But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22–24 ESV)
Perhaps no other word summarizes my hopes and disappointments as good.
Good. It’s what led me to search for God. I was trying to find the good life, what was excellent, what was worthy in this world to give my time and energy and effort to. I found disappointment everywhere but continued searching until, thankfully, I encountered the goodness of God in Jesus.
Good. Good. Good . . . Very good! This word in the first chapter of Genesis is the definition of what God’s work is. Good (Tov in Hebrew) is what God creates, and then on the sixth day God creates humanity in his image and declares all he made was “very good!”
Good. God is good, and God demonstrates goodness. Fundamentally, what is good is what God declares and defines as such. He is the standard for all that is right, and the goodness we encounter in the world is oriented to point us to its creator, God (James 1:17).
Not good! In the Scripture, as in the world, goodness is harshly broken into by that which is not good. In Genesis 2, we hear that when Adam is alone – not in community – it is not good. Adam by himself will not point us to our triune God. Genesis 3 shows what happens when we don’t believe God is good. We think he’s holding out (not generous), so we take what God told us not to. (Even this restriction pointed to God’s goodness.) By taking, we have broken what was once good in ourselves and our world. No longer is good the first definition when we look around. We can hope for what is good. We can long for what is good. But the reality of the world is that we will be disappointed – no one can experience true goodness from others or in themselves. As in my journey, you will only find true goodness in God.
Goodness. The Greek word agathōsynē is translated in the ESV as goodness in Galatians 5:22 based on its root meaning “good.” However, because of the context it’s used in other biblical texts, another possible translation of this fruit of the Spirit is “generosity.” I think there’s some helpfulness with that potential range in this word’s translation. What does our good God do? He creates in abundance. God gives and gives and gives, and it is all good! What do we do by nature and by choice? We take and take and take. And when we do, it’s a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19).
Goodness is what I pray for my children in word and in deed – that they would exhibit goodness as good students, good athletes, good performers, good citizens. Goodness is what I desire in my church, my community, and my nation. Yet, is there any hope to avoid disappointment?
What can take self-centered people like you and me and open our hearts and hands to bear the fruit of goodness? Only a God who is so generous he doesn’t stop demonstrating what is good, even when his son has everything taken as he dies upon the cross for us. Oh, the goodness of God!
That’s our hope. We can open up our lives to give generously, for when we do, we will not be disappointed in God’s goodness in our lives.
God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.
Aaron Brockmeier is the senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church in north Minneapolis, Minnesota.