THE SPIRITUAL FRUIT OF GOODNESS
[Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YehxfK8oXx0]
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23)
One commentator wrote this in his quest to understand what Paul was referring to when he encouraged us to show the fruit of goodness in our lives:
Over the summer, I taught a Bible study at our church on the fruit of Spirit. We did a little exercise in the beginning where we listed them out, these qualities that Paul defines in Galatians as evidence that we are living as people connected to Christ. I asked those who had come which ones they longed to grow in their own lives.
Not surprisingly, most people wanted more patience or recognized a need for deeper self-control. But when it came to “goodness,” only 2 lonely hands went up. Maybe it’s because everyone else is already exceeding in goodness, but I suspect it might be that while most of us have a handle on what it means to be loving and patient and kind, goodness is less obvious. It’s meaning is obscured to us because the word ‘good’ is used 100 times a day in our everyday lives and seems to be so subjective.
THE CONFUSING USE OF THE WORD “GOOD”
Look at some of the many different ways in which the word “good” is used:
“Good night” or “I had a good day” = “good” as “happy, enjoyable, pleasant, peaceful”.
“Good news” = “good” as “something beneficial to me – I heard good news about the job I went for”
“Good dancer” = “good” as in “talented”
“Good boy” = “good” as in “well-behaved”
“Good work” or “good job” = “good” as in “you did that to a high standard”.
Well…if these are accurate explanations of what Paul says should be seen on us, then I am VERY disappointed…because “good” isn’t enough – I want “great”!
But what if Paul meant something very different? What if the Bible is calling us to be seen as “good” in a very different way?
We need to again go back to the Greek word that he actually used in order to understand what “goodness” is.
THE GREEK WORD IS “AGATHOSYNE”
It is a word unique to the Bible and means “uprightness of life and heart”. To put it another way, when Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is “goodness”, he was saying that when people look at us they should see people who are always living in a right way….
Hm…maybe this is a bit hard to get a “handle” on. So, let us look at a well-known story in the life of Jesus to understand what “goodness” will really look like on us.
THE STORY OF JESUS AND THE “RICH YOUNG RULER”
This can be found in 3 places – Matthew 19: 16-22; Mark 10: 17-22; and Luke 18: 18-23 – and the word “good” – a variant of “agathosyne” – is found in each version. Jesus is addressed as “good”; God is declared to be the only “good” One; and the rich, young, ruler wants to know what “good” thing he needs to do to inherit eternal life.
I want to show 4 lessons from this story that will help us have a better understanding of what the “fruit of goodness” looks like.
- GOD IS GOOD
The rich, young, ruler addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher” and Jesus replies:
‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone’ (Luke 18: 19)
The old rhyme goes “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good”. And what is this saying about our Father in Heaven? …that He alone is totally pure, and holy, and upright, and without any sin or wrong, is always loving and caring, without any malice, never self-seeking but always wanting the best for us.
So, now we clearly see the source of all goodness in us – God Himself And we see therefore the measure of any goodness that is in us – the measure is God Himself.
But, wonderfully, Jesus now goes on to tell the rich, young, ruler the two things that he must do in order to show this goodness in his life- and we see that it is the twin attributes of uprightness of life and mind:
- BE UPRIGHT IN YOUR LIFE
Jesus says to the rich, young, ruler:
You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.” (Luke 18: 20)
So, we see that a “good” person will live a right life –where right living is defined by being obedient by all the commandments of God – doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. This is pure, moral, upright living.
There are probably many people who see “kindness” and “goodness” as being the same thing. We see now that this is not so. A person can be kind to others (love in action) without living a right life themselves. One clear example of this is when a person believes that are doing a kindness to someone by telling them a lie so that they will not get hurt. A truly good person will not tell the lie – even if it did then cause hurt to the other person. Being “good” will, therefore, lead to ridicule and even hatred and persecution (see, for example, 1 Peter 2: 20).
On its own, however, “moral uprightness” could become an excuse for a dour, legalistic, lifestyle – we all know that miserable Christian who never smiles and always condemns others for their sinful living. This is why Jesus, when talking to the rich, young, ruler balanced the need to be upright in life to the need to…
- BE UPRIGHT IN YOUR HEART
Jesus goes on to tell the rich, young, ruler:
‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven’ (Luke 18: 22)
This shows “goodness” to be a heart attitude. To be truly “good” we must always be thinking of the needs of others and so always be putting others first. Our “heart”, the seat of our emotions, must consider the needs of others to be more important than out own needs, must be always willing to forgive others their failures, must be always willing to do nothing that would cause harm to anyone else (oh! On this 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1, how the world would have been different then – and different today – if we exhibited this goodness from our heart towards one another – there would NEVER be any war or killing of any kind).
But, “natural” man – that is man with his “fallen” nature – that is man who has chosen to listen to the lies of the devil – is never able to “keep this up”. This is why true “goodness” is the fruit of the Spirit – which is the 4th lesson from this story…
- THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS
Jesus finally calls the rich, young ruler to:
‘come, follow me’ (Luke 18: 22)
We will only be able to live this truly good life that leads to eternal life when we choose to follow Him. Now, we know what this means:
- To get right with God
- To put Him first in all that we do (Matthew 6:330
- To trust Him in His presence with us at all times (Matthew 28: 20)
For, when we follow Him – become His disciples – He has promised to live with us and in us – through His Holy Spirit.
When we follow Him – become His disciples – then we commit ourselves to walk like Him, talk like Him, live like Him. Which means, by the help and power of the Holy Spirit we shall live an upright life from an upright heart – and then people shall see “goodness” flowing out from us.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
When people see goodness in our lives it shall overwhelm them.
And what is it that they are seeing when they see that we are “good”? They are seeing God shining out from us.
This is why one easy way of remembering what “goodness” is will be to change the word to “godliness”. Goodness is godliness being seen in us.
Let us finally, therefore, return to our two friends Paul and Silas in that Philippian jail that had been rocked by the earthquake. Why did the jailer fall on his knees and beg Paul and Silas to tell him what he had to do to be saved? Because when he looked at them he saw God shining through them – and he had never seen that before on anyone. And he not only knew that he wanted it, but he knew that he needed it.
When people look at you – and at me – do they see God shining through you in such a way that they say “I want what you have got”?
Let us cultivate the fruit of goodness!
- “God is good” – in what ways do you see God as being “good”?
- Think of as many ways as you can as to how “goodness” will be seen in us
- After Moses met with God on the mountain his face glowed so brightly that it had to be covered! How is this an example of how others see godliness in us?
- Micah 6:8tells us “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” How does this Old Testament verse tie in with our story of the “rich, young, ruler”?
- What does this verse tell us? “He who does good [as a way of life] is of God, but he who does evil [as a way of life] has not seen God [i.e., has not come to really know Him]” (3 Jn11)
- Paul and Barnabas are hailed as gods because of what was seen in them: Acts 14: 8-18. How was godliness seen in them?