“You good?” Have you ever said that to someone?
Maybe a person appears to be coughing or choking, and as they struggle to maintain composure, we say, “You good?” After they regain composure, they respond, “It’s all good.”
Or maybe a person has a particularly emotional reaction to a situation, a reaction that we think is inappropriate or overboard, and we say to them, with a bit of sarcasm, “You good?” What we really mean when we say that is, “You just had a big reaction to that situation, and we’re not sure you’re totally okay.” We can use the phrase, “You good?” almost in a mocking way. Those phrases are a contemporary slangy way of talking about being okay.
“Good” is a word we use in many situations, and it has a variety of definitions. If we are loaning someone money, might ask them if they are truly capable of paying back the loan, and they will say with urgency and emotion, “Seriously, I promise you, I am good for it.” Good? What they mean is that they intend to keep their promise. They are making a commitment that they will pay the money back. We should trust them. Maybe they have the money in another account, or maybe they will work to pay off the loan. Either way, they are good for it.
Often we use the word “good” when we say that a person is good at something. They are a good soccer player. They are a good piano player, a good artist, a good cook, a good book, a good businessman. Or we eat a meal that is delicious and satisfying, and we say, “That was soooooo good!” We use the adjective “good” in this way for so many things. What we mean is that the thing we are referring to is of a high quality. It is good.
This week we are talking about goodness. But we are not talking about any of the aspects of the word that I have described so far. What is goodness?
In Galatians 5:22-23 we read the list of qualities called the Fruit of the Spirit. We have been studying each quality in this list, one quality per week. Last week we studied kindness, and I mentioned that kindness, goodness and gentleness are very similar. Next week we’ll study gentleness, and for those of you who are reading the list in your Bible, you might be wondering, “What about faithfulness? Are we skipping that?” No, we are not skipping faithfulness. We’ll get to it in a few weeks. Because kindness, goodness and gentleness are so similar, we’re studying them one right after the other. So this week, we turn our attention to goodness. What is unique about goodness?
Goodness refers to behavior. The opposite of good is bad. So if we want to learn what good behavior looks like, we can first take a look at what it is not. Good behavior is not bad behavior. Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 describes bad behavior. He calls bad behavior, “the acts of the sinful nature.” Scan through his list of bad behaviors, and familiarize yourself with it. People who are growing goodness in their lives will stop doing the actions Paul lists.
Paul did not intend to write a comprehensive list of sinful actions. He was just illustrating what is actually a rather short list when you think about how many bad things he could have included. So why did he pick those specific acts? Maybe Paul heard about some wrong actions that were happening in the Christian communities there in the region of Galatia. I suspect he also included actions in his list that were prevalent in the Greco-Roman Empire, actions that were not in line with God’s heart. The principle is clear: if you are growing goodness, you will prune badness out of your life. Pruning is an action of removing something. We use the word pruning mostly in the realm of caring fruit trees. We want those trees to produce good fruit. The analogy, as we will see carries over to disciples of Jesus.
What wrong actions do you need to cut out of your life? Do you have someone in your life who can speak honestly to you about this pruning? Ask them.