Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Goodness

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Goodness

 

Richard Hollerman

Are you a good person?  Do you know other people who are good?  Some people–even preachers–claim that we cannot be good. They cite Paul’s words in Romans 3:12: “There is none who does good, there is not even one.” Does this mean that we can’t be good or relatively good?

We know that in one sense only God is completely “good.”  Vine points out, “God is essentially, absolutely and consummately ‘good.’”[i]  Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18; cf. Matthew 19:17; Luke 18:19).  But in a relative sense, would you say that you are good?  “Goodness” is a fruit that the Holy Spirit can work in our life, thus it must be possible, desirable, and even necessary (Galatians 5:22-23).

Two Greek words are sometimes used as synonyms, both occurring 102 times each.  Agathos “views the good as useful or profitable and is the word chosen when moral goodness is being considered,” while kalos “tends to stress the aesthetic aspect of good.  Good is not only beneficial but also beautiful.  Evil is a warping of the divine pattern; whatever is good is free from flaw, in full balance and harmony with the ideal.”[ii] 

Vine says that agathos “describes that which, being ‘good’ in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect.”  Kalos “denotes that which is intrinsically ‘good,’ and so, ‘goodly, fair, beautiful.’”  It is “ethically good, right, noble, honorable.”[iii]  Goodness “is essentially an all-purpose description of virtue in general.  It means goodness as opposed to badness.  It also implies the idea of active goodness—an attitude that seeks to do good, as opposed to just being passively benign and agreeable.”[iv]

Paul writes to the Roman Christians, “I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14). The apostle was convinced that these brothers had “goodness” in their character.  He also says that “the fruit of the Light” consists in all “goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).  Do we have such fruit in our life?  Paul prayed for the believers, that God would “fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). 

In this world if evil, perversion, cruelty, fleshliness, and sin of all kinds, we should strive for moral and spiritual “goodness”!  Do not be intimidated by anyone who calls you a “Goody, Goody,” or who denounces you by saying, “You just want to be too good!”  No, God says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).  Our goodness is patterned after God’s goodness.

In the parable of the talents, the master says to his slave, “Well done, good and faithful slave.  You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23; cf. Luke 19:17).  His reward came from his goodness and faithfulness.  Remember also that Joseph of Arimathea, the disciple who buried Jesus, is described as “a good and righteous man” (Luke 23:50).  Barnabas, the man who accompanied Paul on his first journey, is described as “a good man” (Acts 11:24).  Masters are to be “good and gentle” men who treat their slaves well (1 Peter 2:18). 

Those who would suggest that we cannot be “good” people need to consider scriptures like these.  Although we may not have the perfect goodness that Jesus did, we can and must have a relative goodness.  In fact, we should eagerly seek it!  We must “turn away from evil, and do good” (1 Peter 3:11). 

 



[i] Expository Dictionary.

[ii] Richards, Expository Dictionary.

[iii] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[iv] MacArthur, The Quest for Character, p. 96.

 

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