“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
In the Bible Knowledge Commentary, Donald Campbell suggests “Goodness may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved” (emphases added).
Let’s begin with the idea of goodness as “an uprightness of soul,” or to put it another way, moral excellence. It should be quite obvious that for the most part humans are not inherently good. Scripture makes that clear when it tells us:
- Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
- Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
- Romans 3:15-18 – Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
From the time we are infants, we are pretty much consumed with getting our own way, getting what we want, making sure our every desire is satisfied. If you doubt that, just spend some time around a one- or two-year-old. They don’t have to learn that behavior, it seems to be pretty much natural.
So something has to happen to change us from that self-absorbed individual into one who is morally upright. That change comes when we are born again, when Jesus comes into our lives and changes our heart. Paul talks about that in Ephesians 2:1-10. It’s a long passage, but worth reading every word:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
And that leads us quite handily to the second aspect of this fruit, that of “doing good,” or as F.F. Bruce puts it, to a “goodness that seeks to aid others.”
Now, let me be very clear here. Good works will not save you. Good works will not replace the very real need to have your old stony heart replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). That exchange will only happen when you surrender your heart and your life to Christ and accept His life and His sacrificial death on your behalf.
But then, as ones who have been recreated in Christ, we have the duty and the privilege of reflecting the character of God by being good, and by showing goodness. Read these verses that talk about goodness:
- 2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
- Galatians 6:9-10 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
- Colossians 1:10 – So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,…
- 2 Thessalonians 3:13 – And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
- Titus 2:13-14 – While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
- Titus 3:8 – This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.
- Titus 3:14 – Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.
One final thought. In their book, The Fruit of the Spirit: Becoming the Person God Wants You to Be, Thomas Trask and Wayde Goodall said this: “Goodness is something we decide to do because we belong to him. In a world full of pain, heartache, and hatred we are asked to be good and to demonstrate God’s love.”
What are you doing to demonstrate God’s love today?