Posted by: Postordinandy | June 10, 2010

Generosity, goodness & benevolence.

Continuing our tour of the fruit of the spirit, we reach goodness. Or is it generosity. Or maybe benevolence…

The first thing we noticed was that different translations of the bible have pretty different words here, (at least on an initial reading). The bibles we all had immediately to hand all used ‘goodness’, (which seems to be the dominant translation in the more ‘modern’ versions – biblegateway.com, for example, only seems to have this [or immediate variations] in the versions it has access to).

We spoke at some length about the strengths and weaknesses of each. Generosity, and more especially benevolence, can steer us towards thinking principally in monetary terms – although scripture talks clearly about the benevolence of God, meaning his extravagant goodness and generosity towards his creation.

Goodness can too easily steer us to acts of general, non-specific, non-committal kindness, and ‘good’ is often used as a rather weak word – like nice – see goody two-shoes, for example.

But the goodness that Paul speaks of is anything but weak, it is powerful – strong enough to bring the most stubborn of situations to its knees. True spirit-inspired goodness seeks the benefit of others, at no recompense.

We wondered if the three usages could be held in tension. Is generosity a part of goodness, or are they distinct? What is the relationship between passive & active expressions of goodness or benevolence? What about the relationship between the quantity and quality of such fruit? Are we good willingly, or sparingly?

If we’re honest, we can easily kid ourselves that we are generously good, when we are more readily begrudgingly benevolent. God, on the other hand, is consistently and persistently expressive (even aggressive) in his generosity and goodness. We must resist the temptation to give, (of our time, resources, whatever), not simply from what we have left over once we have completed the ‘ordinary things’ of our lives.

Goodness thus becomes a proactive characteristic, rather than a passive one. The fruit of goodness/generosity is one that seeks opportunities to bless others; to develop it one must practice it (as is true of each of the spiritual fruit); to produce it in others, we must demonstrate it in our lives consistently; to receive more, we must be willing to give more. Ultimately, the source of this goodness depends not on us, but on the unlimited and unfailing goodness of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

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