The word goodness (agathosune, in Galatians 5:22) implies any or all actions done for the good of another. The world's definition and that of Jehovah's for goodness, however, lie in stark contrast. To the world, goodness might be witnessed in a doctor helping a young woman rid herself of an unwanted pregnancy, a business providing marital benefits to same sex couples, or a legislator vying for the legalization of illicit drugs or physician-assisted suicides.
As those who love Christ, we understand that any act of goodness must be carefully confined to that which our Lord describes as such within the pages of His word. "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10). "That in us you might learn not to exceed what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). Seeing how the world is horribly misguided and mistaken, might our definition of what is good be skewed sometimes as well?
Many saints, at times, give goodness a rather difficult construction. Some see goodness as being "merciful" to those who are weak. Thus, they overlook such "minor infractions" as gambling and playing the lottery, the recreational use of wine coolers and other alcoholic beverages, the wearing of abbreviated attire in public including the assembly, and the occasional acceptance of adulterous marriages into the local church. Additionally, some preachers judge goodness as "accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative" in preaching the gospel. This is often coupled with the refusal of exposing brotherhood errorists by name. Exceptions, however, are made when these brethren name the names of "those who name names." Were Paul, John and Jude not practicing goodness in seeking the best interests of others when they exposed fellow brethren for their error (Galatians 2:11-13; Philippians 3:2; 4:2; 1 Timothy 2:20; 2 Timothy 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:10,14; Titus 1:10,11; 1 John 2:18,19; 3 John 9; Jude 4; Revelation 2:15,20)?
To many, exposing error (steering the lost aright) is not seen as goodness. In fact, those of us who do such are often labeled as raw, rank, rash, rude, railing, revolting, rancorous and irreligious. In this regard, notice what W.E. Vine said about goodness (agathosune) used in Galatians 5:22 in contrast to goodness (chrestotes) used elsewhere in scripture:
"Trench, following Jerome, distinguishes between chrestotes and agathosune in that the former describes the kindlier aspects of goodness, the latter includes also the sterner qualities by which doing good to others is not necessarily by gentle means. He illustrates the latter by the act of Christ in cleansing the temple, Matthew 21:12,13, and in denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees, 23:13-29; but chrestotes by His dealings with the penitent woman, Luke 7:37-50. Lightfoot regards chrestotes as a kindly disposition towards others; agathosune as a kindly activity on their behalf."
This is how Paul in Romans 15:14 can describe agathosune as admonishing or warning another. "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another." In describing this admonition, R.L, Whiteside in his commentary on Romans stated, "Spiritually gifted men in that church would be able to teach and admonish the weak." Thus, Paul views turning the weak from the error of their way as goodness. Whiteside then hastens to add, "A preacher who scolds and criticises all the time never brings out the best that is in men."
Let us not, then, be misunderstood as arguing that acts of goodness are limited to those exercises that have an inherently negative element to them. Mike Willis, in his commentary on Galatians, speaking on goodness says,
"William Barclay sees a different contrast between the two terms. He distinguishes the word agathosune from 'justice,' which gives one what is due. He said, 'Justice, they say, is the quality which gives a man what is due to him; goodness is the quality which is out to do far more than that, and which desires to give a man all that is to his benefit and his help. The man who is just sticks to the letter of his bond; the man who is good goes far beyond it' (105)."
Thus, in all we do, let us labor for the spiritual beneficence of all men. A kind word, the touch of a hand, a financial contribution, an ear to the troubled soul, a card of encouragement or sympathy, or a word of warning or carefully constructed criticism are all encompassed in the goodness of our glorious God and Saviour, Jesus the Christ.