A good tree bears good fruit. Mt 7:17

A good tree bears good fruit.

In the third century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, expanding the work of Socrates and Plato, would develop one of his major propositions:  what Human Flourishing or eudaimonia meant. The literal translation of eudaimon is to be living in a way that is well-favoured by a god. Aristotle himself was not a religious man, nor did he advocate following any religion. He  felt that humans had the capacity within themselves to live a virtuous life. He did believe that the right ingredients of upbringing and education where required; however, in such a context, Aristotle held we could live a virtuous life where one  flourished as a human being.

To Aristotle, the major part of becoming a good person entailed nurturing virtues and avoiding vices. This supposition would form the modern day study of ‘Virtue Ethics’, a category of philosophical ethics.

 

Good fruit?

Flourishing as a human being, for Aristotle, meant virtues could only be developed by putting them into practice. To be courageous you would have to face your fears, the avoidance of such was contradictive to the virtue and therefore a vice – cowardice. Virtues could not be developed by contemplation alone. Aristotle defined what it meant to be courageous, prudent, gentle, honourable, friendly, right with money, temperate, just, and so on… He taught against the thought that our emotions or sentiments are the measure of truth and that both the intellect and our desire ought to act in accordance with, and toward, truth  (M. Postma, 2011). Without knowing the truth (Jesus Christ), Aristotle came tantalizingly close to it.

Philosophy concurs that Jesus Christ’s life embodies Virtue Ethics, the ethics of one’s character defining how we live. Not simply the pursuit of consequences (termed consequentialism) ,nor living by rules (deontology), rather our inner virtues being lived out. A good tree bearing good fruit (Mt 7:17).

Jesus Christ had an unnerving ability to summarise complex ideologies with one line parables. Yet he did not do so by contemplation alone. He lived them.: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Self Control (Gal 5:22). Good fruit from a good tree. Whether helping a lame person rise to their feet, feeding the hungry, touching the untouchable, all while taking little and  giving everything,  Christ was the virtue of charity in constant motion. Agape love.

All of the other Apostles discuss the importance of this. To be good is to do good and in doing good, you become good. Just as Aristotle discovered. For a human to flourish, he must do as he was created to do. Created to love God and love others. Singing in church, reading bibles, and praying are not harmful activities. Yet without doing good unto others, it is simply a dead faith (Jm 2:17).

Christ highlights the sheer importance of virtue in action when He confronts us with; have you fed, clothed or cared for me, visited me in jail? If not, depart from me (Mt 25:42).

Prior to Christ saving the author of this article, I lived as many others live. Going to work, making a wage, building a home, getting married, trying to be good to my mother. Other than heavy drinking, I felt I was a ‘good person’. Today, after the intervention of Christ, I serve as a Street Chaplain and a nurse, one who works in palliative care tending the dying. I thank God that I have shed my selfish nature to live a life of self sacrifice for others. Denying my own wants, I sold my possessions and went out to truly experience the living God. I found Him.

He was helping the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in jail and touching the untouchables. Jesus living the term Aristotle coined “Human Flourishing”.