GOODNESS: Fruit 6 of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22f
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Of the nine fruit of the Spirit, goodness has for me been the hardest to define precisely. It is a broad term, an overarching call to be God-like.

We could almost translate goodness as God-ness. The word is found only in the Bible and other Christian writings. The thought of imitating a god was evidently so foreign to pagans that they never felt a need to coin a word to describe the effort.

The pagans never sought to imitate their gods. Worshipers tried to appease or bribe Zeus and the other immoral immortals, but never thought of trying to imitate them. Pagan gods weren’t worthy of imitation. Our God is.

Our English forebears did a good job of bringing this literary lesson into our language. In Old English, “good” was spelled “god.” Our word “God” meant the good one. God truly is good, and to be like Him, we must strive to be good.

This trait is essential for all who want to imitate Jesus. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38b). They who are like Him abound in acts of goodness.

One reason I found goodness hard to define precisely is, it includes too much to easily contain in one brief definition. To be good, like God, requires effort to succeed in many categories, in multiple compartments of life. A story will help us better see how multifaceted goodness can be.

In autumn 1799 the retreating French army deserted 300 of its wounded men at the foot of the Alps in Italy. A group of Christians, the Waldenses, took these enemies in and treated them kindly, binding wounds, and nursing the sick.

Though poor, the Waldenses shared all they had. As winter grew near, it was obvious there wasn’t enough food for all.

Knowing some would starve, the Waldenses risked their lives to carry the injured soldiers over an Alpine range covered with ice and snow. The Waldenses left the soldiers safe within the borders of their own land.

Note the multiple ways the Waldenses showed goodness. They were humble, not lording over their enemies. They were gentle, unselfish, kind, diligent, thoughtful, caring, willing to risk their own safety.

In this one incident, many aspects of goodness shone through. The Waldenses dissected goodness, breaking a huge complex subject down into many beautiful parts.

How can we imitate God’s goodness? It is high, deep, wide, long, infinitely vast in every direction. Where should we begin in trying to copy it?

Let’s start where the Bible does, with the chief characteristic of God, holiness. In the throne room of Heaven, creatures hover in God’s presence repeating the same words of worship over and over again.

“Day and night they never stop, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming” (Revelation 4:8b). The uninterrupted everlasting chorus of Heaven is, “God is Holy.”

The word means He is set apart, separate, unique, distinct. Nothing or nobody else is like Him. God is holy.

Goodness is a call for us to be holy. As the chief trait of God, holiness must be our prime duty. Holiness matters most.

Goodness demands us to have a holy heart set apart to God, revealing itself in holy living. Goodness is upright, desiring to abstain from every appearance of evil. This outward holiness springs from inner integrity in motive and thought.

Our goodness begins with a deep-seated inner connection with the Good One and then branches out from there. “A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart” (Luke 6:45a). How can we do good? Be good.

Even as God’s goodness is marked by a holiness saturating His essence through and through, our goodness must begin with holiness in our innermost being, and spread therefrom, resulting in consistent holiness from center to circumference.

We are to be holy to our core. Let there be in us no contradiction between the private and the public. What we appear to be in the world, be at home and in the closet. Allow no hidden chambers in the heart where we fear someone might enter.

God is holy. Goodness begins here. God is also lowly. We could never know anything of a holy God unless He was willing to humble Himself, to graciously condescend to communicate at our level.

Jesus of Nazareth radically altered attitudes about how people evaluate themselves. Pride had ruled universally, but Jesus lifted humility to being a virtue.

By His incarnation, by His being in flesh, Jesus was showing God practiced lowliness. Jesus taught humanity to value humility.

His first students learned well. Matthew, in his gospel, does not hide the fact he was a publican, a hated tax collector.

Mark’s gospel, written under the influence of Peter, says nothing about Peter’s walking on the water. Luke and John did not affix their names to their gospels.

Jesus modeled lowliness. It was a vital part of His goodness. Humility is essential to our goodness, to being like God.

Pride, the sin of competing with God, forces Him to resist, rather than assist, us. The Bible says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5).

Goodness is lowly, never feeling it has finally arrived. It is always humbly praying, “Influence me. Mold me. Improve me.” Pride plays a part in every sin; humility has a role in every spiritual blessing.

Remember our heritage. We believers now live in heavenly places, but our native home was dust.

We were dead, God quickened. We were lost, He sought us. We were in danger, He saved us. We are creatures, He is Creator.

For every positive aspect in our lives, humbly acknowledge God as the Giver. Respond to His goodness by living life with lowliness everyday everywhere.

Holy and lowly; both are beautiful and winsome. They combine with other traits, resulting in a pleasing menagerie called goodness.

Since the beautiful goodness of God Himself shines on and through our goodness, it makes a Christian life attractive. God has shown His followers a lovely way of living life.

All these fruit of the Spirit, including goodness, are bestowed, not inherent within us. The wealth is ours, but given as a gift.

The dignity is ours, but is conferred. All these positive traits are produced by the Holy Spirit.

Aren’t you glad we don’t have to produce these fruit in ourselves by ourselves? The Spirit of God works an ongoing miracle in our dispositions and produces this fruit for us in us.