion that the COVID-19 vaccine is more dangerous than the virus itself. I believe the science proves the contrary, and my hope is that more people in our community will get the vaccine.

Rev. Juan C. Rivera of Bluffton is a Latino missions consultant and counseling therapist for Jamison Consultants.