SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY (November 19, 2013)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” Galatians 5:22-26.
“SINCE WE LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, LET US KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT” Galatians 5:25 (NIV).
In this edition, we want to look at another aspect of the Fruit called GOODNESS. We shall also find that Goodness is also closely-connected the ones discussed so far and those yet to be discussed. Because of the close relationship with the others, especially Kindness, GOODNESS is a bit difficult to define and distinguish from the others.
The main Old Testament words for good/goodness come from the Hebrew word tov טוב (ṭôb) while the most common New Testament Greek words are kalos καλός, agathōsunē ἀγαθωσύνη, ςchrēstotēs χρηστότη and their cognates. These words often appear in a non-moral sense; a “good” or “good-of-appearance” woman is beautiful (Genesis 6:2 ; 24:16 ; 26:7; 2 Samuel 11:2 ; Esther 1:11 ; 2:2-3) and a “good” man is handsome (1 Samuel 9:2). A land may be good (Deuteronomy 1:25; 1:35) and so may gold (2 Chronicles 3:5; 3:8), soil (Luke 8:8), a tree (Matthew 7:17), wine (John 2:10), or all of creation (seven times in Genesis 1). But the most theologically important uses of these words have to do with moral qualities. It can also be connected to plenteous in mercy and abundance in loving-kindness. It is associated with the nature of God. In Psalm 100:5 the Psalmist declares:
“FOR THE LORD IS GOOD AND HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER” (NIV).
This shows that the nature of God is good just as Love is his nature. The thought of God as good and the prominence given to “good” and “goodness” are distinctive features of the Bible. God is good and the source of all that is good. The Apostle James tells us that:
“EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE, COMING DOWN FROM THE FATHER OF THE HEAVENLY LIGHTS, WHO DOES NOT CHANGE LIKE SHIFTING SHADOWS” James 1:17 NIV.
It is nearly impossible to think about goodness in the abstract. In Scripture goodness always involves particular ways of behaving. Because God is good, he is good to his people; when people are good they behave decently toward each other, based on God’s goodness to them. Moses’ invitation to Hobab expresses this emphasis: “Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel” (Numbers 10:29). The general biblical words for “good/ goodness” include this idea of right behavior, although the idea is often expressed by means of a more specific term like “upright/uprightness” or “righteous/righteousness.” Goodness can therefore be said to the opposite of everything that is bad, wicked, evil, immoral and unrighteous.
Mankind, created in the image of God, is expected to demonstrate goodness in everything he does. The goodness God’s people exhibit shows itself in various moral qualities, notably kindness. ‘Chêsêd’ translated “goodness” or “kindness” serves as one of the major synonyms of tov “good” in the Old Testament. In the New Testament many words describe the specific characteristics and behaviors of good people, including “just/justice,” “righteous/ righteousness, holy/holiness, pure/ purity, gentle/gentleness, and kind/kindness. If “goodness” is the general term, these other specific terms show what goodness means in daily living.
Therefore GOODNESS AS AN ASPECT OF THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IN THE DAILY LIFE OF THE BELIEVER IS A DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S LOVING-KINDNESS, HIS FAITHFULNESS, HIS JUST NATURE, HIS PURITY, RIGHTEOUSNESS, HOLINESS, GENTLENESS AND MEEKNESS ETC. IN ALL AREAS OF OUR LIVES. This is what the Christian is supposed to exhibit in his relationship with God and also with the rest of creation. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. We have not always behaved rightly as believers. We have not always been faithful, kind or loving enough. This means that we are not bearing the right Fruit of the Spirit.
IF WE FAIL TO DEMONSTRATE GOODNESS IN OUR BEHAVIOR, WE ARE FALLING SHORT OF GOD’S STANDARD FOR US.
It is also very important to realize that goodness does not only involve good moral behavior, but also involves the avoidance of what is evil. IF WE AVOID IMMORAL BEHAVIOR, WE ARE DEMONSTRATING GOODNESS. As we all know, the choice between good and evil has always been laid before mankind since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). Since then God’s curse has fallen on
“THOSE WHO CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL, WHO PUT DARKNESS FOR LIGHT AND LIGHT FOR DARKNESS, WHO PUT BITTER FOR SWEET AND SWEET FOR BITTER” Isaiah 5:20.
Scripture also shows that anyone who wants to obey God, needs the wisdom to tell good from evil (1 Kings 3:9; Hebrews 5:14). Those who serve God will;
“SEEK GOOD, NOT EVIL, HATE EVIL, LOVE GOOD” Amos 5:14-15.
This means that Christians demonstrate GOODNESS in daily lives by seeking to do what is good and avoiding what is evil. If we align ourselves to anything that is evil or sinful, we are demonstrating goodness.
Goodness is not just about an outward behavior; it is something which comes from within. A good person’s good behavior shows a good heart in what he does (Matthew 12:33-35). This shows that one cannot demonstrate anything good unless the heart is good. Out of the store of the goodness of a person’s heart flows what is good. This is the same for evil as we find in Matthew 7:15-20 and Genesis 6:5. If we have evil in our hearts, we cannot demonstrate any good behavior. But as Christians we are to demonstrate Goodness in every area of our lives. However, we cannot do so until we allow Christ to change our hearts and create in us a new spirit. The Psalmist recognized that only God can grant in him a pure heart from which he could demonstrate goodness. He therefore prayed :
“CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD, AND RENEW A RIGHT SPIRIT WITHIN ME” Psalm 51:10 MKJV.
If we allow the Lord to renew our hearts, we shall be able to demonstrate moral excellence, which is very important in the Christian life. According to 2 Peter 1:5 we are to goodness as part of the steps of moral virtues. I would therefore want to remind all believers that we should make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge. By so doing we shall attain the level of excellence that the Lord expects from us.
It is also very important to remind ourselves that The Fruit of the Spirit must continually be cultivated. We do not produce them once for all time. We need to sow to the Spirit continually so goodness will be expressed in our lives instead of the old selfish qualities. If we meditate on envy, jealousy, lusts, worries, or fears we are going to reap from them some very selfish evil fruit in our behavior and relationships. We may explode all over someone and cause great harm rather than good. But when we sow to the Spirit by meditating on God’s qualities through the Word, we will bear good fruit of kind, generous, beneficial acts toward others. We will help others experience God’s forgiving, restoring love in Christ through faith. We will also live a morally pure life according to God’s holiness. Bearing goodness means God can depend on me to be honest, repent of my sins, and turn away from evil. We need to continually seek to express this goodness in our responses and actions toward others.
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.