I love the quote from the picture above: “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” This is one of those aphorisms that just sounds right when you read it, hear it, or say it.
But it begs some questions. First, what is goodness? Second, how can we be more good? And lastly is demonstrating goodness in our lives truly a foolproof investment?
What Is Goodness?
Biblically speaking, goodness is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5. It’s often paired with kindness, probably because many people find that the two of them are difficult to differentiate. The argument goes something like this: a kind person is good and a good person is kind. True all the way around. But that still doesn’t mean that the two concepts are the same.
As I’ve written about before, kindness is the ability to care for all people, whoever they may be. But what is goodness? Here’s my working definition: Goodness is demonstrated in our lives when we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Obviously within that definition kindness can and should be found. But kindness is more about generally demonstrating compassion, while goodness is more about generally demonstrating righteousness and justice.
I come to this conclusion because of the way the Bible presents goodness. When Jesus is called “good teacher” and is asked about what “good deed” must be done in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus gives some insight to this notion of goodness (Luke 18.18 and Matthew 19.16). To both Jesus responds by saying that there is only one who is good — God himself. Therefore, it is God and God alone who can define goodness.
But this is a major rub for us. We want to define what is good. We want to be able to say, “I’ve accomplished it…I’m good now!” But our definitions of goodness will be faulty for any number of reasons, chiefly because we are selfish. At the end of the day, we’ll define as good that which benefits us as individuals, family units, or communities.
But how does God define goodness? You may have already gotten a hint of where I’m about to go. Perhaps the best place in all of the Bible to learn how God defines goodness is Micah 6.8:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
So based on this passage it seems clear that goodness looks like acting justly (fighting for what’s right and against oppression), loving mercy (putting the interests of others before our own), and walking humbly with God (having a devoted and intimate relationship with God).
Thus goodness seems to have to do with right relationships with others, whether other humans or God.
This may not sound earth-shattering but it is. When many of us think about goodness with think about personal piety. We think about things that we do and things that we don’t do…probably more the things we don’t do!
“…Or with Girls Who Do!”
There was a funny saying in Christians circles where I grew up. I went like this: “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew and I don’t go with girls who do!”
And while this little rhyme is funny, it’s also quite sad. Here’s why: it highlights a sobering reality…followers of Jesus tend to be more identified with the things we don’t do and the things we oppose than with the things we actually do and the things we wholeheartedly support.
A quick perusal of the news or Google results will confirm this. Christians tend to get the most attention by abstaining from sex, alcohol (or at least drunkenness), gambling, etc. and from being anti-LBBTQ, -abortion, -premarital sex, etc.
Here’s an honest question in response: Wouldn’t it be better to be know by the things that we do and the things we support? Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant? Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we support protecting the rights of the fragile and forgotten?
Wouldn’t we rather the world know about the goodness that we demonstrate through our actions rather than the personal piety we attempt to build up privately?
Obviously the answers to all of those rhetorical questions is “yes.” It would be amazing if the world could begin to see us differently.
It’s Time for a PR Campaign
So we have a public relations problem and we need to work to solve it. Why? Not because it’s nice or politically correct. No.
We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we want people to come to know Christ and his transformative power.
We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we long for our cities, towns, and villages to be made better thanks to the presence of those who claim Christ.
We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) demands we do so.
But how? One word: GOODNESS!
If we became the kind of people who were so deeply connected to the Spirit that his Micah-6.8 goodness oozed out of us everywhere we went, our reputation in the world would change for the better!
People would begin to see and experience the love of God through us, his ambassadors here on earth.
Friends, this is our duty.
Only one thing remains: Obedience. Will we do it?!?
What do you think? What does goodness mean and how can goodness change the world? Let me know in the comments below!