December 30, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Romans 15:14 (NRSV)
I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.
According to Charles Dickens, after Scrooge’s supernatural transformation, he “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.” Scrooge’s goodness is reminiscent of what we read in one of Paul’s letters, when he said that the Roman Christians were “full of goodness.” We will keep Christmas well when we allow God to fill us with his goodness so that we might share it with others.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Keeping Christmas Well.
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This devotion concludes our series inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In the next couple of days, Life for Leaders will reflect on the end of a year and the beginning of a new year. Then, in 2021, we’ll return to the Gospel of Luke to continue our devotional walk through this amazing book.
As Charles Dickens’s “Ghostly little book” draws to a close, Ebenezer Scrooge was a changed man. No longer a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,” he enjoyed life, gave generously, and treated his employee Bob Cratchit justly. Moreover, Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” He “knew how to keep Christmas well,” not just during the holiday season, but also throughout the year.
The example of Scrooge encourages us to keep Christmas well by being “full of goodness.” This particular phrase comes from the Apostle Paul, however, not Charles Dickens. In Romans 15:14 we read, “I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” The Greek word translated as “goodness” (agathosune) refers to the “positive moral quality characterized especially by interest in the welfare of others,” according to the standard Greek-English lexicon. The Greek word can also be translated as “kindness” or “generosity,” though most English translations prefer “full of goodness” in Romans 15:14.
Can you and I really be full of goodness? I expect some of us hear echoes of Psalm 14:3 ringing in our memories: “There is no one who does good, no, not one.” This judgment reminds us that goodness is not inherent to us but, rather, something that comes as a result of God’s work and presence in us. Moreover, as Romans 15:14 suggests, our goodness is inextricable from our being “filled with all knowledge,” that is, the knowledge of God, his gospel, and all that follows from it. This is reinforced by Ephesians 5:8-9: “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good (agathosune) and right and true.”
The more we know God and his truth, the more we allow God’s light to flood our lives, the more we live in community with other believers so that we might “instruct one another” (Romans 15:14), the more God’s goodness will fill our hearts and our actions. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we will keep Christmas well by being a good friend, a good boss, and a good man or woman. The incarnation of the Word of God, which we celebrate at Christmastime, will motivate and enable us to be different people, not just for a day or week in December, but throughout the whole year.
Scrooge learned to keep Christmas well, “if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” As we conclude this devotional series, let’s hear again from Charles Dickens: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
Can you think of people in your life whom you might describe as being “full of goodness”? What traits or behaviors do you associate with goodness?
Can you see evidence of God’s work in you, helping you to grow in goodness? In what aspects of your life to you see this?
If you were to keep Christmas well today, what one thing might you do that you would not do otherwise?
Do something today to keep Christmas well.
Gracious God, thank you for the birth of Christ, the Incarnation of the Word. Thank you for being present with us in Jesus, for entering into our reality, for making yourself known to us, for setting the stage for our transformation.
Help us, dear Lord, to keep Christmas well. Help us to live in light of the Incarnation not just today but every day of the year. By your Spirit, may your goodness fill us, so that we might walk in the good works you have prepared for us. Shine your light upon us, Lord, so that we might reflect your brilliance into the world.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Welcoming Builds up the Community (Romans 14:19–15:33)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is the Executive Director of Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he is the principal writer of Life for Leaders and the program lead of the Third Third Initiative. Previously, Mark was the senior pastor of a church in Southern California and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. Mark has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,000 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark has taught at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Click here to view Mark’s profile.