This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:12–14—NKJV)

Certain ideas grate on the heart of a thinking believer. All this talk of “it’s for the greater good” is one example. The phrase usually appears when discussing some undesirable choice that is begrudgingly made on behalf of a dream conceived as a greater and desirable outcome. Perhaps the basic thought is the idea that sacrifice must be made by the few on behalf of the many, though the idea has also been used to imply choosing an evil course so that some “good” or greater benefit may be achieved (sort of an “end justifies the means” track in thinking).

I believe the concept seems benign to believers because we value sacrifice; after all, is that not what Jesus did for us? He alone died so that many might come to repentance (Romans 5:15 and 20–21). I also think that the idea appeals to Americans because we have heard it so often we think it sounds noble. The problem is that the concept is being used to sell American believers poisonous paradigms for solving life’s dilemmas. For someone of my generation, the thinking smacks of the fallacy of calling an American “employee” a “worker.” The root of the terminology comes from an alien collectivistic culture.

There is a name for the philosophy of “the greater good.” It is called “Utilitarianism.” It is an “ethical doctrine that virtue is based on utility, and that conduct should be directed toward promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people” (Random House College Dictionary). Peter Singer of Princeton is an example of a Utilitarian who sees it as applicable to man’s treatment of pre-born babies and animal “personhood.” At the occasion of Independence Day, Americans would do well to search out the original meaning of the phrase “the pursuit of happiness.”

What does the Bible say about the concept of the greater good? In the first place, our text completely obliterates the idea of situation ethics. For one to truly love God he must obey God’s commandments. You cannot do wrong so that you have a right outcome. God demands obedience. It is His moral code. His friends do what He commands.

Secondly, if you were to biblically correct “the sacrifice of a few for the greater good of the many,” it would be transformed into “the sacrifice of the One in obedience to the One.” Jesus did what He did to obey the Father. Jesus Christ points out the desperate nature of the need of your soul. There was no other way. All other options were non-existent. If any man were to be saved, then Jesus Christ the Innocent would have to die in that man’s place. There simply was no other alternative.

Similarly, when a man lays down his life for his friend, it is not his first choice, but it is the last resort; all other options have been exhausted. That supreme sacrifice therefore becomes the definition of God-like love. How sad that believers would allow such a sublime expression of love to be devalued by common parlance into a shabby, shoddy, and shallow construct of social solutions and think it is the “Christian” thing to do! Many evils can come from such “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

To all Americans, self-sacrifice for the good of the many is only a last resort when all other options are exhausted. Honor the fact that all men deserve considerations of dignity as bearers of the image of their Creator. To all believers in Christ, accept no high-sounding human rationale or stratagem as a substitute for the Greatest Good—the glory of the Lord God Almighty. Just as Christ, sacrifice your life and desires to only one value, the glory of God. Trust and obey.