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Goodness

“A brother asked one of the elders: What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby? The old man replied: God alone knows what is good. However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbott Nesteros the great, the friend of Abbott Anthony, asking: What good work shall I do? and that he replied: Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.” (Thomas Merton)


“The goodness that is the gift of God, the truth of our existence, is acquired moment-by-moment. I frequently encourage people to “do the next good thing.” We cannot grasp the good as an extended long-range plan. Such things are themselves little more than imaginings. When we study the commandments of Christ, they are quite concrete and specific, admonitions for each “next thing” that confronts us. When the Rich Young Man came to Christ (Matt. 19:16-22), he asked “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ directs him to God, who alone is good. When pressed further, Christ directs him to the commandments. When the young man presses yet more, he hears the ultimate good thing: “Sell what you have. Give it to the poor. And come and follow me.” This example confronts us in each moment of our lives. There is ever the possibility to “sell what we have” – to give away the false structures and inauthentic identities that we cling to (including their material support) and to “give to the poor” – to love the other (neighbor, enemy) who stands before us. “My brother is my life” is the renunciation of every false form of wealth and the acquisition of true existence – life in Christ. The treasure of the Kingdom of God is buried in the life of my brother, my sister.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


“…we might ask whether we are living in the Name of Christ. Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (OSB Colossians 3:17). To conduct ourselves in the Name of Christ means that we speak and act with the divine power and authority of Christ as His disciples and servants. We consciously live as the instruments of the Lord’s peace, goodness, and love.” (Fr. Basil)


“…all of us are called to be witnesses to Christ and our salvation. People will come to a knowledge of Christ and to faith through us, and what they observe in our daily lives. That is why it is so important for each of us to be united to Christ so that we can bear the fruit that others can see and thus come to faith in Christ themselves…Christ relies on us to be His witnesses in order to bring other people to faith in Him. They will know the goodness, love and mercy of the Lord through us and how we behave – a daunting thought for us to be sure.” (Fr. Ted Bobosh)


“Goodness can be spoken about -- indeed, it is the only thing we should speak about. It also comes into being -- it is in fact the only thing that should come into being; for although by nature it is uncreated, yet because of God's love for us it allows itself to come into being through us by grace...God works through all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations to bring good into the world. Goodness even shines in times of sadness and tragedy. Every good gesture that comes in a bad situation is from God. Even every good gesture that comes through a bad person is from God.” (St. Maximos the Confessor,  Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)


“We perform all our behaviors from mixed motives. Virtually all our “good” deeds have an admixture of altruism and self-centeredness. We are aware that we are likely to receive some benefit or acknowledgment from our good works. We can’t avoid a tinge of selfishness. But in praying our experiences we can become aware that the power going out from us to effect good for others is a power beyond us. The power to do good deeds is a power that originates well beyond us. We begin to appreciate that our patience, gentleness, and love come from the Holy Spirit moving within us. As we become aware of the ambiguity of our motives, we can grow in the reality of God working through us.” (Albert S. Rossi, PhD)


“The Church Fathers are very sensitive to the ways in which good deeds undertaken for the Lord can be manipulated by the demons of ambition. Good works initially carried out for worthy, God-pleasing motives may be corrupted by our insidious conceit and pride. Hence, the inner work required to control and cleanse our hearts actually bears more fruit, in the long run, than the controls we place on our outward behaviors. God judged the publican, who “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven,” as worthy because he confessed he was a sinner. Conversely, our Lord refused to justify the Pharisee for his many good works, because his heart was conceited (see Lk 18:10-14).” (Dynamis 10/28/2021)


“The practices of this Pharisee are worthy examples to follow. His good deeds (fasting and giving tithes) are the primary weapons against the passions of lust and greed (adultery and extortion). However, without a humble and repentant heart, these outward practices are worthless and lead only to pride and judgment of others. Note that he prays with himself, for God is absent where there is boasting.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Luke 18:11-12)


“It is not in and of themselves that good deeds have meaning, nor is it the personal effort of doing good that saves man; what saves him is the earnestness with which his will is directed towards good. In forcing himself to do good, one shows that his will seeks virtue. This is what attracts the all-powerful grace of God which, conjoined with one's personal effort, makes him a victor over evil in his own soul, which is the ultimate purpose of unseen warfare.” (Archbishop Averky (Taushev))


“Our business as Christians consists not in increasing the number of our good deeds, but in deriving from them the utmost profit, that is in acquiring the most abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit.” (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)


“…even good deeds, if they are done apart from Christ, are futile. “God’s all-saving will, consists in doing good solely to acquire the Holy Spirit, an eternal, inexhaustible treasure which cannot be rightly valued . . . Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit . . . and mystically illumined by the Triune Unity.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov)


“The Kingdoms of this world” [Matthew 4:8] is not a temptation to fantastic wealth...I believe it is similar to the idylls we whisper to ourselves when Powerball starts edging up on half-a-billion (many whisper at even lower numbers). Give me a million dollars and I imagine a better retirement. Give me ten million and I begin to think of charities. Give me 500 million and I become a force for good in this world – nothing less. The whisper asks, “What manner of good could you do if you had all the power in the world?” I do not think of Christ being tempted with anything that smacked of self-aggrandizement. He doesn’t need to be the richest guy in the world. Strangely, the temptation lies in doing good – and doing good in a powerful way.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


““For goodness sake” means or indicates “For God’s sake.”… Yet to be good for God’s sake is a theological statement worth addressing. Of course it’s used by many people who really don’t think much about the meaning; they just blurt it out as a conventional phrase useful for emphasis. It’s an expression of frustration or affirmation. Literally, however, it states the value of being good for the sake of the God Who created us along with all that exists. By being good we restore in some miniscule manner the basic value of creation. We affirm the Biblical story of creation: “And God saw that it was good,” that phrase which ends the days of creation. “And behold, it was very good.”… Yet to be good is not a simple thing to do…Christ’s demands are far more difficult: Loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, doing good to those who abuse you—all are qualities that transcend goodness. They are virtues of the saints.” (Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky) 


“Any Christian work, in order to be truly in the service of Christ, is grounded in faith, prayer and love. In fact, prayer itself is an active ministry. This is what distinguishes Christian service from secular social work. When we advocate lay ministry, we are not advocating the frenetic, often self-serving activity of do-gooders, who feel justified by their sacrifice of time as the pharisee felt justified by his adherence to the law…we must resist the temptation to equate sanctity with religious observance, or faith with involvement, or salvation with good works alone. It is not only the morsel of bread which we give that nourishes the hungry man - because we believe that man does not live by bread alone and that he is more than his stomach - but it is the love of Christ which is being manifested by the act of feeding that man which indeed nourishes his weary soul and may bring him to repentance and salvation.” (Denise Jillions)


“An ever present yet subtle temptation is to do good on our own terms. In The Lord of the Rings, the wizard Gandalf, who was essentially an incarnate angel sent to do the will of God and help those who chose to resist and fight evil, refused to take the One Ring when it was offered to him because he said that he would be tempted to do good with it. But the power of the One Ring was to dominate the wills of others; so what would begin with good intent would end in maniacal self-will. This illustrates a fundamental problem of seeking to do good on our own terms versus letting it be a natural outgrowth of our relationship and union with God. Our human will is too damaged to sustain goodness apart from God, and what starts off as good intent becomes corrupted.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“God works through all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations to bring good into the world. Goodness even shines in times of sadness and tragedy. Every good gesture that comes in a bad situation is from God. Even every good gesture that comes through a bad person is from God.” (Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)

“You can never be “good enough” on your own to please God. Only the Holy Spirit has what it takes to give us what it takes to please God: His essential goodness reproduced in us.” (Lloyd John Ogilvie)

“As people who have light from the Lord, our actions should reflect our faith...so that we will reflect God’s goodness to others. Jesus stressed this truth in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:15-16).” (Life Application Study Bible, Ephesians 5:8)

“Goodness can be spoken about -- indeed, it is the only thing we should speak about. It also comes into being -- it is in fact the only thing that should come into being; for although by nature it is uncreated, yet because of God's love for us it allows itself to come into being through us by grace...” (St. Maximos the Confessor)

“...seeing examples of great beauty and extraordinary goodness bypasses our rational faculties and strikes the heart. We immediately respond to beauty and goodness and desire what they reveal.” (Rod Dreher)


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