Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Have you ever noticed the wide and sometimes careless ways we use the term “good?” We use it so frequently that done so without thinking. I would venture to say that “good” and “love” are the two most overused words in the English language. Yet a thing or experience you might consider good, someone else may consider only fair, poor, or even bad. “Good” has the implication of some degree of excellence, indeed. What varies is the precise degree of excellence that lies unexpressed, even hidden in the heart, when we use “good” as a sweeping generality.
It is difficult to say precisely what constitutes goodness. Let’s attempt to nail it down today. The dictionary defines goodness as the state or quality of being good; moral excellence; virtue; kindly feeling, kindness, generosity, joy in being good; the best part of anything; essence; strength; general character recognized in quality or conduct.
The Greek word for goodness is agathosune, which essentially means virtue or beneficence and infers the uprightness of heart and life. If we walk after the spirit of God, and not the flesh, we will do good deeds and be good people. Agathosune also carries with it the broader sense of goodness, and can be defined as “virtue equipped at every point.”
Agathosune is therefore active—even aggressive—goodness. The English word “goodness” includes many pleasing qualities, whereas the Greek word indicates one particular quality. It is more than an excellence of character. It is character energized, expressing itself in active good. Agathosune is goodness, but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. Thus God can correct, sometimes very severely, and it is goodness in action. As parents who correct their children, it is good because it helps produce responsible adults.
What is the difference between goodness and kindness (chrestotes)? Jesus showed agathosune when He cleansed the temple and drove out those who were making it a “den of thieves,” but He showed chrestotes when He was kind to Mary as she anointed His feet. The Christian needs that goodness which at the same time can be kind and strong. Like kindness, goodness is more easily observed than defined. And like kindness, it is also one of the ways in which we express Christian love.
Ephesians 5:9—(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
Romans 15:14—Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
Biblical goodness is always, under every circumstance, beneficial. Though he had not yet been to Rome at the writing of his epistle, Paul evidently understood that he was writing to an unusually strong congregation. He was so confident that they had a strong and sincere desire to do the right thing that he wrote that they were full of goodness and filled with all knowledge.
But people, including Christians, are never good because of natural, genetic, innate goodness. The fruit of goodness will never come flowing out of us automatically. On the contrary, good works are something to which we must devote ourselves. They are the evidence that we have integrity. It is evidence that we are made in the image of God. We all have a natural ability to perform outwardly good deeds without being good. You see, goodness goes beyond works.
This fruit of God’s Spirit is more inward—in our character—touching on every thought, word, and action of the godly person. This demands that motives be right before we call any action good. This means our central and all-influencing motive is loving God and regarding His will in all things. It means that the “good man” is one in whom righteousness flows from inward devotion and love toward God.
True goodness is inseparable from godliness. Godliness is goodness’ source, foundation, and the sole condition on which goodness is possible. From this, however, it follows that a man may be truly called “good” and at the same time not be perfect. A good person may have failures. It is the direction of such a person’s desires, his motivations, that gradually determines his character, not necessarily the degree of perfection he has achieved.
Goodness is the product of the Holy Spirit’s influence in the life of a believer. Spirit-led Christians are capable of doing genuinely good deeds with pure motives in a way that is pleasing to God. When we are motivated by the Holy Spirit to do good things, it is then that we glorify God with those deeds. God moves us to live well for Him. When we do, we are considered good and God gets the glory.
Goodness is the engagement of love. It is virtue in action; it is being a role model and putting into practice excellence in all that we do. It displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others and allows us to do the right thing. Goodness takes our virtue and excellence and models it to others in the action of love. Goodness is the model for people to repent and accept Christ.
Goodness is the spiritual fruit that helps produce endearment. It is a trait that makes people liked and even loved by others. It is what is attractive and alluring, that catches people’s attention and respect. This is the quintessential element that draws people to you and finds and keeps friendships going strong. It builds marriages and, thus, shows God’s love to those around us.
Goodness enables us to be liked and enjoyed, even if an enemy comes against us. It is the taste of what is to come, the flavor of how we are to be (Psalm 34:8—Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!). It is the expression of worship and gratitude to Christ played out in our lives, so we may enjoy Him and He may enjoy us; life then becomes more enjoyable for all.
Challenge: Do something good this week because you are good. Be motivated by God and glorifying Him as opposed to any recognition you might receive from men. You might even go so far as doing something good in secret, to attain no recognition. Do this regardless of your mood or circumstance.