By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Once I was greeted by a stranger in passing with the standard, “How are you?” And I responded with the equally predictable retort, “I’m good, you?” Now ignoring the fact that we had both just repeated what is a common “greeting” here in the south, and not really an expression of deep concern for each other’s general well-being, the thought came to my mind: “can I really, honestly say that I am good? That, after all, presumes an awful lot!” Let me explain.
God is good. It is His nature. Goodness permeates His very being and that reality never ever waivers. God cannot contradict Himself so there is never a time when, or an action where, God is NOT Good! Me, on the other hand, well…. I’ll let you fill in the blank (and you won’t have to look at me, just look at yourself and the answer will come).
Remember being told by a parent, or telling your own child as a parent, “bye, have fun, and BE GOOD”? If your experience is anything like mine, that advice was followed with varying degrees of adherence, to say the least. But we all knew what it meant: do good, behave right, perhaps even, “don’t embarrass me!” How effective was that? Is that all the fruit of the Spirit “goodness” means? Jesus told the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18, “no one is good except God alone.” The young ruler had tried to earn God’s favor by doing and following all His commandments and by being morally right, but Jesus said it wasn’t enough! Teaching others to simply “do good” can easily become legalism.
The rich, young ruler was trying to earn his way to heaven by doing “good” and “following the rules”, but he lacked the most important thing… a genuine love for the rule-maker.
You see, the “goodness” that is a fruit of the Spirit is not merely self-righteous moral behavior, but rather is an excellence of character. It takes our good faith effort to do good and mixes it with the reality of God being good to produce in us an expression of His goodness. This is only possible through God’s divine work in our hearts. To enjoy the “goodness fruit” of the Spirit, get lost in and follow the great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your might” and from that you will see the fruit of goodness as you “love others as yourself.”