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The Way

    by Kevin Pauley

Being Good's Not Good Enough
Date Posted: May 24, 2022

In the same way, every good (agathon) tree produces good (kalos) fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good (agathon) tree can't produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good (kalos) fruit. Every tree that doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. - Matthew 7:17-19 HCSB

In the verses above, I’ve noted two different Greek words that are both translated “good” into English. Now these two words can be used as synonyms for each other but, as in all languages, two different words may be equal but not equivalent. The different words came about because a slightly different concept is at the root of the particular linguistic evolution of each.

In this case, if you compare “agathos” and “kalos”, it becomes apparent that “agathos” deals with the core of the tree, its essential goodness, and that “kalos” deals with the resulting fruit. One cannot develop good outward traits without the essential core and one cannot argue for one’s intrinsic goodness without demonstrating outward, apparent works. As our Master’s brother James said, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”[1]

God’s law is both kalos and agathos. "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good (kalos) life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom...But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good (agathon) fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity."[2] In other words, Adonai’s law is both intrinsically good and fully capable of empowering those who obey it to produce righteous lives.

Kalos cannot be pitted against agathos. The two march hand in hand. This is why Yeshua could categorically instruct us to make judgment calls on the character and spirituality of those who come before us based on their “fruit”.

However, what I’d like to focus on today is the fact that being agathos is not good enough. If being agathos were good enough, we would not be required to produce “kalos”, fruit. You see “kalos” also carries the connotation of being “winsome and lovely”. So it’s not good enough to be good. Love must also be attractive.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”[3] Every time we are rude, overly blunt or uncaring in our speech or mannerisms, we waste God’s time as we either must try to make it right or someone else must try to overcome the bad impression we have left in order to bring the offended person closer to Christ.

So as we seek to be agathos, let us do it in such a manner as to be kalos as well - winsome and lovely - so that we may be worthy ambassadors of our Lord.


[1] James 2:26

[2] James 3:13,17

[3] Colossians 4:5-6

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Biography Information:
I make no claim of superior wisdom or originality. I am a student, just like everyone else. My goal in writing is to simply share whatever God chooses to teach me (many times by my children or parishioners) on any given day. I hope the devotionals are a blessing to you.

Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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