What the Bible says about Chrestotes
(From Forerunner Commentary)
It is through the richness of God's goodness that we find repentance. "Goodness" here is from the Greek word chrestotes, which signifies more than goodness as a quality—it is goodness in righteous action, goodness expressing itself in deeds.
God's goodness is closely associated with "kindness." Chrestotes describes the kindlier aspects of goodness. From this we can understand that, through God's kind goodness, He works with us carefully and patiently to bring us to repentance. Sometimes He firmly corrects us if we are especially hardheaded about overcoming a problem, or He may only need to reveal the problem to us. Either way, our powerful but kind God provides His Holy Spirit to help us to overcome.
Martin G. Collins
Fear the Lord's Goodness!
Chrestotes in Greek and hesed in Hebrew are most frequently translated into the English word "kindness." Chrestotes, according to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, p. 1482, means
benignity, kindness, usefulness. It often occurs with philanthropy; forbearance, and is the opposite of severity or cutting something short and quickly. . . . Chrestotes is translated "good," "kindness," "gentleness." It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere. . . . The word is descriptive of one's disposition and does not necessarily entail acts of goodness.
William Barclay, in The Daily Bible Study Series on Galatians 5:22, p. 51, adds that the Rheims Version translates chrestotes in II Corinthians 6:6 as "sweetness"; that Christ describes His yoke in Matthew 11:30 as chrestos, meaning that it does not chafe; and that the Greeks would describe wine as chrestos, that is, mellow. With these illustrations, it becomes clear that this word emphasizes the spirit in which an act is done.
Hesed is more complex, an especially rich word that is at times translated as "lovingkindness," "mercy," "love," "grace," and even "loyalty" and "devotion" in some modern versions. Some modern critics argue that the word suggests loyalty, something given because of obligation, because the writers sometimes use it in a context with a covenant relationship, such as God's covenant with Israel or a marriage.
Other scholars review the same material and agree that relationships are present (love almost necessitates a subject-object relation), but assert that hesed (love, mercy, kindness, etc.) is freely given. Freedom of decision to give is essential. The help given by the person showing mercy or kindness is done freely. This seems to be the correct usage because the other can reduce love, mercy, and kindness to a merely obligatory, mechanical, legal act rather than an act of free-moral agency of the heart.
A Pharisee could meet the legal demands of a covenant obligation, but the New Covenant requires a spirit considerably higher (Matthew 5:20). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 306, quotes Hebrew scholar Dom Rembert Sorg as writing that hesed is "really the Old Testament reflex [reflected image, likeness, or reproduction] of 'God is love.'"
God's love is hardly just obligatory, given all the expressions of feeling for Israel and the church accounted to Him in the Scriptures. Thus these two words, rich in meaning and usage, clearly reveal that kindness is an active quality God greatly desires His children to exhibit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
Good is a very versatile word with many uses in everyday English. It is used as a noun, adjective, and adverb and is the root of the word "goodness." The common idea in almost all of its uses is that it suggests a desirable quality, something commendable, reliable, welcome, enjoyable, beneficent, kind, noble, admirable, propitious, exemplary, and very much welcome. In the word "goodness," the inner qualities of virtue, excellence of character, morality, and attitude that we see in a person's behavior come to the fore.
The Hebrew and Greek uses are similar, but the Hebrew, like the English, has a broader application. The Greek word, agathosune, at first glance seems very similar to chrestotes ("kindness"). However, closer examination of its use in the Scriptures reveals a word indicating zealous activity in doing good. Kindness or gentleness (chrestotes) is more passive.
William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Galatians says of these two words:
It [agathosune] is the widest word for goodness; it is defined as "virtue equipped at every point." What is the difference? Agathosune might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes can only help. Trench says that Jesus showed agathosune when He cleansed the Temple and drove out those who were making it a bazaar; but He showed chrestotes when He was kind to the sinning woman who anointed His feet. The Christian needs that goodness which at the same time can be kind and strong. (p. 51)
Agathosune is therefore active—even aggressive—goodness. The English word "goodness" includes many pleasing qualities whereas the Greek word indicates one particular quality. It is more than an excellence of character; it is character energized, expressing itself in active good. Agathosune is goodness, but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. Thus God can correct, sometimes very severely, and it is goodness in action. Thus parents can correct their child, and it is good because it helps produce a responsible adult.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness
The Greek word chrestotes is translated "kindness" in the NKJV and "gentleness" in the AV and RV. Chrestotes denotes goodness of heart, kindness, graciousness, and includes gentleness. Kindness has many synonyms: benevolence, generosity, mercy, charity, philanthropy, sympathy, compassion, tenderheartedness, friendliness, etc. Kindness is a major attribute of moral excellence and is intricately entwined with the other fruit of the Spirit. Chrestotes is translated as "goodness" in Romans 2:4 and 11:22 (3 times), so chrestotes is love in tender action, a quality of goodness, and certainly requires gentleness in word and action.
Martin G. Collins
An American cliché runs, "Charity begins at home." Unfortunately, the fellowship of a local congregation is frequently the most difficult place to do good in the right spirit. This may be partly because of such misguided expectations that Christians "shouldn't have such problems," "shouldn't be causing such offenses," "should know better than that," or many other accusations about character and personality flaws that we might make.
We draw back and become weary for many reasons that appear justified: There is so much opposition to good plans for doing things. There is so much to do and, it seems, so few to do it. There are so many calls upon our time in other legitimate areas. There is all too often so much ingratitude among those whom we try to help that we become disheartened.
God has called the weak of this world, and we have brought our character weaknesses and odd personality traits with us into the church. We see people in the church who are so depressed it seems they never have a bright day. Others have cups overflowing with troubles, and they want to dump on any willing to listen. The sick, poor, foolish, weak, cynical, stubborn, critical, cutting, arrogant, aggressive, vain, discouraged, suspicious, pompous, hypocritical, and sarcastic are in every congregation. As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and they is us!"
But God calls upon all of us to "strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12). We are to open our hearts wide in listening and generously give the benefit of knowledge, understanding, comfort, exhortation, inspiration, hope, and encouragement from our experiences, especially to those in the church. At the proper time, we can give correction in meekness, considering our own weaknesses. He commands us to open our hands wide to the poor, and He says it will be as though we are loaning the money to Him. We are to "be there" for them, not as a "know-it-all," but as a "maybe-this-will-help."
Can we not be kinder in our evaluation of another's character? If we hear a derogatory story about a brother or sister, should we not ask ourselves, "If someone heard this story about me, would I not want him to disbelieve it until he searched it out and made quite sure that it was true?" Is there not as much wickedness in believing a lie as in telling one? If we are always ready to believe derogatory stories about others, what does that say about our minds? That is hardly a kind attitude described by chrestotes, the Greek word for kindness. Will such an attitude produce unity, peace, and warm, loving fellowship?
No slanderers would exist among us if no one received or believed slander, for when there is no demand for an article, no one will produce it. If we will not believe evil reports, the discouraged talebearer will leave off his evil practice or take it elsewhere.
What if we are compelled by the facts to believe the report? A kind person shows his kindness by not repeating it. He will reason to himself, "Though this thing is true, and I am very sorry, why should I spread it to others?" It is the Christian's responsibility not to expose the brother to further disgrace unless it be absolutely needful—as sometimes it is—but always to deal with the brother in the most gentle, kindest manner possible. As the Golden Rule is commonly recited, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
God's instruction here is that "as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men." Regardless of their station in life, regardless of whether they are in the church, this high requirement stands fast. His only modification is that our brethren in the church have a higher claim on our resources. A teaching we can glean from the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that the Samaritan did not inquire whether the wounded man was "one of his own." The only criterion was that he needed an act of kindness performed for him in his desperately weakened situation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness