Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Fruits of the Spirit #6: GOODNESS    (2/7/2016 1)

Aunt Agatha sat in her rocking chair, quietly rocking to and fro. She was a good woman; everyone said so. Never said an unkind word, never passed on gossip.

Aunt Agatha knew she was destined to be a good person, because she knew ‘Agatha' meant ‘good'. People who visited her commented on her lovely nature, her kind words and her willingness to talk about the meaning of her visitors' names.

On the table lay a worn Bible—Aunt Agatha read a chapter a day, and went to church every Sunday. The vicar came round every month, and they'd pray together after a cup of tea brought to them in the best china by Uncle Toby.

Uncle Toby didn't join them in their prayers. He used the time to catch up with his ancient neighbour, who struggled a bit at the age of 93.

Aunt Agatha wasn't convinced Uncle Toby was very good. When the hammer hit his thumb instead of the nail, he'd been known to use a strong word or two. He went to church, but he also enjoyed the company of his mates at the pub—whereas his wife never touched a drop. And down at the pub, Uncle Toby enjoyed a game of cards. They didn't really gamble—they just played with matchsticks to make it more interesting—but Aunt Agatha didn't approve.

She didn't approve when the vicar suggested having a raffle at the church fair, either. Needless to say, the vicar withdrew his suggestion. This made Uncle Toby roar with laughter but, being so good, Aunt Agatha just smiled said she hoped the vicar had learnt something.

One Sunday, Aunt Agatha and Uncle Toby were surprised to see a visitor preaching at church. He began by reading about the fruit of the Spirit. He talked about all the Spirit's harvest, and then he spoke about ‘goodness'. Aunt Agatha preened. She'd never said an unkind word, or gambled, or drank alcohol. Surely, he was talking about her!

But then she heard the preacher say, “There are two kinds of goodness. One is negative, and involves not doing things. It's much more important to do good. Giving a helping hand to someone who needs it; sharing a cheery word with someone who might be a bit lonely.”

And Uncle Toby began to think. “That's a bit like me! I enjoy a good laugh with my friends at the pub—especially those who go home to empty houses. I like looking after old Eric next door. He doesn‘t mind when I say something I shouldn't.” He found himself praying: “Thank you, Lord: I didn't know I was being good. I thought it was Agatha who had a monopoly on that.”

Aunt Agatha, on the other hand, was furious. She picked up her handbag and marched out of church. Toby followed rather sheepishly. When he got home, he found his wife flicking through her book of name definitions. “There it is! Agatha: ‘goodness',” she cried. “I knew that silly man was wrong.”

Uncle Toby had never looked at the book before, but he had a quick peep before it was put back on the shelf. “Toby,” he read. “From 'tov', the Hebrew for ‘good'.”

He nearly fell off his chair.

Pray: Father, help me not to do good for the sake of my own sense of self-worth, but for your glory. Instead, help me to see the needs of those around me, and to live out your compassion in my own life. Amen.

Think about: Both Agatha and Toby are Christians, although they have very different styles. Notice that Agatha's goodness is wrapped up in a sense of self-righteousness, whereas Toby had no idea he was doing God's work when he kept his lonely friends company and cared for his elderly neighbour. What does this suggest about the link between goodness and humility?

Challenge: Read a couple of very short passages from the Bible which deal with goodness. The first is from the book of James [NT], and the second is from Titus [NT].

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