Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV)
It’s impossible to do good when you are concerned about your good. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are not told why the priest and Levite pass by the injured and robbed man. Worried about thieves, concerned about a pressing appointment, or being careful to not be defiled by a dead body are some of the possible reasons. By studying this text, combined with some honest self-refection, I believe we can summarize the fundamental reason why the priest and the Levite passed by with this simple statement: Each was looking out for his own good.
How much of your life is controlled by a desire for your good?
Your attendance at church?
How you save and spend your money?
Who you spend time with?
Even doing good – is it so it can be applauded, so others can see that you “did good?”
The works of the flesh listed right before the fruit of the Spirit might cause us to cringe a bit more when we compare them to the list we just made about what in our life is done for our good. Yet, are not both lists motivated by the same sinful, natural desire that broke the world?
The fruit in the garden was taken because Adam and Eve wanted to provide good for themselves (i.e., the tree was good for food, and they would be like God, who made all things good). Now let us go from the garden to today with one example of this. Does the desire for your good affect who you spend your time with? Are not the rivalries, dissensions, and divisions like racism and other painful “-isms” experienced today caused in part by a belief that keeping “others” away from us (our power, our places, our people) will keep us good or provide good for us?
God calls us to bear the fruit of goodness, not to provide good for ourselves. He created us very good! His desire is we would be a people defined again by his goodness – exhibiting it in good words, good deed, and good character. This is goodness produced in us by the Spirit, not achieved by us.
There is an eternal difference between working for your good and bearing the fruit of goodness. Let this drive you to the good news of Jesus! One side of eternity entails taking things into your own hands, the other is receiving the work of another’s hands. Cursed is our work done to achieve or protect our own good. When we put our faith in Jesus, we no longer need to protect or earn our goodness. Instead, we have a source through the Spirit that fills us with his mercy, his riches, and his love!
Beloved, in Jesus there is no more earning, or trying, or fearing, or protecting, or striving. Instead, out of mercy, Jesus has poured out to us goodness. Therefore, we can spend our goodness for others – even for our enemies (Luke 6:35)!
It’s impossible to do good when you are worried about your good life. Through Jesus we have all the good we will ever need – his goodness is endless – so go and spend the goodness he is producing in you by his grace through the Spirit!
Aaron Brockmeier is the senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church in north Minneapolis, Minnesota.