Kindness and Goodness: The Twin Fruit
Kindness and goodness are so closely related that sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between them. A kind person is also a good person; a good person is by nature a kind person. Both of these characteristics stem from love. Someone has said that patience is suffering love; kindness is compassionate love; and goodness is ministering love.
These characteristics which are produced in us by the Holy Spirit have to do with our relationships to others. We usually think of kindness as an expression of love from one person to another, and of goodness as a quality of being pure. In this lesson you will see that the biblical use of these two words is somewhat different from today’s more general usage, and that kindness and goodness include many aspects of the expression of love.
It is striking that parents are forever telling their children to “be good,” but they never need to suggest the opposite to them. Being “bad” seems to come naturally. Without the Spirit of Christ within us, our nature is inclined toward that which is evil and bad. But the Holy Spirit produces in us kindness and goodness, helping us to minister to the world with the love of Jesus. What the world needs is Jesus—that means more love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and caring generosity.
Kindness and Goodness Identified
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (Galatians 5:22).
Kindness in Galatians 5:22 comes from the Greek word chrestotes, which not only means goodness as a quality of purity, but also as a gracious disposition in character and attitudes. It encompasses tenderness, compassion, and sweetness.
In Matthew 11:30, the word chrestotes is used to describe the yoke of Jesus. He said, “For my yoke is easy [chrestos] and my burden is light.” The yoke of Christ speaks of the development of a disciplined life through obedience, submission, companionship, service, and cooperation. It is a relationship that is gracious, sweet, and pleasant (kind) because it is based on commitment and love rather than force and servitude. We have a Master whom we serve because we love Him, and we also serve one another because of our love for Him. To serve without love is unbearable—to serve because of love is the highest privilege. We shall discuss this later in the lesson.
The word chrestos is used again in Luke 5:39 to describe old wine, which is mellow or sweet. There is no bitterness in it. This helps us to understand better what the apostle Paul is saying in Ephesians 4:31–32 and 5:1–2:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Christ is our example of how to live love—as a fragrant offering. The sin offerings of the Old Testament certainly were never described as being sweet-smelling. But this is said of Jesus, our sin offering, who gave Himself in tenderness, compassion, and sweetness because He loved us. Jesus demonstrated in its highest form kindness and compassion. That is why to the apostle Paul He was a fragrant offering, given in love.
The word chrestotes (or chrestos) is sometimes translated as “good” or “goodness,” as in 1 Peter 2:3, “. . . now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” A similar Old Testament reference is Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” which speaks of sweetness. These Scripture verses refer to experiencing in a personal way the kindness of the Lord.
Goodness as the fruit of the Spirit is translated from a Greek word, agathousune, which is found only four times in the Bible. When compared to chrestotes, goodness is the practice or expression of kindness, or doing that which is good.
Agathousune is used only in Paul’s writings in the following passages of Scripture:
- Romans l5:14—“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness [agathousune] . . .”
- Galatians 5:22—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness [agathousune] . . .”
- Ephesians 5:9—“for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness [agathousune], righteousness and truth. . .”
- Second Thessalonians 1:11—“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act [agathousune] prompted by your faith.”
In the first of these verses, Romans 15:14, Paul recognizes that the Roman Christians are ready to minister to one another. In verse 15 he exhorts them to minister, reminding them of his own call to be a minister (servant) of Jesus Christ. In verse 16 Paul compares himself to a priest offering to God the saved Gentiles as an offering sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In all of these verses, the expression of goodness is seen.
Goodness, then, speaks of service or ministry to one another, a spirit of generosity put into action, of serving and giving. It is the natural result of kindness—that inner quality of tenderness, compassion, and sweetness. All of this is summed up in the word love. Love is kind and good, always seeking to minister to the needs of others.
In Jesus is the perfect example of different aspects of kindness and goodness. At the base of His kindness was a perfect moral character. Because of this, He was able to challenge His enemies by asking, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46).
The moral holiness of God as revealed in the Bible is overwhelming and awesome. For example, 70 men died in Beth Shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord (1 Samuel 6:19), causing others to ask, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (v. 20). A partial answer to this question is given by the psalmist David in Psalm 15:1–5. There are two main requirements:
- To live in righteousness—“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue” (vv. 2–3).
- To be kind—“ . . . who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent” (vv. 3–5).
Kindness is a disposition or willingness to do that which is right or good. It is exactly the opposite of the disposition to do evil, which is described in Proverbs 4:16, “For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.”
One way Jesus revealed His kindness was by touching. He laid His hands on little children. He touched the sick and the grieving. He was touched, too, by those needing to experience His healing virtue and others who wished to express their love and devotion for Him. Everybody who touched Him was blessed. How sweet and soothing is this kind touch of the Lord through us toward someone in need.
Goodness goes a step further than kindness. William Barclay defines it as “virtue equipped at every point” (1976, 51). He then goes on to compare kindness and goodness: “What is the difference? Agathousune [goodness] might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes [kindness] can only help” (p. 51). Thus, when Jesus went into the temple and drove the money-changers out, He showed goodness (Luke 19:45–46). When He forgave the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, He manifested kindness (John 8:10–11). At His trial He showed goodness when He challenged the official who struck Him in the face (John 18:23). Earlier in the Garden when one of His disciples took his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus demonstrated kindness when He touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:51). Barclay concludes that “the Christian needs that goodness which at one and the same time can be kind and strong” (51). This is demonstrated in the actions of God towards us. When He rebukes and disciplines (goodness), it is for the purpose of bringing us to repentance so that He can demonstrate His great mercy (kindness). (See Romans 11:32 and Psalm 25:8).
Kindness and Goodness Described
God’s Kindness and Goodness
Kindness. Some people have a misconception of God as an unmerciful and angry judge, ready to condemn the sinner and send him into outer darkness. But the Bible reveals God as a compassionate and loving heavenly Father, ready to bless His children in every way. Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
The prophet Isaiah depicts God as a tender, kind shepherd: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). Luke 11:13 is another example of God’s willingness to show kindness to us: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
The psalmist refers to the Lord’s kindness repeatedly by saying, “The Lord is good” (see Psalms 73:1, 86:5, 105:5, 106:1, 107:1, 136:1). Throughout the Psalms rings a pleasant melody, in which the psalmist refers to kindness as the basis of forgiveness and of God hearing and answering prayers. God’s judgments are kind. In Psalm 119:39 David speaks of his shame for his shortcomings, concluding with the words that God’s laws are good. David was speaking here of the attribute of kindness, which gives hope to the repentant sinner.
God’s kindness is extended to all men: “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). But the purpose of God’s kindness is to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This heavenly kindness not only works toward our salvation, leading to forgiveness of sins, but also provides for our becoming holy. Many people take advantage of God’s great kindness, sinning again and again. This is a terrible and dangerous mistake. The apostle Paul warns about this in Romans 11:22:
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
Goodness. Every person should be indebted to God for His plentiful and continuous blessings. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The rebellious person certainly does not deserve such blessings, but God’s goodness is freely extended to everyone. It is written in John 1:16: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Everyone should thank God continually for such blessings as life, health, rain, crops, family, daily provisions, protection, or other blessings received from Him. As the apostle James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Principles of Kindness and Goodness
Service to Others
Godliness and goodness cannot be disassociated. There are two divine principles involved here: 1) Personal salvation, and 2) Service to others. Goodness was God’s plan for man from the beginning. Man’s spiritual condition affects his social interactions. We see this illustrated in the two greatest commandments (see Mark 12:29–31):
- Love the Lord your God
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
This principle can be further illustrated by two sets of questions in the Bible:
Genesis 3:9 “‘Where are you?’
Luke 10:25 “‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’”
Genesis 4:9 “‘Where is your brother?’”
Luke 10:29 “‘And who is my to neighbor?’”
In the examples from Genesis, God asked the first question of Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned by disobeying Him. His question was one of concern about their spiritual condition. He asked the second question of Cain immediately after he had murdered his brother Abel. God’s question was one of concern about the evil he had done to his brother.
In the examples from Luke, these are the two questions which an expert in the law asked Jesus. The first relates to his spiritual condition, and the second relates to his social condition. His personal relationship to God had to be dealt with first: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” Then his relationship of service to others followed: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We learn from this the importance of kindness and goodness as the fruit of the Spirit. When this spiritual fruit is developed in us, we see others as God sees them, and we reach out to them with His love manifested in us. Our service is directed to bringing others to know Him as their personal Savior and to ministering to needs. This may include fellowship, hospitality, helping with problems, giving encouragement, and most of all, showing love.
We are not saved because we are good and holy, but because Jesus died in our place as our Redeemer. Now as Christians we reflect the love of Christ to the world through the fruit of the Spirit developed in us. We do this not to gain salvation, but because we are saved. We are not saved by what we do, but by God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did for us through His atonement.
A good man who ministers to others is rich even though he lacks material possessions. Certainly this was the case of the Christians in the Smyrna church mentioned in Revelation 2:9: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” The churches of Macedonia also ranked with them, for in 2 Corinthians 8:2–3 Paul praised them, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
As described in the preceding Scripture, a distinguishing trait of Christian goodness or agathousune is generosity, or being open-handed. The giving of tithes and offerings is a way of recognizing that all we have comes from God. After the Israelites brought their gifts for building the temple, David praised the Lord for the gifts. Then he said, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14). David recognized that God alone was the source of their security. People often try to find security in the possessions they can accumulate. But the biblical principle is that true security is found in giving generously, or being openhanded, because God blesses the one who is generous. This principle is stated in Deuteronomy 15:10–11:
Give generously . . . and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
It is in giving that a person begins to understand the importance of not holding tightly to those things which perish. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
In many parts of the world the work of the Lord suffers because of close-fisted Christians. They give nothing, but also they receive nothing. When goodness as the fruit of the Spirit is evident in a believer’s life, it will be recognized by rich generosity, just as it was in the Macedonian church.
Goodness, Righteousness, and Truth
The relationship between goodness, righteousness, and truth reveals important principles. Ephesians 5:9 says, “For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.” Goodness relates to mercy; righteousness relates to justice; and truth relates to knowledge.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The law had truth, but not grace. In Jesus we have both truth and grace. Glory be to God! Through God’s grace manifested by the Lord Jesus we get not what we really deserve, but what His love and grace freely give to us.
The excellence of goodness is summed up in what is referred to as the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, we treat others the way God treats us—with mercy and grace.
When Paul commended the Corinthian Christians for their generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1–15) he reminded them that it was the grace of God in them which moved them to that action. Six times the word charis, meaning “grace,” is used: in verses 1, 7, 9, and 19. The word charis is closely related to the Holy Spirit, who produced in these Christians the fruit of goodness, or liberal generosity.
Kindness and Goodness Illustrated
The Bible is filled with examples of the kindness and goodness of people of God to their fellowman. We shall look at a few of these examples as ways in which this spiritual fruit can be shown in our lives.
Job not only was a patient man, but he is also a vivid example of kindness and goodness. Here is how he described himself:
I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth. . . . No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler. (Job 29:15–17; 31:32)
It is touching that David’s kindness extended to the house of his enemy, Saul. David called this impartial kindness “God’s kindness” (2 Samuel 9:1–3). This is the highest degree of kindness. Impartial kindness was also the subject of Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24). As a dimension of the fruit of the Spirit, impartial kindness should be demonstrated in the life of the Christian.
David’s decision in 2 Samuel 24 was to fall into the hands of the Lord, “‘for his mercy is great’” (v. 14). David had experienced the kindness of God many times before, and he chose to put himself at God’s mercy rather than man’s.
Paul, before his conversion, was known by his unkindness to Christians. But as a new creation in Christ he wrote, “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Jesus demonstrated kindness in His last acts before His death. While hanging on the cross He provided someone to care for His mother (John 19:26–27). He also asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).
Stephen is another outstanding example of following his Master in showing kindness. Instead of desiring the death of his persecutors, he prayed for them as he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:59–60).
Personal Application—Serving in Love
The spiritual dimensions of kindness and goodness involve Christian service. The apostle Paul emphasized the importance of service to one another:
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:13–15).
The word serge in this text refers to the service rendered by a slave. This takes us back to the Old Testament. After God gave the Ten Commandments he talked about idolatry and altars. Then He dealt with the rules for Hebrew servants (Exodus 21:1–6). Among the Hebrews there were no slaves, unless a Jew became a thief or a debtor too poor to pay his debts. In these circumstances he could be sold, but only for a maximum of six years. During that time he would be treated as a hired servant, paying his own debt until the seventh year. Then he would automatically be set free. If a slave loved his master and wanted to stay with him, he was taken before the judges, and his ear was pierced. From that day on he would belong to his master for life, by his own choice. Such a person is sometimes referred to as a “love slave.”
In Psalm 40:6–8, in speaking of the coming Messiah, the psalmist gave himself as a “love slave”:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—. . . To do your will, O my God, is my desire.”
Jesus Christ himself came as a “love” servant. In fact, in Isaiah 42:1 and 52:13 the Lord is called a servant. He confirmed this in Matthew 20:28: “ . . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The apostle Paul told the Galatians to serve one another in love. Later, he entreated them to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). In this case, the word burden comes from bares, meaning “weight.” In Galatians 6:5, where he says each one should carry his own load, Paul is speaking about a portion or quota. So we should share with one another in bearing our portion of the weight of burdens.
Serving in love is an expression of goodness, and it should begin in our own family. Home is the best place to exercise the fruit of the Spirit. Some Christians find it easy to show kindness to outsiders, but in their own home they fail to be kind and good. To serve with love is a demonstration of spiritual fruitfulness you can show to your own family.
These Scriptures sum up the importance of serving with love:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9–10)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:8–10)