Galatians 5:22 says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Throughout time people have thought they could get into heaven by being good. Each religion or culture defined “good” in their own way. Vikings thought conquering and pillaging would impress Odin enough to get into Valhalla. Catholics believed that performing certain sacraments and saying prayers to saints would keep them in God’s good graces. Jewish people were actually bound by law and a covenant with God to act a certain way and then make sacrifices to atone for their sins when they fell short of the law. Many evangelical Christians are still trying to measure up. Two thousand years after Jesus fulfilled the law, many of us still feel the need to do good on our own and discount the work He did to break the chains of the law.
To understand “goodness”, we need to answer three questions:
1: What does “goodness” really mean?
2. Once we define goodness, how do we we accomplish it?
3: What role does goodness play in our relationship with Jesus?
I believe goodness is really defined in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus defined the law as loving God with all of our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Essentially, goodness like the other Fruits of the Spirit is an attribute of Gods relationship with us and how we should relate to each other. When you are exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit because of the work Christ has done in you, you are being GOOD and doing GOOD.
We should not “do good” to impress God, it is simply something He wants us to do to express love for each other because He is good. Goodness can never come from us on our own. Our relationship with Jesus is only defined by His goodness, it is never defined by our ability to be good. We can never be good enough to save, but we are loved enough for salvation.
To answer the last question, it’s much more simple. The answer is written plainly there in scripture. Ephesians 2:8-10 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul goes on to say that we were created to do good works, but they were prepared in advance by God for us to do.
All of this being said, I still struggle with being able to decipher the difference between doing good for my glory and doing good to bring glory to Jesus. This can be very confusing and I can easily fool myself. I start out attempting to do good and be Christ-like, but more often than not I end up finding more satisfaction in the attention I get for doing good, than the fact that I’m doing what I was created to do! I am so thankful that my efforts are not required to impress Jesus, I would fall immeasurably short.