OBSERVE THE PATTERN OF CAPITAL LETTERS: "I said to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing'" (Ps. 16:2).
In other words, addressing Yahweh ("LORD"), David confesses him "Lord," his Master; then he adds, "Apart from you I have no good thing."
(1) Looked at one way, these words delimit what is good, and thereby almost define the good. Nothing is ultimately good if it is abstracted from God. It may be good in a relative sense, of course. The Lord made the sun and pronounced it good, and good it is: it provides all of this world's energy. Yet abstracted from the knowledge of God, it became an object of worship among many ancient peoples (called Ra in Egypt — and the covenant community itself could get caught up in syncretistic sun worship, Ezek. 8:16), and attracts a different kind of sun worshiper today. We may enjoy reasonably good health; surely that is a good thing. But suppose we use our energy to do what is selfish or evil, or deploy the blessings the Lord entrusts to us simply to order our lives as autonomously as possible? Apart from the Lord, we "have no good thing."
(2) Looked at another way, the text is literally true. Since God is the Creator of all, then no good thing that we enjoy has come to us apart from him. "Every good and perfect gift is from above," James writes (1:17). Paul asks, "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Cor. 4:7). So our first order of business ought to be gratitude. Apart from the Lord, we "have no good thing."
(3) Yet the text is certainly more visceral than that. Its tone is closer to the words of Asaph: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25-26). In comparison with knowledge of our Maker and Redeemer, nothing else is worth very much, whether in this life or in the life to come. Apart from the Lord, we "have no good thing."
(4) The text will trigger in some minds other "apart from" passages. Perhaps the best known is John 15:5, where Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (italics added). Apart from the vine, we branches bear no fruit; and apart from him we "have no good thing."
Leviticus 13; Psalms 15-16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thess. 1