Thursday, January 29, 2009

Growing in Goodness

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
Psalm 23.6

The Dependable Fruit
Goodness is the dependable fruit. It’s simple, hardy, and it complements all other flavors and occasions. Goodness—real goodness—resembles another kind of winter fruit: the citrus, which, though plenteous, is also widely imitated. Like the orange, lemon, and lime, the flavorful appeal of true goodness is easily faked in combination with other behaviors and thoughts. Many attitudes and actions conceal their rotten intentions with false aromas of goodness. (Looking for an example? How about this: unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation is made to smell like “liberation” from tyranny. Fill in the blanks with any number of aggressors and victims.) Yet because there’s so much phony goodness on the loose, it’s incumbent on believers to produce as much authentic goodness as possible. More than ever, the world thirsts for goodness; it can’t and won’t be satisfied with watered-down Tang. It needs full-bodied goodness it can depend on without reservation. We have the potential to bring genuine goodness to life.

Known for Our Fruit
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a daunting statement: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7.19-20) Obviously, the “good fruit” He speaks of is a generalization, but there’s no doubt “goodness” prominently figures among the good fruits. Furthermore, I’m prone to believe a life that doesn’t blossom and bear goodness in the right season is less liable to produce other good fruit. At the very least, it will not be sought after as a source of good fruit. We’re known for our fruit, Jesus says. If we fail to yield goodness, why would anyone be inclined to believe our other fruits—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22)—are any good? (I’m just saying…)

Followers of Christ must be extremely vigilant to make sure they don’t deceive themselves into manufacturing imitation goodness instead of nurturing the real thing. Goodness is an extraction of “godliness”—it contains the essence of our Maker’s nature. It loves unconditionally, forgives without qualification, gives without expectation, and hopes without proof. “Being good,” then, is being—behaving and thinking—like God. Goodness grows, lives, and thrives in the heart. “Acting good” is just acting. It produces nothing of nourishment or lasting value. Truly good fruit can’t be faked. And, as Jesus warns, trees producing anything other than good fruit get cut down and tossed into the fire.

Goodness Follows
“Surely,” David wrote, “goodness and love will follow me.” As we walk with Christ, goodness should—and will—automatically follow. But before we nod in implicit agreement and move on, it’s refreshing to back up a verse or so to observe how David reaches this conclusion with such confidence. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23.5) Here we find a three-step description of growing in goodness.

Step One: God feeds us. He feeds us in the most extravagant, exhibitionistic manner imaginable. He finds us surrounded by enemies—doubters, haters, antagonists, and every other sort of person who feels justified in rejecting us. He pushes them aside and lays a table of His blessings before us. “Here, this is all yours,” He says. “Eat all you want. Take your time,” He says, nodding at our adversaries. “Don’t worry about them. I’ve provided this for you.” Step Two: He pours His Spirit over us, into us, and through us. He anoints us, declaring we’re His children, empowering us to serve His cause, and entitling us to claim His name. Step Three: He gives us more than enough, more than we need… more than we can contain. Goodness follows us like fruit falling from our limbs. And, thank God, His goodness is the real deal.



Goodness is easily imitated; but the world craves the real thing, which we as believers naturally produce.

(Tomorrow: Faithfulness)

4 comments:

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you Tim...very REAL and I love REAL...it seems, and least from my perspective, it´s easy to get caught up in a squishy feeling sort of spiritual existence...not paying close attention to the Aromas has got me into trouble before.

I used part of your post as the featured comment on my Blog today...I hope that´s ok, let me know if I ought change anything or take it down completely...thanks again, Leonardo

Tim said...

Leonardo, it always makes me smile to see/hear from you!

I know what you mean by "squishy" spiritual existence--that sort of be polite kind of goodness that often conceals fear, ego, and disingenuousness. It smells lovely at first, but man-oh-man does it stink!

Haven't checked out your post, but I'm always honored, pleased, and happy when you take something you see here and build on it at your place. Headed there now...

Blessings of joy, peace, and REAL goodness, my friend,

Tim

Annette said...

Tim,

Having the real deal is the only way to happiness. Why is it that we (OK - I) forget that and opt for the easier way...the artificial? It seems to me that our country has forgotten that. We've thought that bigger houses, more TVs and nicer cars would make us feel better. Now, after our greed (and there's plenty of blame to go around) has caught up with us, we HOPEFULLY are going back to the basics, and the real thing - God, love, acceptance, family (chosen or blood).

As always, I needed your words and these thoughts today. Thank you for reminding me!

A

Tim said...

Annette --

I often wonder how have we got this far from "realness." And I think you're right: greed and covetousness are key factors. We've become a culture of appearances rather than riches, surfaces rather than substance. And now, it seems, the hour has come to prove what we're made of. I don't know how well we'll do, given how little of us there is in all we own and claim for ourselves. I pray these hours of reckoning will remind us to seek what's truly good and to present what's truly good in us to the world.

Thanks, as always, for chiming in and pinpointing an aspect of the thought that needs extra light!

Tim