Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I have been presenting various virtues that are worthy of our consideration. We are told in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
The virtues that we have been examining fall under this admonition; they are all noble, right, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy. All the virtues we have looked at – humility, discernment, wisdom, charity, perseverance, kindness, purity in heart, and non-attachment, are admirable and good. It is this last word that I want to consider more this week. Good or goodness.
Each of these virtues are considered ‘good’, and if we pursue them and demonstrate them in our lives, we are ourselves are considered to be ‘good’ people. But today, the word ‘good’ has lost most of its meaning. We say, “Good morning”, “Good day,” “Good job,” “Good riddance.” It has become a useless limp word devoid of significance. Kind of like saying, “It’s ok; it’s all right,” when a situation is anything but ok or all right. The words lack precision and power. In our effort to be reassuring, we bring a shortage of conviction. That is how socially the word ‘good’ appears.
Good today means something akin to ‘sufficient’. “I feel good,” usually means “I feel adequately well and capable.” But the Bible tells us that goodness literally means ‘godliness’. It has a far deeper meaning than colloquial speech. Goodness is a quality that is often associated with positive and desirable traits such as kindness, compassion, and empathy. Goodness, if we had to simplify it, is the summation of all virtues expressed together.
Goodness is like purity of heart but put into action. Where purity is about our inner disposition, goodness is more about the external expression of our actions. Goodness means that we do what is right and beneficial for ourselves and others, and that we reflect God’s kindness and mercy in our words and deeds. Goodness is the quality of being morally right, virtuous, or benevolent, and always seeking to promote the well-being of others and oneself.
Sometimes we aren’t given direct definitions of a virtue in the Bible, but we can understand them from how they are described in various verses. Our opening Bible verse says, to not over come evil with evil, but with good. So, we can conclude that good is nothing evil. Still, not too helpful.
Psalm 34:14 tells us to, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” So goodness flows from peace. In Proverbs 2:8-10 we learn – “…for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. From this verse we learn that goodness involves justness, fairness, wisdom, and knowledge. Part of goodness is about our actions, what we know, what we do, and how that reflects on who we are.
In the Creation Story, God creates many layers of things, and at the end of each bit of creation, He pronounces it good. After God created humankind, He steps back and says, “It is good.” God creates you and creates me, steps back and calls us ‘good.’ In fact, on the sixth day, after everything was created, He looks upon it and declares it “very good.” In this entire creation, from the smallest subatomic particles to the vast Universe and infinite dimensions, everything is working as planned. It is very good.
The Fruit of the Spirit is comprised of various virtues, one of which is goodness. This word is translated from the Greek word ‘agathosune’, which means “inherently good.” This word does not mean doing good things but knowing that we are innately good; created good by God. This Fruit of goodness is about walking the earth, doing what we can to help others, knowing that we are inherently good.
So regardless of what we are telling ourselves in the private moments of our lives, which are not always positive uplifting words, we have been created good. God calls us good, acceptable, worthy, and lovable in God’s eyes.
A second definition for the word agathosune is uprightness of heart and life. The Bible often uses the word good and goodness in the context of the well-being of others. The Holy spirit gives us the power to do things that benefit God and others. Although we occasionally live our lives doing what is best for ourselves, the fruit of the Spirit puts our selfish desires aside and allows us to act in ways that will help the betterment of God and all of God’s children.
1 Corinthians 10:23 echoes the whine of this generation: “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
We are told that God is good. Psalm 103:8 tells us: God is good because he loves us and wants what's best for us. His goodness is demonstrated through his actions toward us. Psalm 23:6 shares that, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I’ve heard it said that goodness is the benefits we receive through God’s grace; favors bestowed upon us that we can never earn. Mercies are the things shielded from us that we do deserve but don’t experience because of God’s love and grace.
When we partake in Divine goodness, we are partaking in God. Being good doesn’t simply mean that we are a model citizen, polite, respectful, tolerant, and just nice. When the Bible tells us that God is good, it means that God is holy, perfect, morally pure, and the utter antithesis of anything bad, corrupt, evil, or inferior.
For us to be good like God, we need to be more than nice. We need to be holy and righteous, doing what is right, what is beneficial, what is praiseworthy.
Proverbs 14:14 teaches, “Evil people will be paid back for their evil ways, and good people will be rewarded for their good ways.” It is my prayer that we continue our pursuit of all the virtues, all the Fruit of Spirit, all the gifts from God. We become good through the effort we give in developing positive moral virtues.
It is my prayer that despite our failures and the chaos and stresses that we create for ourselves, despite all the self-centered thoughts we cling to, and despite all the crazy dumb things we do, we realize that as a child of God we are inherently good. When God looks upon us, He says, “My beloved child, indeed, you are very good.” I pray that we fully accept God’s assessment of who and what we are, and shake off the world’s influence, walk with Christ, express the light within us, and live up to God’s expectations.