Good Good Good

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. What does that mean? “Good” is a broad concept with various nuances. Koinē Greek had three adjectives that we often trans­late “good,” each focusing on a different aspect of goodness.

Kalos is “good” in the sense of “beautiful, pleas­ing.” “The praise team did a good job this morning”— their music was harmonious and beautiful. Eight times in Genesis 1 God sees that what he has created is kalos —“good” or “beautiful.” The Lord countered criticism levelled against one who anointed his feet by retorting, “Why do you bother the woman? She has done a good deed to Me.” Translators ­divide on whether to render kalos in this verse beautiful or good.

Chrēstos, at its root, means good for the purpose for which it was intended, useful. Were I to say, “This is a good rake,” my assessment would imply nothing about the rake’s beauty or moral­ity, only that it is well- designed and -manufactured. After his conversion, the slave Onesimus stopped being achrēstos (useless), but became euchrēstos (quite useful). Chrēstos morphs into the idea of being gentle or kind. When the Lord says, “My yoke is chrēstos,” we picture one so well-designed that it comfortably fits, and hence does not chafe. The yoke is so well-suited to its intended purpose that it is easy to bear—kind to its wearer.

Agathos is good in the sense of morally good. “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me agathos? No one is agathos except God alone.” “Returning that money you found was a good thing to do.” “Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, righteousness, and truth.”

It would not hurt if God helped us become good in all three senses—beautiful in character; useful; moral. Paul uses two of these three adjectives (in their related noun forms) to describe the fruit of the Spirit. Which two?

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