Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)
I have such a treat for you, sweet friends. To finish out this series on the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I'll be sharing the wisdom and inspiration of other writers. I'm so honored to introduce to you the writer of this post on goodness. Kathleen E. Harris says that she is "the blessed 3rd-grade teacher of Lydia and twice-blessed 3rd and 4th-grade teacher of Anna," but I would say that the greater blessing was my daughters'--that they were Mrs. Harris' students. A 35-year veteran teacher (from pre-K to 4th grade), Kathleen Harris is now retired and enjoying it. Raised by parents who were teachers and evangelists, she has enjoyed traveling to 19 countries and 48 states. Washington and Oregon are on her bucket list. She enjoys golfing, writing, watercolor painting, reading, and singing. She and her husband will celebrate their 40th anniversary in May, and they have one daughter who interprets for the deaf.
Aren’t Goodness and Kindness the Same Thing?
When I was asked if I would take on one of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I waffled between goodness and kindness. I settled on “goodness.” For a little background research, I let my "fingers do the walking" through the Holy Pages...well, in this day and age, through Bible Hub. Right away, I found that many verses used the words “goodness” and “kindness” interchangeably. I wondered, "Is there really any difference between goodness and kindness? Was Paul being redundant?" I didn’t think so. There had to be a difference. Otherwise, why would both terms be listed in Galatians 5:22? When I Googled for an answer, I found contrary responses, and being one who likes to figure things out for herself anyway, I decided to meditate on Scripture, along with my own experiences with the quality of goodness. So I pondered on a life example with which many of us are familiar.
Parental Advice, For Example“Be good!” Every mom among us has probably said this while sending children off to school or to some social function like a friend’s birthday party. But what did we mean exactly? Behave yourself, remember your manners, don’t embarrass your parents, follow instructions, do your work, treat others the way you want to be treated. Though we may not have necessarily said “be kind,” certainly kind actions would fall under this category. Therefore, “goodness” seems to be a term encompassing a broader scope of desired behavior.
The “Good” Samaritan…or is it the “Kind” Samaritan?
The obvious Biblical example of goodness would be the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” But does it demonstrate “goodness” or “kindness?” As I read the parable Jesus told, it seems to be a better example of "kindness" or, at the very least, demonstrates the interchangeability of these two words.
You're probably familiar with this illustration from Luke 10 25-37: a Jewish man, while traveling, is attacked by thieves, stripped of his valuables, beaten, and left for dead. Two different religious leaders pass by him on the opposite side of the road.
When the Samaritan comes along he does a number of things. Without worrying about the risk to himself, he suspends his travels to attend to the stranger’s wounds. He uses oil and wine, which I suspect was of some value, to disinfect and soothe the man’s injuries. The Samaritan bandages his sores, most likely having to rip up some of his own clothing to make them since Band-aid brand was not available at that time. He puts the man on his own "ride," which was pretty much a one-seater, and walked the remaining miles to the next town leading his donkey carrying the wounded man.
Once he gets the victim to a town, he does not dump him at the nearest police station or hospital, releasing himself of further responsibility for the man. No, he checks him into an inn, paying for his stay and care. Then the “good” Samaritan promises to come back and make good on any extra costs of the victim’s recovery.
Let’s look at the list of “good” or “kind” things the Samaritan did…
1) stop to aide the victim
2) cleanse, soothe, bandage wounds
3) give him a ride to town
4) put him in an inn to recover, all expenses paid
I think we would agree that each of his actions could easily be called “kind.” So, why is he called the “Good” Samaritan?
I believe Jesus is pointing out something about the Samaritan that goes beyond kind.
Why Was the Parable Named the “Good” Samaritan?
I think the Lord included the religious leaders in this parable to draw a contrast between the character of those who display goodness and those who do not. Both the priest and the Levite, upon seeing the man, took a wide path around him (I can imagine them picking up their pace to a jog), and left the victim in their respective dust. Some assumptions can be made about these men. Both of them thought more of themselves than the victim. Not only did they pass him by, they actually crossed to the other side of the road. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with the wounded man. Their only concern was for their own safety and welfare. They were absorbed with their own self-importance, pride, and selfishness. These characteristics are the antithesis of goodness.
The Essence of Goodness
Humility and compassion are the characteristics of the “Good” Samaritan. The Samaritan did what was “right” even though it was inconvenient and expensive. These traits, then, must be the essence of goodness. The same characteristics are advised in Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
In 1 Peter 2:9, God calls us priests of a different kind than we see in the parable. "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light" (New Living Translation).
We are to be examples of God’s goodness, like the Good Samaritan.
The New Living Translation of 2 Peter 1:5 translates the word “goodness” as “moral excellence.” Looking at the example of the Good Samaritan, and what we mean when we say "be good,” we find that “goodness” is more than an expectation to be kind. We expect a “good” person to display “moral excellence”--to do what is right, to be reliable, responsible, trustworthy, and yes, to show kindness.
How do we acquire goodness?
If you’re like me, you're saying, “Okay, so goodness is a term defined as ‘right’ behavior. Now what? How do I acquire that trait?” I’m certainly no expert, and I’m still working toward obtaining the fruit of the Spirit in my own life. But, I feel a great place to start is in getting your "thinking right." "For as [a person] thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7, New American Standard Bible ).
Romans 12 is a good place to begin. Since goodness requires humility and compassion, as seen in the contrast between the Samaritan and the religious leaders, we need to change our thinking about ourselves and others. Verses 1- 3 urge, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will know God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.” Renewal of the mind, I have found, takes study and saturation in God’s Word and in His Presence.
In this process (and it is a process) of gaining a new way of thinking, I often use www.biblehub.com to search a topic, such as God’s goodness. I have listed some scriptures I found on this subject below. The next step in renewing my mind is meditating on, or pondering, the verses and what they tell me about goodness. I sometimes use the site features of cross references and commentaries to further my understanding.
Ephesians 5:8-10 New International Version
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
and find out what pleases the Lord."
Romans 2:4 Weymouth New Testament
"Or is it that you think slightingly of His infinite goodness, forbearance and patience, unaware that the goodness of God is gently drawing you to repentance?"
Romans 14:17 New Living Translation
"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
2 Peter 1:3 New International Version
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."
Psalm 23:6 New Living Translation
"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever."
I love the thought that God woos and pursues us to repentance, that He gives us life in the Light while on earth, and in the future, He gives us eternal life in heaven with Him.
Romans 12:3 helps us understand how we should view ourselves. Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given you. We are not to be proud like the religious leaders were. But we are not to think too lowly of ourselves either. We are to make an "honest evaluation of [ourselves]" using the "faith God has given us" as the measurement tool. (See the New Living Translation for reference.) By faith in God, we are His beloved children.
John 1:12 New International Version
"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
We are daughters of the Most High King. We are not worthless; we have great value in His sight. He died for us, and lives to intercede for us. But as His children, we are responsible to walk as children of the light just as the Samaritan did, seeking to help those who need it (as stated in verses 9-11 of Romans 12): "Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (For more insights on Romans 12, go to www.livingonthedge.com/r12.)
As God’s child, a recipient of His goodness, I am compelled to ask, as the psalmist did, “What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12). My answer is to follow the command in 2 Peter 1:5: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness…”
"When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)
(Looking for Part 5 of this series? Find it here.)