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The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness

From the Heart to the Helping Hand

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Take a look at what, according to Scripture, accompanies true kindness: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 Ephesians 4:31-32 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
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, New International Version).

To consistently live up to all this is humanly impossible! But “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 Matthew 19:26But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
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How important is kindness? In a 2003 study of 37 cultures around the world, 16,000 subjects were asked about their most desired traits in a mate. For both sexes, the first preference was  kindness!

People want to be treated kindly but have a harder time being kind themselves. A large-scale study of school bullies was recently conducted to learn why they bully other kids. The conclusion? Most do it because they enjoy doing it.

This illustrates how cruel, mean and sadistic raw human nature is. Kindness must be learned , and many children are not being taught it.

In fact, much of the media they’re exposed to teaches the opposite. Violence and other terrible influences in media entertainment cause people to become desensitized and calloused toward the needs and feelings of others.

Some people think kindness is weak—not something for “go-getters” to be bothered with. Big mistake! If we want God, who has ultimate control of how things go in the universe, to be kind to us, we’d better be kind to others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7 Matthew 5:7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
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People have many excuses: “I’m too busy.” “The person deserves his suffering.” “God is probably punishing him” (like Job’s friends assumed wrongly in the book of Job). But God doesn’t accept excuses for failing to show kindness.

Lack of kindness is epidemic. The apostle Paul accurately foretold a cold and hard-hearted world “in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-3 2 Timothy 3:1-3 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
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). As a result, people are starved for the milk of human kindness!

What is kindness?

Kindness starts with caring —being tenderhearted and compassionate toward others. If God wants us to be kind to animals, how much more to people! (See Proverbs 12:10 Proverbs 12:10A righteous man regards the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
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Next, we must make it our goal and habit to be actively looking for opportunities to show kindness. When we see one, we need to act quickly before the opportunity is gone.

The Greek word for “kind” is chrestos . Part of its meaning is useful, which makes it clear that biblical kindness involves action. “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18 1 John 3:18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
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, New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).

Action includes some kind of self-sacrifice and therefore generosity on our part, especially of our time. (That doesn’t mean we neglect sufficient rest and whatever is needed to refill our own well.)

Of course, the emphasis on deeds over mere words does not mean words are unnecessary. Action includes words. Encouraging words of comfort, courtesy, compliments and even correction can be heartwarming acts of kindness. Several biblical proverbs attest to this.

What to say and not say should be guided by awareness of the sensitivities of others. We must help people heal from their emotional wounds rather than rubbing salt in those wounds. Sadly, when people know what “buttons to push,” they often use that insight to further hurt each other.

Our motive for “charitable deeds” should not be to impress people (Matthew 6:1-4 Matthew 6:1-4 1 Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when you do your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. 3 But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: 4 That your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret himself shall reward you openly.
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). The greatest rewards from God come when our acts of kindness are done humbly, quietly and, when practical, anonymously.

Doing someone a favor to get a favor in return is not wrong unless it’s illegal or unethical (like bribery). But a favor done to get some benefit is not true kindness. Genuine kindness is lending a helping hand when you expect nothing in return.

Kindness should begin with our kin. Ironically and tragically, many people display their most unkind behavior with the ones they should love the most. God is not unaware of this hypocrisy.

And Jesus Christ emphasized that we must be kind to everyone, not just our family and friends (Luke 6:31-34 Luke 6:31-34 31 And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise. 32 For if you love them which love you, what thank have you? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if you do good to them which do good to you, what thank have you? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thank have you? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
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). If you do this, “your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to [even] the unthankful and evil” (verse 35).

Be kind to the unthankful? Ouch!

If you and I are kind to hundreds of nice people, doesn’t that prove we are kind people? Perhaps yes, according to normal standards. But God’s standard requires being kind to all —even “evil” people.

Now if we do a good deed for someone and there is no “thank you,” don’t we feel we should “give him what he deserves” and wash our hands of him?

Of course. But our reacting in this “natural” way is not sufficient if we want to be “sons of the Most High.” We must ask, “What would Jesus do?” and then do likewise.

Some people have not been taught to be thankful and are blind to the sin of ingratitude. It’s good to remember a line from Glen Campbell’s 1970 song, “Try a Little Kindness”: “And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness.”

A huge factor in the world today is that many people are psychologically confused, wounded and scarred by being neglected, rejected or abused, especially during the vulnerable time of childhood. They can be full of depression, fears, anger and suspicion.

And people who have not been abused themselves may well have absorbed attitudes passed along from those who have been abused.

If you reach your hand out to pet a dog, will he wag his tail or bite you? If he has been repeatedly beaten and abused, he may interpret your gesture as a threat and bite.

Likewise, many people are suspicious of any favors. They assume everyone has a selfish ulterior motive and is out to manipulate them or hurt them. They often “bite the hand that feeds them.”

But these people need kindness more than anyone! Persistent efforts to be kind to them can gradually convince them that you are a true friend. Furthermore, your kindness can bring about progressive healing for their wounded hearts.

How to cultivate kindness

It takes genuine effort to be truly kind. In Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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, the apostle Paul refers to human nature as “the flesh” and our natural tendencies as the “works of the flesh.” These include hatred, jealousies, selfish ambitions and envy. All these traits are selfish and self-centered.

Kindness requires the opposite— caring concern for others. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 Philippians 2:3-4 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
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Our innate human nature must be replaced by God’s nature, and that can only happen by receiving the gift of God’s Spirit dwelling in us and the wonderful fruit it produces: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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Each characteristic here clearly relates to the others. Longsuffering, the previous one explained in this series of articles on the fruit of God’s Spirit, is linked with kindness in two other lists (2 Corinthians 6:6 2 Corinthians 6:6By pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
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; Colossians 3:12 Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
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). And both are important components of love : “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4 1 Corinthians 13:4Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,
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How does one obtain the Holy Spirit? The apostle Peter explained the basic requirements in Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Follow the Bible’s examples of kindness

Great examples of kindness can inspire us to greater kindness: King David toward Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9). The Shunammite woman and her husband toward Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10 2 Kings 4:8-10 8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 9 And she said to her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passes by us continually. 10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray you, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he shall turn in thither.
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). Dorcas, a beloved woman who “was full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36-39 Acts 9:36-39 36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and giving of alms which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38 And for as much as Lydda was near to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent to him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
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). The Samaritan in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 Luke 10:25-37 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you? 27 And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you. 36 Which now of these three, think you, was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do you likewise.
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). Barnabas, whose name meant “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36 Acts 4:36And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
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Another is the “virtuous wife” who diligently attends to the needs of her family and of many others (Proverbs 31). “She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20 Proverbs 31:20She stretches out her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.
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). “And on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26 Proverbs 31:26She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
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May our tongues be guided by the law of kindness!

One of the most important Hebrew words in the Old Testament is hesed, used there 240 times. It is often translated mercy, but the meaning is broader—concerning loyal or steadfast love and covenant faithfulness. No single English word is adequate to translate it, partly because language is insufficient to describe this central quality of God’s character.

The word devotion perhaps comes closest. But the demonstration of this committed love in actions is also included. That’s why the word is sometimes appropriately rendered as mercy, as mentioned, and as loving-kindness or just kindness .

The Scriptures frequently praise the hesed of God. They also tell us that we should have hesed toward one another.

Jesus Christ practiced kindness that was radical for that time and culture. He always had great concern for women as well as men, for children as well as adults, for other races as well as the Jewish race, and for the sick and weak as well as the strong. Often He wore Himself out praying for people, healing people, feeding people and helping them in other ways.

When Jesus looked on the multitudes of people with all their problems, sicknesses and confusion, He was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36 Matthew 9:36But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
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; Matthew 14:14 Matthew 14:14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
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; Matthew 18:27). As we look at the people around us, we, too, should be moved with compassion. We, too, should be helping, giving, sharing, caring, encouraging, extending mercy, filled with compassion and acting on it as we are able—in a word,  kind.

With each of us, may the fruit of kindness continue to blossom and grow. Above all, may we strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who personified God’s hesed in the greatest example of loving-kindness.

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