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.

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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?
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The next piece of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Kindness. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.

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Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Kindness is a prime example of a piece of fruit we tend to associate with a feeling or an emotion.  When someone is described as kind, it is often assumed that the person is cordial and pleasant to be around, even well-mannered.  It is easy to think someone (or ourselves) kind without ever attributing it to specific actions.  Yet Scripture invariably associates kindness with a tangible action, something that is done to or for someone else.

The word for kindness in Scripture is closely related to the idea of benevolence, or a specific action performed for the benefit of someone else.  It is for this reason that I believe our word generosity comes closest to the heart of the meaning of kindness.  Generosity is being willing to give freely out of what is ours to those around us.

We tend to associate generosity first and foremost with money, but generosity reaches far beyond writing a check or handing a dollar to the homeless.  We can be generous with our time, as well as other expressions of hospitality.  Generosity begins in the heart and manifests itself in our words and actions – all areas of our life.

While generosity extends far beyond money, there is little question that Scripture teaches the importance of financial stewardship.  Money is not inherently good or bad; it can be hoarded and used for evil purposes, or it can be used as a means for good, helping resource important projects and providing means for others in a time of need.  A widely held myth associated with generosity is that a person needs a lot of money in order to truly be generous, but this is simply not the case.

There are many other ways we can live a life of generosity.  We are to be generous with our possessions.  We can be generous with our abilities, always on the lookout for ways to use our gifts in order to bless those around us.  We can be relationally generous, not treating others as inconveniences, but consistently building into the lives of others.  We are called to be generous with our words, encouraging one another.  A heart of generosity does not confine this piece of fruit to a single area of life; it does not compartmentalize.  Kindness continually manifests itself in acts of generosity.

If the fruit of kindness is associated with generosity, how do you see this piece of fruit developing within you?

  • Am I become a more generous person with my time, my words, and my resources?
  • Which aspect of kindness – your time, words, or resources – is easiest for you to be generous with?  Which is the most difficult?
  • Are there areas of your life where a kind attitude has not been enlivened with a generous spirit?