Is Being a “Good Person” Enough to Get to Heaven?

If you’ve spent any amount of time in engaging with the modern social sphere in the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly run into people who say things like, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual. I don’t need religion because I’m a good person. I spread positive vibes, so I don’t need to pray. I don’t need the sacraments or God, and I don’t want to follow rules. I’m a good person and that’s enough.”

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick discussed the topic of what is required of us to go to heaven. A listener of the show was talking about her father who had passed away and she referred to him as a “good man who wasn’t a believer.” Very often, in Catholicism, we pray for the souls of the faithful departed, referring to those who were baptized and have since passed away. But what about the souls of the unbaptized? The non-believers?

Patrick began by going back to scripture. In Chapter 13 of Luke, some people with Jesus tell him of the Galilean blood that was mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Of those whose blood was tainted, Jesus said this: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:2-5)

Jesus makes His point very clear and in no uncertain terms. If you do not repent and follow Him, you will go to hell. You cannot live an entirely fulfilling and virtuous life without God. This argument about people who are “good” and “righteous” non-believers is still a pointless one.

“‘Yeah, he was a good man. He drove the speed limit, he paid his taxes, he was kind to his wife, he was a friend to animals, he was as honest as the day is long.’ You can accumulate many different natural virtues, but none of those things will save anybody. Please understand this,” said Patrick. “Those are the kind of people that we like to hang out with, but those [natural virtues] won’t save you. Jesus said, ‘Unless you repent, you too shall also perish.’”

The keys here are faith and repentance, two things that you cannot have by simply living a life of lawfulness and natural virtue. So, the question is, should we pray for those who, by all appearances, did not practice the faith, were not baptized, and never repented to our knowledge? Yes, we should pray for them because as lowly human beings, we do not know the state of their soul in their final moments alive. We do not know what type of internal conversion or change of heart they may have had, and we do not know the limit to God’s mercy. We are not capable of declaring that anybody’s soul has been damned.

That being said, the point is that we should take advantage of the sacraments so that there’s never any question of whether we’re in heaven or not. We want to make it obvious that we were in the state of grace when we die, whenever that moment might come. We don’t want to bank on last-minute repentance and take the mercy of God for granted. You cannot be saved by your good deeds alone. You need faith and you need forgiveness.

“Get it out of your mind. Eliminate this notion that just because somebody is good, they will necessarily go to heaven.”

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.