I think goodness is one of the fruits of the Spirit that often gets overlooked. I admit that if I had to list the fruits of the Spirit from memory, goodness is probably the one I'd forget most often. I think it's because we read it and think to ourselves that it means we're supposed to be good people. Doesn't everyone know that already? We try not to lie, we're nice to people, we donate a dollar to that charity every time they ask at the grocery store. We're good people. So check that one off the list.
But not really...
The quality of being morally good or virtuous.
That's how Oxford Dictionaries defines goodness. You see, goodness isn't just about being a "good person". It's about morality, which goes much deeper than helping your elderly neighbor with their groceries. Don't get me wrong; you should still do those things. After all, kindness is its own fruit of the Spirit. Plus, it can be an outward sign of your inward goodness, but God isn't fooled by acts of kindness by immoral people. He sees our hearts, the actions that we take when no one else is looking, the reasons we perform those acts of kindness. So believe me when I say it's time to stop overlooking goodness in that list of fruits.
To unpack goodness, I thought I should look at the list of the things of the flesh that precedes the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. The fruits are presented as opposite to the things of the flesh, so to get a better idea of what goodness is to God, we should look at what He says it isn't... Several things stood out to me: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, drunkenness. These are things our society is plagued with today. In fact, our culture has managed to combine all of these things into one idolized lifestyle of sex, drinking, and hedonism. But God says to choose goodness instead. So goodness must be the opposite of these things, which would mean that goodness is morality, purity, disregard for idols of any kind, and soberness. These are the things we must pursue.
'“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.' (ESV)
In our world today, it is an understatement to say we need to start taking the fruit of goodness more seriously. Goodness calls us to turn away from the very things our society idolizes. So my challenge to you (and to myself) is to stop overlooking goodness and start seeking what it truly means to be good in a world that tells us that satisfying our flesh is more important.