at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness & Goodness

Our bible study group has decided to take some time to look at the so-called “fruit of the spirit” as listed in the book of Galatians – and to study each one of these fruits, evaluating the prevalence of each in our own lives.  I hope to be able to share parts of my study and reflections here, as we go through each of the topics.

Coming into this week’s study, we immediately knew we were going to have trouble with the word “kindness”.  While the version of the Bible that I typically use translates this word as “kindness” the King James Version renders it “gentleness” – something that’s later down in my version (which KJV renders “meekness”).  There’s also the trouble that the next word on my list is “goodness”.  What differentiates kindness from goodness?   I decided this week’s study must begin with a word study, going back to the Greek.

The Greek word used here for kindness is χρηστότης – transliterated: chrēstotēs.  According to Strong’s concordance, this word is used in the Bible to mean:

1) moral goodness, integrity
2) benignity, kindness

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines it this way:
Good, Goodly, Goodness:
(a) in the sense of what is upright, righteous, Rom 3:12 (translated "good");
(b) in the sense of kindness of heart or act, said of God… It signifies "not merely goodness as a quality, rather it is goodness in action, goodness expressing itself in deeds; yet not goodness expressing itself in indignation against sin… but in grace and tenderness and compassion." *
[* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 292.]

From this, I will form my own definition of what is translated in the NIV as “kindness” in Galatians 5:22.  I will say that kindness here means good deeds done in humility. 
So, to have kindness as a fruit of the Spirit means taking action and loving others enough to say and do good things.  I think about this as going out of your way to do something nice for somebody else.  Romans 12:10 tell us to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  If we truly do that we are sure to be living a life of “kindness”.  

The book of James talks about the importance of “good deeds” in the Christian life.  It is by showing kindness and doing good that we prove our faith to be genuine:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. -–James 2:14-26

C.S. Lewis also has some insights on the kindness of Christians and how that should look, particularly in comparison to the rest of the world:

I think this is the right moment to consider a question which is often asked: If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians?...If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary…Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better…In that sense, the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results.  Christ told us to judge by results.  A tree is known by its fruit…

But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may be quite illogical.  They may demand not merely that each man’s life should improve if he becomes a Christian: they may also demand before they believe in Christianity that they should see the whole world neatly divided into two camps—Christian and non-Christian—and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second…

But, he goes on to say 1) that the world is not so neatly divided, and 2) that people have different dispositions, and we all have different internal battles that we fight, which may make certain non-Christians to be “nicer” people than certain Christians.  However what we can expect from the Christian is this:

If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That any Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a Christian. (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he was before.

So, Christianity, and living a life by the Spirit, does not make you a “better” (by earthly standards) or nicer or kinder person than every non-Christian; it simply means that God is making you into a better version of yourself.

From here, I’d like to jump right into the next word in the list of “fruits” which is “goodness”.  I think that kindness and goodness do go hand in hand, though they have their subtle differences differences.  Again, let’s turn first to the Greek.

The Greek used in this verse is agathōsynē.  Strong’s concordance lists the Biblical usage of this word as:

1)      uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words explains the meaning of this word, and I think also gives a good explanation of the difference between agathosyne (goodness) and chrestotes (kindness):

Good, Goodly, Goodness:
"goodness," signifies that moral quality which is described by the adjective agathos. It is used, in the NT, of regenerate persons, Rom 15:14; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9; 2Th 1:11

Trench, following Jerome, distinguishes between chrestotes and agathosune in that the former describes the kindlier aspects of "goodness," the latter includes also the sterner qualities by which doing "good" to others is not necessarily by gentle means. He illustrates the latter by the act of Christ in cleansing the temple, Mat 21:12, 13, and in denouncing the scribes and Pharisees, 23:13-29; but chrestotes by His dealings with the penitent woman, Luk 7:37-50. Lightfoot regards chrestotes as a kindly disposition towards others; agathosune as a kindly activity on their behalf.

J. A. Robertson (on Eph 5:9) remarks that agathosune is "the kindlier, as dikaiosune (righteousness) the sterner, element in the ideal character."

Richard C. Trench also comments on the word “goodness” or agathosune, giving us the following insight:

Ἀγαθωσύνη [agathosyne] is one of many words with which revealed religion has enriched the later language of Greece. It occurs nowhere else but in the Greek translations of the O. T. (2 Chron. 24:16; Nehem. 9:25; Eccles. 9:18), in the N. T., and in writings directly dependent upon these.

The fact this word is found exclusively in Biblical texts indicates that there is something unique about it – another existing word would not quite have done to convey the proper meaning.  It also makes it more difficult to define.  From the above information, I am going to consider “goodness” in this verse to mean doing the right thing.  It seems that it is not as “gentle” as “kindness” and is more than simply doing something nice for others.  It is broader and involves acting for the good of others and for the cause of Jesus. 

So how can we have “goodness” in our lives?

I think of the following verse:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -- Romans 12:2

If we allow God’s Spirit to rule our lives, if we make up our minds to not focus on the things of this world but to focus on the things of God, we will be transformed and will be able to know God’s will and choose to do what is right.  “Goodness” is a natural outcome of living your life in line with God’s will.  Reading through God’s word will also teach you how to live rightly, and we always have Jesus’ example to look to for how we ought to live our lives and what “goodness” looks like.  

So, I charge you with this:
Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good – Romans 12:21

**note: I found my sources for information on the Greek text from The Blue Letter Bible - there are some great resources on that website! Check it out!

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!