Goodness

by Lester Young

Hi, everyone! Here’s another ‘sneak-peak’ from my new book, Kingdom Keys: A ‘How-to’ Guide for Flourishing in the Kingdom of God, available now on Amazon. This chapter is entitled, “Goodness”:

God is inherently good. ‘Goodness’ is His nature, period. It’s just that simple, just that cut-and-dried. This theme can be continually expanded, expounded upon, calculated, correlated, freeze-dried, packed, shipped and served; but, in the end, the revelation can be made no simpler, no cleaner and no more all-encompassing – God’s nature is goodness.

To perform good works is, needless to say, a fine thing. Being kindly useful or beneficial to others is, after all, the literal translation of the fruit of the Spirit known as ‘gentleness.’ But, if you think about it, anyone can “do good deeds” if they so choose to. The meanest, vilest, most loathsome, lowdown so-and-so can all of the sudden pull over and try to help a dog that’s been struck by a car or give a homeless person a five-dollar bill as he passes by. So, make no mistake – good deeds are good deeds, and good deeds are good. In other words, the deed itself is not more or less good relative to the one who performs it. The dog and the homeless individual would benefit just the same from the good deed done to them regardless of whether the man was inherently good or bad. So, what’s the difference?

Well, quite plainly, the difference is the doer’s heart. Certainly, by an act of choice or will, an evil person can do a good deed now and again. Nevertheless, there’s a reason why the person is evil. Our Lord Jesus said it this way: “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). The predominant amount of the things the evil person normally does are, simply put, evil (1 Samuel 24:13).

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the person is going around killing, stealing or committing adultery every three-to-five minutes. Anything that’s done – or not done which we know we’re supposed to do – outside of God’s will is sin (1 John 3:4, 5:17), because whatever’s not done in faith is sin (Romans 14:23). You can’t have faith in what you’re doing if what you’re doing is outside of God’s will. Again, anything done (or not done) in disobedience to God’s Word or His voice is sin and, therefore, evil; and your heart (your conscience) will get after you about it (Proverbs 20:27; 1 John 3:18-20). Society may find the actions perfectly normal and acceptable, but God’s Word is the final determinant of what’s right and wrong – and His Word doesn’t change with the times.

The evil heart has, as its center, itself – its desires, its benefit, its protection, its own welfare. Its motivations are self-serving. If and when it gives, it does so with strings – with the condition, or feeling of privilege, to somehow receive back. As you may have guessed, this is the very definition and essence of ‘self’-ishness. In Matthew 5:46 and Luke 6:34, Jesus ascribes this kind of attitude to sinners and tax collectors (who, back in the day, raised the practice of extortion to an art form).

The evil-hearted person must make a conscious decision to do something good for someone else with no strings attached because his inclination – his nature, his disposition – simply leans the other way. If he succeeds in doing so, he’s often swelled with pride and can’t help boasting to someone about the “good thing he did today,” no matter how large or small it actually was. But, what most people don’t realize is that those little boasts themselves, when continually rehearsed over time, become manifestations of the strings they’ve indeed attached in their own hearts. And, Jesus said the praise from those boasts is all the reward they’re going to get (Matthew 6:1-2).

In stark contrast to this self-centered, ‘I’ve-got-to-protect-me’ mindset, the Lord commands his disciples in Matthew 6:25 to “take no thought for your [own] life, what you shall eat, drink or wear.” In other words, we shouldn’t even consider our own needs, desires or well-being, because God knows what they are and will provide everything for us (Matthew 6:32-33; Philippians 4:19). Therefore, without this necessity to fixate upon ourselves and our own livelihood, we’re freed up to turn our attention to the welfare of others.

The person possessing a truly ‘good’ heart has this completely different approach and mindset. First and foremost of all, his good heart comes directly from God. It has to. When speaking with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:17, Jesus declared, “There is no one who’s [truly] good but God.” What He was saying was that God is the ultimate Source of any and all goodness (hence, it’s a fruit of His Spirit). James 1:17 puts it this way: “Every good gift, and every perfect gift, comes down from the Father…” Therefore, the heart that’s truly good must come from – must take after – God’s own heart. It has to be born of God (1 John 4:7).

But, just what do we mean when we use the word ‘good?’ After all, it’s a very broad and subjective term. Yes, God is good; but what, exactly, is that saying? Well, according to Philippians 4:8, it means anything that’s beneficial, anything that’s favorable; any quality that’s intrinsically beautiful and valuable and useful in and of itself; any characteristic that’s honorable; anything that’s useful for growth or profit and carries no detrimental side effects for yourself or others; anything that’s true, honest, just and right, clean and pure, acceptable and of good reputation – note that all of these conditions, as a checklist, must be satisfied. In short, anything which stems from ‘love’ qualifies, because love works no evil toward his neighbor (Romans 13:10). Anything that fits this full description is good. We all intuitively know what good is, even though it’s sometimes a little difficult to express the concept in words.

The Greek word agathosune translated as ‘goodness’ in Galatians 5:22 literally means ‘beneficence’ or ‘virtue.’ Beneficence is simply ‘the quality or nature of being beneficial, charitable or kind.’ It describes an active nature of doing good works. However, this attribute of activeness centers not so much on what is done as it does on what it is – its DNA, if you will. As such, the person who’s yielded to the fruit of ‘goodness’ could no more stop doing good than a fish could stop swimming. It’s not something he actually has to contemplate a whole lot about – it’s who he is inside, and therefore it’s what he does (you know, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, so forth and so on…). Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he;” and this man’s heart thinks no evil (1 Corinthians 13:5). Doing something evil is actually distasteful to him. If he does sin (whether mistakenly or on purpose) it troubles him to his core. Sooner or later, he’ll have to repent because his inclination, his disposition – just like God’s – simply leans the other way.

But let’s not forget the ‘virtue’ part of that definition; it means ‘being of the highest moral standards and values’ (that is, strictly governed by the issues of right and wrong). It also encompasses courage and boldness, the attributes of ‘valor.’ Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the LORD continually urged His people to “fear not.” As He was bringing them into their Promised Land, God never told them that they would not at least have to go up against and face their enemies. However, He did tell them to be strong and courageous because He was with them, and they’d therefore always win (Joshua 1:5-9).

God is telling us the same thing today. Courage, boldness to confidently face down our enemies, and valor in battle are intrinsically good qualities, and they’re a part of and included in the fruit of goodness. That actually means we have God’s courage to use anytime we need it. Isn’t it amazing and comforting to know that we don’t have to try to drum up our own? We have His promises of victory and deliverance, because Jesus Christ has defeated every enemy we have – He’s overcome the entire world (John 16:33).

Romans 8:31 declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” (A recent great man of faith very aptly put it this way: “If God is for us, what difference does it make who’s against us?”) In other words, we, as Christians, even in today’s very dangerous world, have no reason or need to fear, for the only real foe we have has already been beaten viciously about the head and shoulders!

The quality of ‘goodness’ is much more than just doing good – it’s be-ing good. For us, as children of Almighty God, it’s embodying the nature of goodness and all its attributes, the nature of God Himself – for, “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). In the same manner that He’s love (1 John 4:16), God is good (Matthew 19:17). It’s a fruit of His Spirit, and He can’t deny Himself. Just as that fish cannot stop swimming and hope to continue to exist, I honestly don’t think God can stop being and doing good and continue to be God – it just wouldn’t be Him. So, just relax and be happy, because that’s not going to happen.

Kingdom Keys: A ‘How-to’ Guide for Flourishing in the Kingdom of God is full of down-to-earth insights about how to walk successfully and prosperously in God’s Kingdom right here on earth. It’s available right now on Amazon.  Get it, read it, and feel free to let me know what you think.  Thanks very much for your interest, and I hope my book greatly blesses you!

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6 Responses to “Goodness”

  1. Lester, really enjoyed this. You speak the truth here. Doing good because we want to please God not build ourselves up is something that comes from the heart because we ask for His help. It’s a daily connection to Him that keeps us on the right path.

    • Hi Kathleen…

      So right…doing good from a good heart can only be from God. It’s the practical definition of God working through us. Thanks very much for your encouragement…

      Lester

  2. That is indeed so “good” to know, Lester, that God is inherently good. And the flip side, is the the enemy is inherently evil. So we have to be able to decipher where good comes from, and where evil comes from, and rightly attribute the source. Thank you for this, Lester, makes me curious to read more of your book! Dee

    • We as humans often tend to make things a bit more complex than they really are (not really sure why that is…other than bowing to the nagging thought, “Well, life’s just not that simple.” Actually, it is that simple – may not be particularly easy all the time, but it is simple). Any- and everything good is from God – period. If it isn’t good it’s not from Him, and so that just leaves one other source. Thanks, Dee, for your comments…and I cordially invite you to read all my book…just ‘all’ of it lol

      Lester

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