Producing “Every Sort of Goodness”
“The fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness.”—EPHESIANS 5:9.
1, 2. What two groups have existed since ancient times, and how different are their situations today?
AFTER the rebellion in Eden, some six thousand years ago, and again after the Flood of Noah’s day, mankind divided into two groups, or organizations, one made up of those who strove to serve Jehovah, the other of those who followed Satan. Do these organizations still exist? Certainly they do! The prophet Isaiah mentioned these two groups and foretold their condition in our time: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.”—Isaiah 60:1, 2.
2 Yes, the difference between these two organizations is as great as that between darkness and light. And just as a beam of light will attract a man lost in the darkness, so light from Jehovah shining in this dark world has attracted millions of righthearted ones to God’s organization. As Isaiah went on to say: “Nations [other sheep] will certainly go to your light, and kings [anointed Kingdom heirs] to the brightness of your shining forth.”—Isaiah 60:3.
3. In what ways do Christians display the glory of Jehovah?
3 How do Jehovah’s people display the glory of Jehovah? For one thing, they preach the good news of God’s established, heavenly Kingdom. (Mark 13:10) But more than that, they imitate Jehovah, the prime example of goodness, and thus by their conduct attract meek ones to the light. (Ephesians 5:1) Paul said: “You were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light.” He continued: “The fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth. Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness.” (Ephesians 5:8-11) What did Paul mean by “every sort of goodness”?
4. What is goodness, and how is it seen in a Christian?
4 As our previous article showed, goodness is the quality or state of moral excellence, virtue. Jesus said that only Jehovah is good in the absolute sense. (Mark 10:18) Nevertheless, a Christian can imitate Jehovah by cultivating goodness as a fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Commenting on a·ga·thosʹ, the Greek word for “good,” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says, “[It] describes that which, being good in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect.” A Christian cultivating goodness will therefore both be good and do good. (Compare Deuteronomy 12:28.) He will also avoid things that are opposed to goodness, “the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness.” The different ways that a Christian can manifest goodness in his conduct are the ‘sorts of goodness’ that Paul mentioned. What are some of these?
“Keep Doing Good”
5. What is one sort of goodness, and why should a Christian cultivate it?
5 Paul referred to one of these in his letter to the Romans. Speaking of subjection to “the superior authorities,” he said: “Do you, then, want to have no fear of the authority? Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it.” The “good” he refers to is obedience to the laws and arrangements of secular authorities. Why should a Christian be subject to these? So as to avoid unnecessary conflict with the authorities, thus risking punishment and—more important—in order to preserve a clean conscience before God. (Romans 13:1-7) While preserving his primary obedience to Jehovah, a Christian ‘honors the king,’ not rebelling against authorities that Jehovah God allows to exist. (1 Peter 2:13-17) In this way, Christians are good neighbors, good citizens, and good examples.
Considerate of Others
6. (a) What is another aspect of goodness? (b) Who are mentioned in the Bible as deserving of our consideration?
6 Jehovah’s goodness is displayed in his providing for all earth’s inhabitants “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons.” This results in a ‘fullness of food and good cheer’ and shows him to be a truly considerate God. (Acts 14:17) We can imitate him in this respect by showing consideration for others in small and large ways. For whom, specifically? Paul refers in particular to the elders, “those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you.” He urges Christians to give these “more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13) How can we do this? By cooperating fully with them—for example, by sharing in necessary work in the Kingdom Hall. While always feeling free to approach the elders for help when needed, we should not be unreasonably demanding. Rather, in whatever ways we can, we try to lighten the load of these hardworking shepherds, many of whom have family responsibilities in addition to their congregation duties.
7. In what ways can we show consideration for the elderly?
7 The physically old also deserve our consideration. A specific commandment of the Mosaic Law was: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man, and you must be in fear of your God. I am Jehovah.” (Leviticus 19:32) How can this consideration be shown? Younger ones may wish to volunteer to help them with shopping or with other chores. The elders can considerately check to see if any older ones need help to attend meetings. At assemblies, young, vigorous individuals will avoid jostling slower-moving older ones in an impatient attempt to pass, and they will be patient if an elderly one is a little slow getting seated or getting food.
8. How may we show consideration to another deserving group singled out in the Bible?
8 The psalmist mentions another group needing consideration: “Happy is anyone acting with consideration toward the lowly one.” (Psalm 41:1) It may be easy to be considerate of the prominent or the wealthy, but what of the lowly or the poor? The Bible writer James indicated that showing equal consideration to these is a test of our righteousness and Christian love. May we pass this test by being thoughtful toward all regardless of their circumstances.—Philippians 2:3, 4; James 2:2-4, 8, 9.
“Continue Becoming Merciful”
9, 10. Why should Christians be merciful, and how can this sort of goodness be shown?
9 A further sort of goodness is seen in some of Jesus’ parables. In one of these, Jesus told of a Samaritan who came across a man who had been robbed, badly beaten, and left lying on the road. A Levite and a priest had walked by the injured man, refusing to help him. But the Samaritan stopped and gave him succor, doing more than may have been reasonably expected. The story is often called the parable of the Good Samaritan. What sort of goodness did the Samaritan manifest? Mercy. When Jesus asked his listener to identify who proved to be the neighbor of the wounded man, the correct answer was given: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.”—Luke 10:37.
10 Merciful Christians imitate Jehovah, of whom Moses said to the Israelites: “Jehovah your God is a merciful God. He will not desert you or bring you to ruin or forget the covenant of your forefathers that he swore to them.” (Deuteronomy 4:31) Jesus showed how God’s mercy should affect us: “Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) How can we show mercy? As Jesus’ parable indicated, one way is to be ready to help our fellow, even if it involves risk or inconvenience. A good person will not ignore the suffering of his brother if he is in a position to do something about it.—James 2:15, 16.
11, 12. According to Jesus’ parable of the slaves, what does mercy include, and how can we manifest this today?
11 Another of Jesus’ parables showed that merciful goodness includes a readiness to forgive others. He told of a slave who owed his master ten thousand talents. Unable to pay, the slave begged for mercy, and his master kindly forgave that huge debt of 60,000,000 denarii. But the slave went off and found another slave who owed him only a hundred denarii. The forgiven slave mercilessly threw the debtor into prison until he could pay. Clearly, the merciless slave was not a good man, and when the master heard what had happened, he called him to account.—Matthew 18:23-35.
12 We are in a situation similar to that of the forgiven slave. On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, Jehovah has forgiven a huge debt of sin on our account. Surely, then, we should be ready to forgive others. Jesus said that we should be ready to forgive “up to seventy-seven times,” without limit. (Matthew 5:7; 6:12, 14, 15; 18:21, 22) Hence, a merciful Christian will not carry a grudge. He will not harbor resentment or refuse to talk to a fellow Christian because of bad feelings. Such lack of mercy is not a mark of Christian goodness.
Generous and Hospitable
13. What else does goodness include?
13 Goodness is manifested also by generosity and hospitality. On one occasion a young man came to Jesus for counsel. He said: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” Jesus told him that he should observe God’s commandments continually. Yes, obedience to Jehovah’s commands is an aspect of goodness. The young man thought he was already doing this as best he could. Clearly, to his neighbors he already seemed to be a good person, yet he felt he lacked something. So Jesus said: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matthew 19:16-22) The young man went away grieved. He was very wealthy. If he had followed Jesus’ counsel, he would have shown that he was not materialistic. And he would have performed a good act of truly selfless generosity.
14. What fine counsel did both Jehovah and Jesus give regarding generosity?
14 Jehovah urged the Israelites to be generous. For example, we read: “You should by all means give to [your poverty-stricken neighbor], and your heart should not be stingy in your giving to him, because on this account Jehovah your God will bless you in every deed of yours and in every undertaking of yours.” (Deuteronomy 15:10; Proverbs 11:25) Jesus Christ personally urged generosity: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.” (Luke 6:38) Moreover, Jesus was personally very generous. On one occasion, he had set aside time to rest a little. Crowds found out where he was and came to him. Jesus generously forgot about resting and expended himself in behalf of the crowd. Later, he showed outstanding hospitality in providing food for that large crowd.—Mark 6:30-44.
15. How did Jesus’ disciples set an excellent example in displaying generosity?
15 Faithful to the counsel of Jehovah and of Jesus, many of Jesus’ disciples were notably generous and hospitable. In the first days of the Christian congregation, a large number of those who had come to celebrate Pentecost in 33 C.E. heard the preaching of the apostles and became believers. Staying on after the feast in order to learn more, they ran low on provisions. Therefore, local believers sold their property and contributed the money to sustain their new brothers so that these could become better established in the faith. What generosity!—Acts 4:32-35; see also Acts 16:15; Romans 15:26.
16. Name some of the ways that we today can be hospitable and generous.
16 Today, a similar Christlike generosity is seen when Christians contribute time and money to their local congregations and to the worldwide preaching work. It is evidenced when they come to the relief of brothers suffering from natural disaster or war. It is manifested when the circuit overseer is cared for during his regular visit. Or when “fatherless boys” (and fatherless girls) are generously invited to share in recreation and family Bible studies with other Christian families, this too is hospitality, a manifestation of Christian goodness.—Psalm 68:5.
Telling the Truth
17. Why is truthfulness a challenge today?
17 When Paul described the fruitage of the light, he linked goodness with righteousness and truth, and it would be correct to say that truthfulness is another sort of goodness. Good people do not tell lies. Nevertheless, telling the truth is a special challenge today when lying is so prevalent. Many individuals lie when they fill out their tax returns. Employees lie about the work they do. Students lyingly cheat in their lessons and exams. Businessmen lie when setting up deals. Children lie to escape punishment. Malicious gossipers lyingly ruin the reputations of others.
18. How does Jehovah view liars?
18 Lying is repugnant to Jehovah. Among the ‘seven things’ that he hates are “a false tongue” and “a false witness that launches forth lies.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) “All the liars” are listed among the cowards, the murderers, and the fornicators, who will have no place in God’s new world. (Revelation 21:8) Further, the proverb tells us: “The one walking in his uprightness is fearing Jehovah, but the one crooked in his ways is despising Him.” (Proverbs 14:2) A liar is crooked in his ways. Hence, a liar gives evidence of despising Jehovah. What a terrible thought! Let us always tell the truth, even if it leads to our being disciplined or losing out financially. (Proverbs 16:6; Ephesians 4:25) Those who tell the truth imitate Jehovah, “the God of truth.”—Psalm 31:5.
19. What is sometimes seen in the world, reflecting credit on the Creator?
19 These are just a few of the ‘sorts’ of goodness that a Christian should cultivate. It is true that people in the world manifest goodness to a degree. Some are hospitable, for example, and others are merciful. Indeed, what made the parable of the Good Samaritan so remarkable was that Jesus told of a non-Jew who showed mercy when elders in the Jewish congregation did not. It is indeed a tribute to man’s Creator that such traits still appear naturally in some humans even after six thousand years of imperfection.
20, 21. (a) Why is Christian goodness different from any goodness we may see in people of the world? (b) How can a Christian cultivate goodness, and why should we be diligent to do so?
20 Nevertheless, for Christians goodness is more than just a quality that they might or might not possess. It is a quality they must cultivate in all its aspects, since they have to be imitators of God. How is this possible? The Bible tells us that we can learn goodness. “Teach me goodness,” the psalmist prayed to God. How? He continued: “For in your commandments I have exercised faith.” He added: “You are good and are doing good. Teach me your regulations.”—Psalm 119:66, 68.
21 Yes, if we learn Jehovah’s commandments and obey them, we will cultivate goodness. Always remember that goodness is a fruit of the spirit. If we seek Jehovah’s spirit through prayer, association, and Bible study, then we will surely be helped to cultivate this quality. Moreover, goodness is powerful. It can even conquer evil. (Romans 12:21) How vital it is, then, that we do good to all, especially to our Christian brothers. (Galatians 6:10) If we do so, we will be among those who enjoy the “glory and honor and peace” that is promised for “everyone who works what is good.”—Romans 2:6-11.
Can You Answer?
□ How can we keep doing good with respect to the superior authorities?
□ Who, among others, are deserving of our consideration?
□ In what ways does mercy manifest itself?
□ What acts of generosity and hospitality mark Christians today?
□ How can goodness be cultivated?
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Consideration for others is an aspect of goodness
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As the Great Teacher, Jesus gave generously of himself