THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: KINDNESS
A few years ago, years ago I stopped at a fruit stand in southern Italy to buy some fruit. I bought a watermelon, and and some peaches. They were fresh peaches from nearby fruit orchards. I had no idea that soon I was going to be treated to one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. The peaches exuded a fragrance that was unforgettable. When I bit into the first peach the flavour was of the type that leads you to simply close your eyes and say, “wow!!!”. I ate some more during my trip. I ate and ate and when the last one disappeared, it was a very sad moment.
They were southern Mediterranean peaches. One has not eaten real peaches until one eats southern Mediterranean peaches. These succulent fruits are the result of a perfect combination of God produced genetics, the perfect soil and a great abundance of sun. That part of the world produces many wonderful fruits but it seems to give a special touch to peaches, figuratively speaking, a most heavenly fruit.
This article will discuss one such spiritual fruit. It is also a heavenly fruit, but not figuratively speaking. It exudes a special fragrance and it is also very succulent: it is the fruit of "kindness."
Kindness tastes delicious. Every time we experience a sincere act of kindness, we feel a special warmth, and a feeling of contentment. But kindness is rare; yet kindness is what makes the world a warm and special place. Lack of kindness makes the world a cold, dreary and gloomy place.
Kindness is the fifth Fruit of the Spirit.
What is kindness?
Vine's Dictionary informs us that the Greek word for kindness is Chrestotes and that it means: "goodness of heart, kindness,"
An Internet source named Bible Tools says the following about longsuffering and kindness:
“Patience is love forbearing. Patience suggests self-restraint under the pressure of provocation, especially undeserved provocation. Kindness, though, implies a more active expression of love toward God and fellow man. Both patience and kindness are bound in the one quality—love. Those who provoke us may never notice patient love, but patient love may reveal itself in acts of kindness so that even our provokers are positively impressed. (1)
Thus kindness is not passive, but active. It manifests itself in positive attitudes and loving acts. It especially manifests itself in kind acts toward the undeserving.
Rick Renner, in his work, Sparkling Gems from the Greek, tells us that "kindness conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly require everyone else to adapt to our own needs and desires. When chrestotes is working in a believer, he seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him." (2) No selfishness here, but an ongoing willingness to be of help to others; to alleviate the burdens of others.
Kindness is one of God’s great qualities. He adapts to lesser beings and gives undeserved acts of kindness to them on an ongoing basis.
Psalms 145:17 The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.
Another very revealing scripture is, Hosea.
Hosea 11:4 I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.
The NIV translates it as follows:
Hosea 11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.
What a stunning imagery. God, the greatest power of all, bent down to feed undeserving, weak and frail human beings. This is one of the great qualities of godly kindness. In fact it captures the essence of this fruit. Stooping down, bending down to help the needy and undeserving.
Joel 2:13 Don't tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager "not" to punish you. (Emphasis mine)
Kindness is eager NOT to punish. Kindness is eager not to get even. It does not wish the worst on one’s enemies. This trait of our God is summarized perfectly by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:24.
Romans 3:24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.
God longs to cleanse us and all of humanity. He does not long to punish but to forgive, through Christ.
Romans 5:21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God's wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Kindness is not just "feelings" of kindness, it is mostly works of kindness.
2 Corinthians 8:9 You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
Jesus “stooped down” and served the lesser ones with kindness. God wants us to be the same toward one another:
Zechariah 7: 9 This is what the LORD Almighty says: Judge fairly and honestly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.
This is a command. God expects that we show kindness toward others.
OUR MISSION AS CHRISTIANS IS TO ALSO BE KIND.
Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Kindness must be a part of us, like clothes are a part of us. Again clothes not only clothe, the also frame our beauty. Beautiful clothes make us look better. Kindness should envelope us like clothes do and, like clothes, it will enhance our beauty as Christians. When we say, “What a beautiful person!” we don’t just mean, “what a good looking person.” We mean what a special person that person is. Kindness makes us beautiful as a person. It makes us glow in a very special, spiritual way.
Proverbs 3:3 Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart.
When you wear a necklace, it’s very close to you. You treasure it; you protect it—it’s yours—it’s a part of you. A necklace also enhances the beauty of the person who wears it.
2 Corinthians 6:6 We have proved ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, our sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Kindness is one of the evidences that Paul offers to prove that he was a Christian apostle. The proof is in the pudding. The pudding has several ingredients; One of the major ingredients of the Christian pudding is kindness. That is one of the proofs that we are Christians, just as it was a proof that Paul was an Apostle.
TWO TYPES OF KINDNESS
In this article I would like to propose that there are two different kinds of kindness: lower-level and higher-level kindness.
LOWER LEVEL KINDNESS: The kindness we show those people who are deserving, or that we like (Friends, relatives, etc.). This is the common kind of kindness we see around us. Humans tend to be naturally kind toward friends and relatives. Humans tend to be naturally kind to others who are kind to them. This is human kindness.
HIGHER LEVEL KINDNESS: The kindness we show to those that are not deserving, or that we don’t like. This is the kind of kindness you will not see easily exhibited in human relationships. Humans tend to be unkind to the undeserving. Humans tend to reward unkindness with unkindness. Humans tend to see being kind to the unkind as foolishness. God is the great leader in the area of showing kindness to the undeserving.
Acts 14: 8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Humanity is unworthy of kindness, yet God shows kindness to humans daily by providing them with the basics and much more.
Romans 11:6 And if they are saved by God's kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God's wonderful kindness would not be what it really is--free and undeserved.
We can never go to God and say, “You have saved us because we are good people; because we deserve to be saved. No one is! Every one of us is saved only by God’s kindness. We deserve extinction -- every one of us -- yet God provides us with the possibility of eternal life. God, the greater, the One who has all power to make us disappear forever shows, instead, His kindness to the undeserving.
KINDNESS HAS A REFRESHING, RESTORING, RECHARGING EFFECT ON THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE IT.
This world is full of harshness. This world is full of unkindness. When people experience a kind gesture, they are refreshed by it, and they are recharged by it.
Philemon 1:7 I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God's people.
Philemon showered the brethren with kindness and, by so doing, he had a refreshing and a restoring and energizing effect.
KINDNESS HAS BEEN A MAJOR TRAIT OF GOD’S GREAT FOLLOWERS OF THE PAST.
Let’s look at a couple of examples: Let’s start with Ruth. Her story is among other things, a story of kindness. You know the story. There is Naomi, her three sons and their three wives. The sons die. Two daughters in law go back home to their families. Ruth, instead, would not dare leave the agonizing Naomi alone.
Ruth 1:8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back to your mothers' homes instead of coming with me. And may the LORD reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me."
All three had been kind, but only Ruth continued showing kindness toward Naomi. Ruth told Naomi she would not abandon her in her time of need. She would join Naomi and her people would become Ruth’s people and her God would become Ruth’s God. While in Israel she became acquainted with Boaz, a close relative of Naomi that could have taken her as a wife. She lies at his feet as he sleeps. He meets her in the morning. Boaz had heard about her and her spiritual beauty.
Ruth 2:11 "Yes, I know," Boaz replied. "But I also know about the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.
He, thus, treats Ruth with kindness and showers her with goods from his land. Ruth tells Naomi about this wonderful, kind man.
Ruth 2:20 "May the LORD bless him!" Naomi told her daughter-in-law. 'He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.' That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers."
The rest is history. Boaz marries Ruth and she, of course, becomes the possessor of Boaz’s possessions. She is also blessed with a child. From that child a line began which led to none other that Kind David himself and finally the Saviour Jesus Christ. Ruth’s kindness was ultimately rewarded by God with becoming an ancestor of Jesus Christ himself. What a stunning reward!
Kind David, therefore, was Ruth’s descendent and he, also, was most kind. After Saul’s death David could have wiped out all of Saul’s descendents. Instead, what did he do?
II Samuel 9:1 Now David said, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” He said, “At your service!” 3 Then the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.” 4 So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Indeed he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar. 6 Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, “Mephibosheth?” And he answered, “Here is your servant!” 7 So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” 8 Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”
Mephibosheth had understood that David, the greater, had stooped down like God to feed the undeserving.
David could have taken the opportunity to wipe out all remnants of his great persecutor, Saul. He could have said, in the future Saul’s descendents could be a threat to my rule. Thus he could have wiped them all out – but he didn’t. He allowed Ruth’s spirit to take over instead and responded with kindness.
GOD REWARDS THE KIND WITH KINDNESS.
Was Ruth rewarded because she was kind? She was -- greatly. God blessed her with a kind and loving husband and with a beautiful child.
Did God bless David for his kindness? Let’s see what David’s son, Solomon, has to say about it? In his heartfelt prayer to God, he says the following:
1 Kings 3:6 Solomon replied, (Talking with God) "You were wonderfully kind to my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued this great kindness to him today by giving him a son to succeed him.
DOES GOD BLESS US FOR BEING KIND?
Philippians 4:15-20 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20
The Philippians were particularly kind -- more kind than any other church in the region. They willingly provided for Paul’s needs on several occasions and would not stop. Paul knew God would have rewarded them by providing for all their needs.
ON THE OTHER HAND, UNKINDNESS BEGETS UNKINDNESS.
MATTHEW 18: 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
God is constantly kind toward us. He continually stoops down to our level and tries to understand our frailties and shows kindness and mercy to us. What does he want in return? That we do the same with one another. Be kind to one another, as he is kind.
Another example of an individual who received great kindness and did not reciprocate is Hezekiah. You might remember that Sennacherib, King of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem and was about to conquer it. Hezekiah turned to God and this is what happened:
2 Chronicles 32: 20 Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. 21 Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there. 22 Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the LORD at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter. 24 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the LORD; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.
Because of this, Hezekiah was about to get himself into serious trouble. Without doubt he was warned by a prophet and came back to his senses. We read in V. 26,
Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
Kindness is therefore one of the great traits we must implement in our lives. It is intrinsic to God and Christ’s nature; it was a great trait of the righteous saints of the O.T. and it was and remains a major requirement for Christians.
But what we Christians must seek is not lower level kindness but higher level kindness, the kind that stoops down to feed not only the deserving but the undeserving. This is the kind of kindness that gives the most glory to God.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of kindness that is very difficult to have and to maintain over time, if we only rely on our own ability to show kindness. But It is not difficult to have and maintain, if it is a gift from God Himself.
Romans 12:8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Who’s gift? God’s gift!
Galatians 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…(CHRESTOTES).
And how delicious it is! How sweet it tastes! What a wonderful fragrance accompanies it! How nutritious and satisfying! How rejuvenating and refreshing! How unforgettable!
The tree of God’s fruits is there. God is saying to us, take from the tree. It is free. Just take them and share them with others, as often as you can.
Let’s accept God’s invitation, therefore; let’s reach out and take of the most amazing fruit and let’s add some delicious kindness to this cold, dreary and tasteless world.
(1) Bible Tools. http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Bible.show/sVerseID/29185/eVerseID/29186 (December 12, 20120.
(2) Renner, R. Sparkling Gems from the Greek. In Wikipedia, "Fruit of the Holy Spirit." <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_of_the_Holy_Spirit> (December 12, 20120).
The next Fruit: GOODNESS
The Fruits of the Spirit:
The Works of the Flesh: Adultery, Fornication, Uncleanness, Lasciviousness, Idolatry, Witchcraft, Hatred, Variance, Emulations, Wrath, Strife, Seditions, Heresy, Envy, Murders, Drunkenness, Revelings.