The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness

July 28, 2020

We have been looking a little deeper than normal the last few weeks at the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and using Tim Keller’s understanding of those definitions as a framework for our study. This week we are discovering what the fruit of goodness means for our lives.

Goodness here means honesty and transparency. I can’t be deeply good, filled with goodness, unless I have integrity, meaning I am the same through and through. I am the same in one situation as I am in another. I do not shift and shape myself to appear to be in synch with whatever is happening around me to make it easier, reduce conflict or gain approval. I am not willing to sacrifice truth or honesty in order to gain approval or acceptance.

The opposite of goodness is phoniness or hypocrisy. The dictionary says phoniness is the absence of genuineness; it is pretense and false. About hypocrisy, it reads: the practice of claiming to have standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform. Ouch! Does that describe any place in your life?

Keller describes the counterfeit of goodness as truth without love. The Bible would also describe it as truth without grace. Have you ever witnessed someone claiming to be telling the truth because they are too good to not tell the truth, but in the process they blistered and humiliated someone? I think we’ve all done it at some point, and probably witnessed it several times. We excused ourselves as being so good we had to tell the truth, but really we were off-loading frustration and anger in an inappropriate way, claiming a sort of honesty and goodness.

None of that sounds like Jesus. None of it sounds like the fruit of the Spirit of God in my life. True goodness describes me all the time. John Maxwell has famously said, “True success is when the people who know you best respect you most.” We can add to that and say, “True goodness is when someone gains access to every part of your life, and nothing disappoints or shocks them. My mother used to say that becoming elderly does not make a person harsh or sweet, unless there are mitigating medical problems. She said the thing is, the older you get, the less energy and ability you have to filter and control your words and actions. The real you becomes plainer and easier to discern. The person in private and the public person melt into one, and sometimes people are shocked. But not the ones who are closest. They have seen plenty of displays of the authentic you.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul shares his confidence that he and his team were displaying goodness, the fruit of the Spirit, in their relationship. He wrote, “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you” (vv. 12-14).

He mentions the marks of true goodness in our lives—confidence that comes from a clear conscience; God-given holiness and sincerity in our dealings; dependence on God’s grace, not personal wisdom; straightforward communication, nothing between the lines. Isn’t that a list? Isn’t that the kind of person you want to know? The kind of person you want to be?

It certainly is for me. Paul says that living this way with true goodness, the fruit of the Spirit, is the way to be confident and proud when the Lord returns, and to have a confident life here. Pretense is stressful. Trying to keep up a false face adds all kinds of challenge to life and relationships and takes away all kinds of peace.

So, the fruit of the Spirit is goodness. When the Spirit is consistently in residence in my life, when He is shaping my life and responses, I am honest and transparent. On a good day or a bad day, I am the same. People can count on me. God can count on me. Life is good. Goodness makes it that way.