Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Some equate kindness with weakness. Others may think little acts of kindness are frivolous and unimportant. What is the spiritual fruit of kindness meant to be?

Our world is full of people who cut in line, insult those around them, don’t open doors for old ladies and people with groceries, laugh at others’ misfortunes and try to show their superiority by dragging others down.

Yet there are also many people who let others go ahead of them in line, compliment those around them, hurry to open doors for people, sympathize with others’ misfortune and show their humility and willingness to serve others.

It’s easy to pick out the people who are showing kindness!

Unfortunately, people who base their thinking on a “survival of the fittest” mentality may not see the rationale for true kindness. People like to receive it, but often don’t really see the benefit of being kind.

What does God say about kindness?

Kindness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. According to the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, the Greek word translated kindness here is “the divine kindness out of which God acts toward humankind. It is what the [Old Testament] means when it declares that ‘God is good,’ as it so frequently does. Christians should show kindness by behaving toward others as God has behaved toward them.” Basically it means “doing thoughtful deeds to others.”

Proverbs 20:28 describes qualities God wants in a leader: “Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne” (emphasis added throughout).

Throughout the Bible, two other qualities are often associated with kindness: love and mercy. Peter wrote of adding love to “brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7), while Paul wrote about putting on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:13).

What is kindness? It is based on the mind-set described in Philippians 2:3-4: “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.”

Kindness is humbly giving of ourselves in love and mercy to others who may not be able to give anything back, who sometimes don’t deserve it, and who frequently don’t thank us for it. Basically kindness means a way of thinking that leads to doing thoughtful deeds for others.

Why does God want us to demonstrate kindness?

The first section of Proverbs 19:22 states, “What is desired in a man is kindness.” Why? Why would God consider this trait so important?

Psalm 25:6 makes an interesting point about the origin of kindness: “Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old.” God created the world as well as humanity, and He graciously allows us to live here. He also gives us free choice to live as we please, though He deeply wants us to choose His way of life, knowing that it is the only way that will bring true happiness. What great kindness!

God wants us to become like Him. Though God’s tender mercies and lovingkindnesses are often taken for granted, His servants recognize His hand. The same will be true of us if we follow His example and are merciful and kind as He is. Biblical history shows that God’s mercy and kindness was many times shown through people He inspired. God raised up deliverers and sent prophets who tried to help the people.

Ephesians 4:32 states: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Verse 31 reveals the implied opposite: “Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking.” These are clearly traits God does not want in His chosen people!

Why does God want us to demonstrate kindness? We are tools to extend God’s lovingkindness and mercy to the world. We are to reflect the light and example of His compassion, mercy and kindness. We are to become like Him so we can be in His family forever!

An example of kindness to follow

An amazing display of kindness can be found during one of the darkest times in the ancient kingdom of Judah. The story is found in 2 Chronicles 22 and 23, and it begins with evil Queen Athaliah taking the throne of Judah after murdering all the rightful heirs. Actually, it turned out that she killed all the heirs except one: a baby named Joash. The former king’s daughter (Jehoshabeath) saved little Joash from the slaughter and hid him with her husband the high priest (Jehoiada) in the house of the Lord.

For seven years, Jehoiada hid Joash with him while the usurper queen ruled Judah. Both he and his wife took this amazing risk, putting their lives on the line to show kindness to this little boy with a death sentence. After seven years, Jehoiada took steps to install Joash as king and get rid of Athaliah. Then, for many years, Jehoiada continued to guide and counsel the young king.

This story shows that kindness can involve sacrificing our comfort for others and even taking some risks in order to help other people.

An example to avoid

In a tragic twist found in 2 Chronicles 24, King Joash provides a disturbing example to avoid. After many long years of kindness to Joash, the high priest Jehoiada died. And Joash, instead of imitating what Jehoiada had taught and shown him, proceeded to listen to the unwise counsel of the leaders of the people. This, then, led to Judah going back into idolatry. God sent prophets to encourage Joash and Judah to turn back to Him, but they were callously ignored.

One of the prophets sent by God was Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada—the man who had shown Joash so much kindness during his life.

How did Joash treat the son of a man who literally saved his life and worked so that he would be a good king? Joash commanded others to stone and kill Zechariah! “Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son” (2 Chronicles 24:22).

Not only does this show how ugly a lack of kindness can be, it also shows that we must be vigilant in following God or else things like kindness may not seem that important to us anymore.

Kindness self-examination questionnaire

  1. Does the kindness I show to others reflect God’s kindness to me? Examples?
  2. Do I seek to gain from the kindness I show, or is it pure kindness? How do I know?
  3. Do my kind acts have the components of mercy, love and compassion? How so?
  4. When I am truly able, how much do I sacrifice for others instead of showing selfishness?

How do we demonstrate more kindness?

The various fruit of the Spirit blend well with one another (kindness involves love, longsuffering, self-control, etc.) for good reason: God is complete and balanced. Kindness is another area that keeps our spiritual attitudes and lives balanced. How do we show more of it?

1. Sometimes it’s the little things that count. Striving to show more of these tender mercies to others little by little will add up to a completely changed overall attitude—one formed by kindness. Some examples of ways to show kindness include:

Give true compliments (not flattery) to others to help brighten their day.

  • Interact with strangers instead of just walking by them or looking down at the ground (open doors for them, smile, say hello, help them carry something).
  • Sit and talk with people who clearly appear to not want to be by themselves.

2. Make room for kindness in your personality and daily schedules. This may mean changing routines, taking more time for other people and developing an attitude of giving. It won’t happen overnight, but the more you think about showing more kindness, the more your daily life will be impacted by that thinking.

3. Don’t squander opportunities for kindness. They often come around several times a day. If you are ready for them, then you can make the most of them. If you miss one, then strive to show kindness the next time that situation arises.

Kindness is not a selfish attempt to get something for ourselves. It is a show of mercy and love to other human beings with no thought of reward. May we all develop the same type of love and kindness God has for us.

Read more about how to receive and use the Holy Spirit in the articles “Christ in Us: How Does He Live in You?” and “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?” For more about the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, see our article “The Fruit of the Spirit” and the links to the other eight.

About the Author

Eddie Foster

Eddie Foster

Eddie Foster was born in Ohio, and after living in several parts of the northeastern United States, he once again lives in the Buckeye State, most likely for good this time. He lives in the Dayton area with his wife, Shannon, and two daughters, Isabella and Marley. They attend the Cincinnati/Dayton congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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