Luke 2:14 proclaims "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." So, exactly what is goodwill? Has the word's meaning been forgotten? Is it simply an American chain of thrift stores that sells used clothing, books and furniture? Is it only part of a movie title starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck?

Goodwill means so much in our daily lives as human beings. It is valuable for every person, company and institution. Goodwill, as it applies to business, means a good reputation. It cannot be earned by spending millions of dollars on marketing or by pronouncing itself in an advertising campaign.

Goodwill has to be earned by merit, by providing goods and services of value, and by being honest. A business that loses the goodwill of its customers has no future. Once it has been lost, goodwill is nearly impossible to regain, no matter how hard the business owner trys.

Goodwill is even more precious for an individual than for a company. There are two types of personal goodwill: the goodwill that is in our hearts and that we extend to others; and the goodwill others feel for us. To receive goodwill, we must give goodwill, because we reap what we sow.

We have to sow goodwill before we can reap goodwill. If we are bitter and full of hate, or if we are miserly, or if we make it a habit not to trust others, we will naturally sow these bitter seeds in the people around us. The world repays us what we invest into it. If the people in our lives do not always have goodwill toward us, we will not have happiness or peace of mind. We make our own bed and we must lie in it.

Many rich and powerful people have inspired incredible ill will in the lives of their associates. But we know intuitively that money and power, in and of themselves, can never produce happiness. Even the richest, most powerful people in the world secretly desire the love, respect and esteem of others. Without goodwill, all the money in the world means little or nothing.

During the Christmas holiday season, many of us naturally adopt a spirit of goodwill. I'm sure you've also heard it said that "it should be like Christmas all year long." What is this "it" that we speak of? Goodwill. Goodwill means smiling at those around us, helping a neighbor carry a heavy bag to her door, giving a friend an unexpected gift, or putting a dollar bill in a homeless man's hand. And of course, giving out goodwill means we attract goodwill. It is this great state of being that makes the winter holidays the happiest time of the year.

Goodwill is a blessing to those who give it and to those who receive it. It is a virtue worth practicing and cultivating, not simply at Christmas, but every month of the year. Exercising goodwill helps us to be successful with our family and friends, it helps us get along with our coworkers and succeed in business, and it allows us to have peace of mind.

What makes the Christmas season so full of joy? What makes everyone so friendly and considerate and generous at this time of the year? Goodwill. We radiate goodwill at Christmas. We feel unselfish. We want to show kindness to others. We are thoughtful. We are obeying Jesus' commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Peace on earth will come when goodwill has trumped ill will throughout the world, for the spirit of peace is the spirit of goodwill toward men. Goodwill is the key that can open not only the doors of personal success, but also the doors to peace on earth.