The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 6)
The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 6) John Guzzetta
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-25).
Kindness and goodness sound similar, but they are somewhat different. There are times when one can be good without being kind, and times when one can be kind without being good! Let me explain.
About twenty years ago, a book entitled Random Acts of Kindness became a surprise bestseller (a play on the phrase “random acts of violence”). The author’s idea was to make the world a better place by thinking up spontaneous deeds of cheer. Like paying the toll for the car behind you, sowing a handful of quarters in the playground sandbox, or sending flowers to a random room in the local nursing home. The author’s idea is heartwarming, if a little naïve and silly at times.
While Biblical kindness may include such things, it is a higher concept. In the Bible, the word “kindness” is used most often of God’s actions. Read passages like Ephesians 2:4-7, Romans 11:22, or these two:
When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4–7).
Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).
Kindness is providing for someone else’s needs, perhaps something which they are not in a position to provide for themselves. Kindness is motivated by a sincere desire to help freely and generously, not to keep track of debts owed to be repaid at a future advantageous time. God shows kindness by forgiving our sins. We cannot perform such a feat, but those touched by the supreme kindness of God will be quick to show kindness in the mundane areas where we do have ability and opportunity.
So, smile and cheer up the downcast. Serve your brethren. Hold their kids so they can worship. Send kind notes. Say uplifting things to a stranger. Hold the door. Stop and help someone struggling with a flat tire (though, don’t get yourself in a bad situation, Matthew 10:16). Pay for someone’s dinner. Let someone get ahead of you in line. Visit the sick. Offer rides to the store. Mow someone’s lawn.
“Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to
And while kindness does not always have to be a gateway to evangelism, it sometimes can be. Frederick Faber said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” When asked, “Why are you so nice?” point out, “I’m just doing what God did for me,” and see where the conversation leads!
Now, to turn our attention to goodness: the words “goodness” or “good” appear over 100 times in the New Testament. Such a broad term can be used many different ways. We might speak of good food, a good car, a good cry, or a good person. Mark 10:17-18 gives us a clue to the ultimate meaning: “No one is good except God alone...” Every other meaning derives from this—what is good is what is godly. God is good, and everything that glorifies Him is good. It doesn’t work the other direction! Humans cannot decide what is good, and then project it on God—that is idolatry. God is good, and as He reveals Himself to us, we learn what goodness is. “The fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). Our reference point for goodness must be God, not ourselves.
Here is where goodness and kindness diverge. Not every good act is kind, and not every kind act is good. In Matthew 21, when Jesus cast the moneychangers out of the Temple, he was not being kind. But He was being good. He was upholding the will of His father and behaving in a godly manner.
When we see our child stealing a pack of gum, it would be kind to pat him on the head and pretend we didn’t see it, to spare him punishment. But it would not be good. In Romans 15:14, goodness is linked to admonishing brethren who may be misbehaving. When we hear false teaching and ignore it, it may be kind, but it is not good. When we pay for a friend to go to a bar, it may be kind, but it is not good.
Being good is learning God’s nature (2 Timothy 3:17), valuing God’s nature, emulating God’s nature. “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God, the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11). “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Thus, while kindness and goodness often overlap, evaluate all kind acts through the lens of goodness, to ensure they reflect the nature of God.