But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB)
In 1886, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson published a novella that dealt with the idea that personalities affect people and their ability to choose between good and evil. The novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, tells the story of a doctor who experiments with a serum that transforms his personality. The novella had such a great impact that the term “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a part of the English language, referring to a person who has a two-sided personality, one side being good while the other is evil.
In our lives, we may often find ourselves having to make a choice between that which is good and that which is evil. This is a choice that has been put before people ever since Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of our fallen human nature, it is not a choice that we are able to make on our own. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, and this is why the sixth fruit of the Spirit is goodness. In Galatians 5:22, the Greek word that is translated as “goodness” is agathōsynē. This word comes from the Greek word agathos, meaning “good.” It refers to the quality of a person who is not just good but also exhibits a moral excellence, sowing goodness where others may sow evil.
Goodness in people is not a quality that is passive. Rather, it is active, making a deliberate choice of right over wrong, of good over evil. It requires an active decision to resist evil, to resist that which is immoral, and choose good, following that which is moral. Scripture tells us that it is important for those who serve God, those who choose to follow His ways, to actively seek good over evil and to hate evil while loving good (Amos 5:14-15). As with all of the other fruit, goodness is also one of the attributes of God. His goodness is praised in many psalms, such as Psalm 34, which tells us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8, NASB).
Goodness in a believer is not based on outward behavior. Even an evil person may sometimes seem to be good outwardly. Goodness is a matter of the heart. Scripture says that a person who is evil is evil within (Genesis 6:5; Mark 7:14-23). When it comes to goodness, in a person who truly is good, the outward good behavior reflects a good heart (Matthew 12:33-35). As we follow Christ and walk with the Spirit, our hearts will produce the goodness that all believers should desire.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.