The Greek word translated “goodness,” agathosune, is defined as “uprightness of heart and life.” Agathosune is goodness for the benefit of others, not goodness simply for the sake of being virtuous. This sounds pretty “high and mighty” but when you turn to the word ‘good’ in the language of Scripture, it literally means ‘to be like God’” [Graham, 266].
Yes, it means to be like God…
Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit and you might think of it as an ordinary word but in the context of Jesus’ teaching and the working of the Holy Spirit, we should not take it for granted.
Many might think that of course a Christian should be good, that goodness should be second nature for a follower of Jesus Christ. “Where we had harbored selfishness, cruelty, rebelliousness, and spite, we now possess love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything in the list reflects the character of God, and goodness is one that relates directly to morality.”* In fact, goodness according to Pastor Graham represents the highest in moral and ethical values.
The Apostle Paul writes “For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” [Ephesians 5:9]. He also writes “To the end also we pray for you always for that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you” [2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12].
The kind of goodness that is the fruit of the Spirit is a special goodness. Graham uses an example in his book that means a lot to me. I had an experience as a country kid growing up in a small school [grades 1 through 8 in the same building]. I rode to my school in a little panel bus with about seven other kids. Every day we went over country roads and we passed by a freshwater spring. Today this would never happen, but when I was a kid, things were a bit more relaxed I guess. Often the bus driver would stop the bus in the afternoon and all of us would share a dipper and we would get a drink from the spring. In Graham’s example in his book, he writes of spring water that was on his property; he had a technician come and test the water. The technician said “it’s the purest water I’ve ever found.” In my recollection, the water we drank from the spring on our bus route had a special taste, maybe the purest tasting water I have ever tasted.
The “good” Christian exhibiting good fruit pours out goodness, like pure drinking water from a freshwater spring.
This goodness goes far deeper than just the normal acts that happen from time to time in our lives. What we are talking about here is love in action. Goodness springs from a righteous heart and a righteous heart is not acting to please others. These “good” Christians are acting to please God. They don’t expect recognition. They don’t expect rewards. They don’t desire medals. This is the kind of good that Christ expects from all Christians and guess what? Many of us fall short.
In reality, we actually have no other choice than performing good in our lives if we are bona fide Christians. God and His Son Jesus Christ command it.
What is the end result of all this. The end result is the powerful witness that we can have as we do good. People notice people who do good, especially good that comes from what appears to be a pure heart. When people notice people doing good, it preaches a strong message to all of us. Just yesterday, my pastor prayed in her benediction for the people of the church to live lives that exhibit the love of Christ. She went further and said that our lives may be the only Bible that some people will ever see. I have been reading a book lately entitled Faith and Doubt, by John Ortberg. I think Ortberg may explain best what I am trying to say. When Jesus appeared to His disciples He lived a new kind of life, a life that not only preached goodness but a life where He lived goodness. The more Jesus’ disciples stayed around Him, the more they began to believe that what Jesus offered was attractive. Eventually they began to think, I like His life. I wish I could live like that. “The growth of the disciples looked something like this; first they had faith in Jesus; they began to have the faith of Jesus” [Ortberg, 50].
Will people doubt the good that a Christian does? Yes. Some people cannot just accept things at face value. What is your ulterior motive? Are you trying to manipulate me? I guess you are putting a mark in your little black book; I will owe you in the future. You have an agenda. Graham writes “Satan can take any human effort and twist it to serve his own purpose, but he cannot touch the spirit that is covered by the blood of Christ and rooted deep in the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can produce the goodness that can stand up under the test” .
If goodness is a fruit of the Spirit, our efforts to achieve it with our own strength can never succeed. This goodness is born of our righteousness, our response to the urgings within us to do the work that God has for us to do here on earth. It is much deeper than trying to do something for the sake of being virtuous.
When you are in the presence of a truly good Christian, you are in the presence of someone special. They are not God, but when you receive what they are giving to you, you may feel like they are. They are doing God’s work, and yes some unbelievers may be so impressed that they wonder about your action. They may copy your actions. They may even develop a faith they never had before.
The fruit of goodness is a Christian being like God.
Graham summarizes by saying patience, kindness and goodness all go together, and “all were beautifully manifested in the life of the One who is the perfect prototype of what you and I should be. By the power of the Holy Spirit these traits of character become part of our lives that we might remind others of Him” .
*From the website gotquestions.org “What is Goodness?