The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness.

“The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23.


Definition: moral excellence; virtue; integrity; mature in conscience; benevolence; righteous character; right living; Christian energy; the vigor and courage behind attaining moral valor; the middle quality of the Three Transcendents… Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

The Fruit is Love: The “fruit” of the Spirit is stated in the singular, not the plural “fruits.’ This implies that the first and primary virtue noted, Love, is the unifying quality of the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s Christian character. Thus all the remaining virtues mentioned are important aspects of Love. Fruit is meant to be useful. Wax fruit are not to be used in any practical way. Real fruit is used in every way possible. So perhaps Love is the fruit of the Spirit, and the other qualities listed are Love’s useful qualities, as in smell, flavor, color, texture, shape, size, nutrition and ripeness. One could see then that the useful fruit of the Spirit includes loving-joy, loving-peace, loving-patience, loving-kindness, loving-goodness, loving-faithfulness, loving-gentleness, and loving self-control.

Goodness of God in the Psalms.

23:6“Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of Lord forever.”

25:18“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.”

31:19“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of mankind, on those who take refuge in you.”

34:8Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the person who takes refuge in him.”

100:5: “For the Lord is good and his mercy endures forever.”

Dwell on This: “Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things – fix your minds on them.” (Philippians 4:8, Amplified version).

A Truly Supernatural Goodness: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27, 31, 33, 36).


The Source of Goodness.

(a.) The definitive self-revelation of God’s character in the Hebrew Bible is when the Lord and Moses were on the top of Mt. Sinai, and Moses said, “‘Oh, let me behold your Presence!’ And the Lord answered, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the Name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show… The Lord came down in a cloud; He stood with Moses there and proclaimed the Name Lord. The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed: The Lord! The Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 33:18-19, 34:5-7, Tanakh, JPS). In other words, the goodness of God is His love, grace, mercy, compassion and kindness. The Lord is filled with goodness, and it looks like Love. And the fruit of the Spirit is that very image of God being renewed and restored in the life of a believer.

(b.) The outward appearance of a virtuous life is inadequate. A publically noble lifestyle doesn’t meet God’s requirements. A consistent display of honorable actions as an end in itself may be necessary for society to thrive, but it will not bring eternal salvation. Simply being good is needed for humanity to survive, but that’s not good enough for God… “For I tell you, unless your righteousness is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). When Jesus said those shocking words to his disciples, the scribes and Pharisees were revered for their public piety, for their success in honorably keeping the written law of scriptures. Jews were generally in awe of the Pharisees’ religious obedience and devotion. Pharisees were considered the saints of their day. Jesus indeed shocked His followers when He told them they had to be more righteous than the Pharisees. He basically told them that the Pharisees’ goodness was not good enough. Their pride in being honored became a religion unto itself and their self-righteous religion was in fact distant from God, who is the point of the law in the first place. The Pharisees missed the point of life with God… union with Him and living into His divine energy and Spirit. The Pharisees wandered far from that main point in their pursuit of righteousness. In their personal life, their outside didn’t match their inside, because they didn’t understand the spirit of the law. They closely followed minor matters, while aspects of the faith like forgiveness, mercy and humility flew right by their attention. They grew to love wealth and status. Their self-righteousness kept them from understanding God’s righteousness. The Pharisees did not produce the fruit of the Spirit because they were not tapping into the well-spring, the source of life, in a personal way. Despite their lives of honor and sacrifice and obedience, their heart attitudes kept them far from God’s heart. Their dutiful morality was akin to the classical Greco-Roman notion of the virtuous life as an end in itself for the basic running of society. We must all be careful that the pursuit of virtue doesn’t end up driving a wedge between an honorable life and life-giving union with God. The virtuous life operating on its own steam soon runs out of spiritual energy. A life lived merely on principle is empty of divine power.

(c.) “Though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things; everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

(d.) Tips for Growing in Goodness:

  1. Worship the Lord. We become what we look at. We are shaped by who we honor, bow down to, love. To worship is to get back to square one, the source of goodness. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty… Bigger than the universe; Better than perfect; Older than time; Stronger than energy; Lower than a servant. Holy, holy, holy. There’s God, and there’s everything else. Hosanna in the highest! Heaven and earth is full of His glory and His mercy!
  2. Tap into the Source. Deepen your relationship with God, and remain grafted into Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit will develop in those united with God. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings glory to my Father.” (John 15:4-5,8, NLT).
  3. Inspire the Imagination. Whenever our imagination is captured, the rest of us soon tags along. Starting with stories in scripture, lose yourself in heroic literature and history, in tales of courage and sacrifice, in biographies and drama, in poetry and myth, in truth-centered fiction and the fine arts, such as music, sculpture, paintings, architecture. The desire to be good is a flame that is sparked by an inspired imagination.
  4. Learn the Vocabulary. Goodness has been defined, described, unpacked in helpful ways by the Christian Church. So it helps to be familiar with the classic virtues and vices, because the right words help us to know what we’re thinking and talking about. The Theological Virtues of faith, hope and love; the Cardinal Virtues of courage, wisdom, justice and moderation; the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, anger, envy, sloth, lust and gluttony. But don’t get stuck there. Passing the vocabulary test doesn’t make us good.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice. Regardless of the skill we’re trying to develop… a sport, an art form, a habit of goodness. The fundamentals need to be rehearsed, practiced, repeated, until the conscious decision becomes unconscious, the deliberate act becomes second nature. One might call this the muscle memory of the heart. To do our part is to be cooperating with God, even if we don’t feel like it. Especially when we don’t feel like it.
  6. Confess the Wrongdoings. As God continues to transform each of us from a sow’s ear to a silk purse (F. Buechner), we will have weak moments galore. Have as much grace with each other and ourselves as God does with us. Be humble enough to admit our stumblings, confess them to the Father, learn from them, and move on. Renewing our innocence daily will go far in keeping our mistakes from becoming a pattern.
  7. Surrender Daily. When you roll out of bed each morning, come out with your hands up. As we wave the white flag to God’s goodness, we will gradually move from a self-centered to a God-centered life. Submit to Baptism, Communion, discipleship; to inward spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, study; to outward spiritual disciplines like solitude, simplicity, service; to community spiritual disciplines like worship, confession, guidance, celebration; to a lifestyle of physical and spiritual works of mercy and justice. Hands up. Wave the flag. Blessed are those who surrender to God’s goodness.
  8. Love has the Last Word. Remember that Love is the definitive fruit of the Spirit. Love is the essence of God’s goodness. “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14).

A Final Word from Peter: “For this very reason, adding your diligence to the divine promises, employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue and excellence…” (2 Peter 1:5, Amplified version)