Goodness, it’s hard to write about this fruit of the Spirit! I procrastinated writing the blog this week because I knew it would be difficult. Here I am on Sunday night, trying to figure out how to put into words something as intangible as “goodness.” In a world of polar opposites that says it’s “good” to eat your veggies and “good” to sleep around to make sure you’re sure and “good” to stomp on others on your way to the top and “good” to feed the homeless (but only if you’re sure they aren’t on drugs), how do we find the true definition of “good”? How do we see the fruit of goodness blossoming in our lives?
Google defines “goodness” as “the quality of being good, in particular.” I hate definitions like this, because they tell me nothing. Now I have to go find the definition of “good” too. (At least hyperlink to it, am I right?) Anyway, the dictionary i.e. The Google says that “good” means:
• to be desired or approved of
• having the qualities required for a particular role
• that which is morally right; righteousness
• benefit or advantage to someone or something
Clearly, “good” is very open to interpretation. According to the dictionary definition, something is “good” as long as someone somewhere approves of it. It is good if it fits the qualities needed for some role. It is good if it’s morally right (by at least one person’s moral standard). It is good if it is righteous (cue another trip to the dictionary for an abstract word, which turns out to mean “good” or “virtuous,” and here we are back at Step One). It is good if it benefits someone or something somewhere, or if it is to the advantage of someone or something somewhere.
It is obvious simply by reading the dictionary, even without a Christian background, that “good” can mean almost anything, depending who you ask. So what we really need here, to fully understand the fruit of the Spirit of goodness, is God’s definition. If everyone can define “good” in their own way, we need to choose to define it by the standard of the One who created the world and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10). We need to define it by the standard of the One who, even after Adam and Eve sinned, even after creation was broken, was and is Himself perfectly good. We need to define it by the standard of the One who sent His Son to be the “good shepherd,” who laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11).
Just as it is difficult to nail down one agreed-upon definition of “good,” it is difficult to pinpoint the exact characteristics that demonstrate “goodness.” Of course, “What Would Jesus Do” is the Sunday-school answer, but what does that really mean? How do we identify goodness growing in our lives, as the fruits of the Spirit should, and transforming us “into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:8)?
According to biblestudytools.com, “It is nearly impossible to think about goodness in the abstract. In Scripture goodness always involves particular ways of behaving.” A way of behaving. An outward characteristic. A fruit. Good is not always what’s most popular or most accepted, but the article on biblestudytools.com says that goodness shows itself in “moral qualities” such as kindness, justice, righteousness, holiness, purity, and gentleness. It shows itself in other fruits of the Spirit; it shows itself in daily life. Letting the fruit of goodness grow is difficult, of course, but it is possible, because “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6; italics mine).
Christians are often scorned for claiming to be “good” and failing to live up to the claim. But you see, the truth of the Gospel is that we aren’t good—not one of us. The truth of the Gospel is that we can’t be good—not by ourselves. But the joy of the Gospel is that for she who believes, the Gardener is here. And He is pruning, and He is watering, and He is waiting. And He is smiling as He sees the fruits begin to bloom.
You see, goodness is a gift. It’s not something you can choose to be by yourself, because God’s definition of “goodness” is an impossible standard. The good news is that, when you chose Jesus, you chose to let the Expert take over. You chose to let the Gardener step in—with His shovel and His pruners and His wheelbarrow, and maybe at times with manure that turns out to be fertilizer.
Hear me when I say it. You, as a daughter of the Creator, are not alone to grow yourself. The Gardener is here. The Gardener is working. And the Gardener alone can make you “good.”