Guest Author - LeeAnn Bonds
Good dog! Goodbye. Good movie. Good riddance. Good pizza. Good to go. Good grief! Oh for goodness sakes. Ah, words, don’t you love them? There’s juicy goodness in every mouthful. That’s “goodness: the quality or state of being good,” or “the nutritious, flavorful, or beneficial part of something.”
My starting point today is the fruit basket of Galatians 5:22. A scrumptious selection it is, too, in that basket. I’ve examined love, joy, peace, patience and kindness in previous columns, and found them delightful and worth cultivating. The next fruit of the Spirit on offer is goodness. It’s heavy and fragrant, with a smooth peel promising hidden tastiness inside.
I have to do a little untangling right away. First, there are not two fruits of the Spirit called goodness. If you’ve read the previous piece in this series, it’s titled “Useful Goodness,” but is about the fruit generally called kindness. The Greek word, chrestotes, is translated goodness just as often as it is kindness in the New Testament. Today I’m talking about the fruit called goodness in Galatians 5:22. The Greek there is agathosune. That word is only translated as goodness, and appears just four times in the NT.
Raise your hand if you’re not confused yet. To me, it’s quite confusing in English. We use goodness to mean so many different things, and kindness we define any number of ways, but I don’t usually think of the two words as interchangeable. So since God directed the NT to be written in Greek, I want to pin down the differences in that language, to the best of my meager ability. I believe with all my heart that God has made us able to understand His message to us, and that comprehension is not reserved for a few highly educated specialists. So I’m confident that with the study tools arrayed on my desk and in my computer, I should be able to reach a clearer understanding than I had yesterday. As I continue to “study to show myself approved,” I’ll understand even better the next time I dig into this passage. I don’t expect to exhaust the treasures in any passage of Scripture in my lifetime.
Strong’s says that agathosune, word number 19, means uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness. It comes from word 18, agathos, which means good in any sense. That’s a wide open definition, which leads me to believe the word was used similarly to how we use good in English. The English definition of good includes such wide-ranging concepts as: bountiful, attractive, suitable, profitable, agreeable, amusing, full, true, honorable, satisfactory, choice, virtuous, kind, upper-class, skillful and loyal. Quite a multi-purpose word.
I think I’m beginning to see the principal difference between chrestotes and agathosune, and why most translations render the two kindness and goodness. The underlying meaning of chrestotes is usefulness, which implies being of benefit to someone else, as kindness is. We are kind to others. Agathosune might hint at more of an inherent quality. Something or someone can be good (upright of heart, honorable, virtuous, true, skillful, and so on) in and of itself. The “to others” aspect is not central to the quality, though others are certainly affected by the presence of goodness.
It seems a subtle difference, but I like it. The fruit of the Spirit include both other-directed qualities, such as love and kindness, and inner qualities such as peace, joy, and goodness. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit will make me good toward others in a useful way, and also good all through my own self, even when no one else is around. This is nothing the world sees, but is between me and God. God knows if I’m bearing the inner fruit of goodness, and He helps me to know if I am not. Many of my most intractable sins are lodged deep in interior nooks and crannies where only God can see them. I generally keep my eyes squeezed shut around those crannies, except for when God in His tender mercy breathes gently on me, whispering me to open my eyes to the truth. I can, on occasion, hold tight to Him and dare to look. Then I repent of whatever un-goodness is exposed, and ask for that cranny to be washed clean and filled with His righteousness. I don’t expect to exhaust this process in my lifetime, either. It puts me in awe of my gracious and magnificent Lord, who has such exceeding riches of kindness toward me in Christ Jesus. Our God is an awesome God, indeed.