Fruit of the Spirit: “Goodness”

 

Fruit of the Spirit: “Goodness”
A Message on Romans 8:28-30

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
July 1, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

 

Romans 8:28-30 (NRSV)

 

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.


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In continuing our sermon series on “Fruit of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) we come today to the sixth item:“goodness.”

 

But what is “goodness?”

 

It’s a fair question in the Biblical sense in that the word “goodness” is not used in all Bible translations. If we look at the NRSV translation for the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, for example, we don’t see “goodness” but “generosity.”

 

Huh? To me those things aren’t interchangeable. In my mind there is a difference between “goodness” and “generosity.” Generosity is good, no doubt about that, but goodness seems to me to have different denotations, connotations, and overtones than “generosity.”

 

I checked The Message paraphrase to see how Eugene Peterson translated it. He describes it as “a sense of compassion in the heart.”

 

Well, that’s more like it, but it really didn’t satisfy me, so I got online and looked up the Greek word used in the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. (Yes, you no longer have to have big, expensive English/Greek dictionary books. It’s all available free online.)

 

So the Greek word used is agathosune. And it has to do with morals. It defines the moral quality of a person. And it is only used four times in the New Testament.

 

I really wasn’t satisfied with that so I kept looking. In the Easton Bible Dictionary it described agathosune as something in a person that “is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)

 

I kept researching. And then I found this: “Goodness is righteousness in action. Goodness boldly does what’s right, and encourages others to do good as well.” [Source: Jeffrey Kranz, http://blog.biblia.com/2014/06/how-the-fruit-of-the-spirit-works-kindness-and-goodness/]

 

So are you getting the idea of what “goodness” means with regard to Fruit of the Spirit?

 

Here’s something else you may not know about the word “goodness.” How many of you say phrases like, “Goodness gracious,” or “My goodness?” Well I got to wondering, “What does that really mean”?

 

Well I did a little research and found out. It turns out that in the English language “goodness” is often used as a euphemism for God. Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary says about the matter: “In various exclamatory phrases, in which the original reference was to the goodness of God, as goodness gracious!, goodness (only) knows!, for goodness!, for goodness’ sake!, in the name of goodness!, (I wish) to goodness!, surely to goodness!, thank goodness!, etc., or simply goodness!” [Source]

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/40649/my-goodness-mine-goodness

 

So “goodness” is a substitute word for God!

 

Knowing that, let’s look at some scriptures from the Bible about being “good.”

 

“So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

 

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

 

“Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.” (Psalm 37:3)

 

“Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
   and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
   and find rest for your souls.
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”  (Jeremiah 6:16)

 

“He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)

 

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;
   happy are those who take refuge in him.”  (Psalm 34:8)

 

And of course we have Paul’s writing from Romans 8 that we read today: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 

Now this scripture has been interpreted many ways by folks. Some people think that it means that if you love God that you will have some kind of a force field of protection around you and nothing bad will happen to you, only “good” things.

 

I disagree with that interpretation. Following Christ doesn’t mean bad thing won’t happen to us. Bad things can and will happen to the holiest of people. It certainly happened to the disciples.

 

No. I think Paul is saying that the things that happen to us in this life can build our faith, can make us “good” and willing to do the “right” thing no matter our circumstances. By being “good” we are trying to be righteous like God. Now that doesn’t mean we are trying to BE God, mind you, but to seek to live like Jesus, God’s son, in righteousness. Even though we are imperfect, unlike Jesus, it’s still a “good” goal to become a righteous as we can. (Not in a negative way, like “self-righteous,” but in living like Jesus.)

 

God is good.

 

There is a phrase said in some churches that is like a call and response. One person will say, “God is good,” and the other person or persons will say “All the time.” Then the first person will say, “And all the time…” and the other person or persons will say “God is good.’ Let’s try it. (Demonstrate)

 

We even say “God is good” in the prayer that we teach kids: “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” (Never mind the fact that “good” and “food” while spelled alike don’t really rhyme.)

 

We have hymns about the goodness of God. “Lord You Are Good and Your Mercy Endureth Forever” is one such more contemporary hymn.

 

Charles Wesley wrote in the hymn “I Want A Principle Within”:

 

From thee that I no more may stray,
no more thy goodness grieve,
grant me the filial awe, I pray,
the tender conscience give.

 

Even “America the Beautiful,” which we sang earlier, has the lyrics:

 

“America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.”

 

God is good. And we are made in the image of God and are called to live righteous lives, to be “good.”

 

All things do work together for good for those that love God. Not because we are trying to create an impression that we are “good,” but that we are deep down inside trying our best to live righteous lives, and in doing so, we become “good.”

 

So my challenge to you this week, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, is to be “good.” Live life in such a way that goodness is created as a fruit of the Spirit. Seek to be a righteous follower of Jesus Christ, not in a “better than thou” kind of way, but walk so closely to God that you become righteous, you become “good,” without even realizing it.

 

And remember, God is good. (Congregation answers “All the time.”) And all the time… (Congregation answers: “God is good!”)

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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