Once again I was out of town for the first few days of the month, so my first [CULTIVATE] post is a little later than I intended when I set out on this project. Oh well! If it kills you that much, go back and read my posts on PATIENCE. *heh*
It’s September! And I’m moving onto GOODNESS. This is probably the most nebulous of all the fruits — it seems like it can imply so much, and yet so little, with just one word. In English, it can be a noun (the “common good”) and an adjective (he’s a “good” man). The dictionary defines good with a host of words: “morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious; satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree; of high quality; excellent; right; proper; fit; well-behaved; profit or advantage; worth; and benefit.”
That’s a lot for one little word to carry. We throw this word around all the time — this is a “good” book! What “good” will that do? And, as my grandma always says, “Oh good grief!”
Good is as old as dirt. Literally. God created the earth, and called it “good.” Here, it implies that what God made was right and was doing what God intended it to do. It wasn’t good vs. evil or anything at this point. It was just right. He called his entire creation, including man, “very good” — all that God made was well-made, and there was no flaw nor defect in it.
The moral sense of the word “good” is picked up in Genesis, in the garden with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here, there is a different sense of the word — it’s the opposite of evil. It is virtuous, worthy, and full of integrity. It defines God’s moral goodness, and gives us a compass by which we can make moral decisions.
Goodness also extends to the benefits of God’s salvation and his kindness toward us. Psalm 23 ends with “and surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” We are extended God’s goodness and his mercy (as we learned last month, that is also rendered “kindness”) when we let Him take control of our lives.
Commentator John W. Ritenbaugh says the Greek word for goodness “agathosuneis” is active—even aggressive—goodness. The English word “goodness” includes many pleasing qualities whereas the Greek word indicates one particular quality. It is more than an excellence of character; it is character energized, expressing itself in active good. Agathosuneis goodness, but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. Thus God can correct, sometimes very severely, and it is goodness in action. Thus parents can correct their child, and it is good because it helps produce a responsible adult.
Rittenbaugh continues in what I think is a really beautiful — good! — definition of biblical goodness: “The good man is one who thinks about love, beauty, and truth—not just in the realm of majestic mountains, surging seas, gorgeous flowers, and sunsets, but more specifically in his fellow man. He wants to alleviate suffering and to mitigate wrongs. He consciously looks for ways to benefit others. Because he is not out to gratify himself, His works are the opposite of the self-centered works of darkness. The good person is the benefactor of the weak, helpless, and those in trouble—and sometimes even of the evil.
So goodness is many things. It shows itself in many ways. For my project this month, I want to focus on this active goodness, as well as pull in some of the moral goodness angles.
What is goodness to you? What does a “good” man or woman look like? What is the opposite of “good”?