The sixth piece of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Goodness. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.
Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’
Goodness is closely related to kindness in that it can be another word for generosity or a benevolent act. This has led to some difficultly in distinguishing these two pieces of fruit from each other. Perhaps the writer was essentially repeating himself. Indeed, goodness can be related to generosity, but it can also represent more of a virtue – a moral quality of being upright in heart and spirit. The Greek word at issue here is, in fact, unique to Biblical and other early religious writings.
It is for this reason that I would distinguish goodness from kindness by focusing more on the internal aspect of the meaning – the virtue. While kindness is more associated with an act performed for the benefit of someone else, it could be said that goodness is more of a condition of the heart and spirit. And while it is true that each piece of fruit is associated with action in Scripture, it should not be overlooked that these acts originate from a heart full of the Spirit of God.
So what would be a distinguishing characteristic of someone full of the virtue of goodness, as we have now clarified it? I would contend that it is the ability to recognize the kingdom of God at work in his or her midst – in the people and circumstances that person finds themselves among. If we are a people that hold to the belief that heaven is not just a place we go when we die, but rather another way of expressing God’s kingdom. And, as Jesus often suggested, God’s kingdom is advancing and breaking through on an ongoing basis, then it stands to reason that goodness would be a way of recognizing God’s kingdom at work in the world around us. Goodness is the spiritual eyes – the glasses we wear – that suddenly make visible what otherwise might have been overlooked or ignored.
It is not always an easy way to view the world. Surely, it is much easier to view the copious visible evidence with cynicism and a lack of hope that God’s kingdom can ever overcome so much that is wrong with our world. Nor does the outlook of goodness withdraw and merely endure this life. Rather the virtue of goodness chooses to identify ways in which Jesus’ words are evident: The kingdom of God is in our midst and advancing, whether we recognize it or not. And it keeps the faith that God is true to his word that one day the kingdom of God will prevail and creation will be restored to the way God originally desired it.
Then again, goodness is not a Pollyanna outlook that naively disregards the evil and brokenness around us. It chooses to see beyond the surface – beyond the visible – to recognize that pain can bring healing, to find transcendence in the mundane, and to see the wonder of creation. It is also at this point that goodness is put into action by fostering the good that is discerned in those around us and working to right the wrongs in our circumstances. Perhaps there is more action to goodness than first acknowledged.
- Am I recognizing God’s kingdom at work in the people and circumstances around me?
- Recall an event or interaction from this past week. How could you view that event/interaction differently if viewed through the lens of goodness?
- How might recognizing God’s kingdom in your midst prompt you to acts of kindness?