The quality or state of taking an active interest in the welfare of others; friendly and helpful acts or favors. The principal word for “kindness” in the Christian Greek Scriptures is khre·stoʹtes. Jehovah God takes the lead and is the best example of one showing kindness in so many ways toward others, even toward the unthankful and wicked, encouraging them to repentance. (Lu 6:35; Ro 2:4; 11:22; Tit 3:4, 5) Christians, in turn, under the kindly yoke of Christ (Mt 11:30), are urged to clothe themselves with kindness (Col 3:12; Eph 4:32) and to develop the fruitage of God’s spirit, which includes kindness. (Ga 5:22) In this way they recommend themselves as God’s ministers. (2Co 6:4-6) “Love is . . . kind.”—1Co 13:4.
“Kindness” (or, reasonableness; literally, yieldingness; Gr., e·pi·ei·kiʹa) is an outstanding characteristic of Christ Jesus. (2Co 10:1, ftn) Paul was treated with unusual “human kindness” (literally, affection for mankind; Gr., phi·lan·thro·piʹa) by the inhabitants of Malta.—Ac 28:2, ftn.
Loving-Kindness of God. As in the Christian Greek Scriptures so also in the Hebrew Scriptures, frequent mention is made of kindness. The Hebrew word cheʹsedh, when used in reference to kindness, occurs 245 times. The related verb cha·sadhʹ means “act in loyalty (or, loving-kindness)” and carries with it more than just the thought of tender regard or kindness stemming from love, though it includes such traits. (Ps 18:25, ftn) Cheʹsedh is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object until its purpose in connection with that object is realized. According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, cheʹsedh “is active, social, and enduring. . . . [Cheʹsedh] always designates not just a human attitude, but also the act that emerges from this attitude. It is an act that preserves or promotes life. It is intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress. It is demonstration of friendship or piety. It pursues what is good and not what is evil.” (Edited by G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, 1986, Vol. 5, p. 51) Hence, cheʹsedh is more comprehensively rendered “loving-kindness,” or, because of the fidelity, solidarity, and proved loyalty associated with it, an alternate translation would be “loyal love.” In the plural number it may be rendered “loving-kindnesses,” “acts of loyal love,” “full loving-kindness,” or “full loyal love.”—Ps 25:6, ftn; Isa 55:3, ftn.
Loving-kindness is a precious quality of Jehovah God in which he delights, and it is manifest in all his dealings with his servants. (Ps 36:7; 62:12; Mic 7:18) Were this not the case, they would have perished long ago. (La 3:22) Thus, Moses could plead in behalf of rebellious Israel, both on the basis of Jehovah’s great name and because He is a God of loving-kindness.—Nu 14:13-19.
The Scriptures show that Jehovah’s loving-kindness, or loyal love, is displayed in a variety of ways and under different circumstances—in acts of deliverance and preservation (Ps 6:4; 119:88, 159), as a safeguard and protection (Ps 40:11; 61:7; 143:12), and as a factor bringing relief from troubles (Ru 1:8; 2:20; Ps 31:16, 21). Because of it one may be recovered from sin (Ps 25:7), sustained, and upheld. (Ps 94:18; 117:2) By it God’s chosen ones are assisted. (Ps 44:26) God’s loving-kindness was magnified in the cases of Lot (Ge 19:18-22), Abraham (Mic 7:20), and Joseph (Ge 39:21). It was also acknowledged in the choice of a wife for Isaac.—Ge 24:12-14, 27.
With the development of the nation of Israel and thereafter, Jehovah’s loving-kindness in connection with his covenant continued to be magnified. (Ex 15:13; De 7:12) This was true in David’s case (2Sa 7:15; 1Ki 3:6; Ps 18:50), as it was also with Ezra and those with him (Ezr 7:28; 9:9), and likewise with “thousands” of others (Ex 34:7; Jer 32:18). In support of the kingdom covenant with David, Jehovah continued to express his loving-kindness even after Jesus died, for He resurrected this “loyal one” in fulfillment of the prophecy: “I will give you people the loving-kindnesses to David that are faithful.”—Ps 16:10; Ac 13:34; Isa 55:3.
It is this loving-kindness on the part of Jehovah that draws individuals to him. (Jer 31:3) They trust in it (Ps 13:5; 52:8), hope in it (Ps 33:18, 22), pray for it (Ps 51:1; 85:7; 90:14; 109:26; 119:41), and are comforted by it (Ps 119:76). They also give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness (Ps 107:8, 15, 21, 31), they bless and praise him for it (Ps 66:20; 115:1; 138:2), and they talk to others about it (Ps 92:2). Like David, they should never try to hide it (Ps 40:10), for it is good (Ps 69:16; 109:21) and it is a great source of rejoicing. (Ps 31:7) Certainly this divine loving-kindness is like a pleasant pathway in which to walk.—Ps 25:10.
In other Bible texts the overflowing abundance of God’s loving-kindness (Ps 5:7; 69:13; Jon 4:2), its greatness (Nu 14:19), and its permanence (1Ki 8:23) are emphasized. It is as high as the heavens (Ps 36:5; 57:10; 103:11; 108:4), fills the earth (Ps 33:5; 119:64), and is extended to a thousand generations (De 7:9) and “to time indefinite” (1Ch 16:34, 41; Ps 89:2; Isa 54:8, 10; Jer 33:11). In Psalm 136 all 26 verses repeat the phrase, ‘Jehovah’s loving-kindness is to time indefinite.’
Often this wonderful characteristic of Jehovah, his loving-kindness, is associated with other magnificent qualities—God’s mercy, graciousness, truth, forgiveness, righteousness, peace, judgment, and justice.—Ex 34:6; Ne 9:17; Ps 85:10; 89:14; Jer 9:24.
Loving-Kindness of Man. From the above it is apparent that those wishing to have God’s approval must “love kindness” and “carry on with one another loving-kindness and mercies.” (Mic 6:8; Zec 7:9) As the proverb says, “The desirable thing in earthling man is his loving-kindness,” and it brings him rich rewards. (Pr 19:22; 11:17) God remembered and was pleased with the loving-kindness shown during Israel’s youth. (Jer 2:2) But when it became “like the morning clouds and like the dew that early goes away,” Jehovah was not pleased, for “in loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice,” he says. (Ho 6:4, 6) Lacking loving-kindness, Israel was reproved, the reproof itself actually being a loving-kindness on God’s part. (Ho 4:1; Ps 141:5) Israel was also advised to return to God by demonstrating loving-kindness and justice. (Ho 12:6) Such traits should be manifest at all times if one is to find favor in the sight of God and man.—Job 6:14; Pr 3:3, 4.
Instances in the Bible are numerous where individuals showed loving-kindness toward others. Sarah, for example, showed such loyal love toward her husband when they were in enemy territory, protecting him by saying he was her brother. (Ge 20:13) Jacob asked Joseph to exercise the same toward him by promising not to bury him in Egypt. (Ge 47:29; 50:12, 13) Rahab requested that the Israelites show her loving-kindness by preserving her household alive, even as she had similarly treated the Israelite spies. (Jos 2:12, 13) Boaz commended Ruth for exercising it (Ru 3:10), and Jonathan asked David to show it toward him and his household.—1Sa 20:14, 15; 2Sa 9:3-7.
The motives and circumstances that prompt persons to show kindness or loving-kindness vary a great deal. Incidental acts of kindness may reflect customary hospitality or a tendency toward warmheartedness, yet may not necessarily indicate godliness. (Compare Ac 27:1, 3; 28:1, 2.) In the case of a certain man belonging to the city of Bethel, the kindness offered him really was in payment for favors expected of him in return. (Jg 1:22-25) At other times acts of loving-kindness were requested of recipients of past favors, perhaps because of the dire circumstances of the petitioner. (Ge 40:12-15) But sometimes persons failed to pay such debts of loving-kindness. (Ge 40:23; Jg 8:35) As the proverb shows, a multitude of men will proclaim their loving-kindness, but few are faithful to carry it out. (Pr 20:6) Saul and David both remembered the loving-kindness that others had shown (1Sa 15:6, 7; 2Sa 2:5, 6), and it seems that the kings of Israel gained some sort of reputation for loving-kindness (1Ki 20:31), perhaps in comparison with the pagan rulers. However, on one occasion David’s display of loving-kindness was rebuffed through a misinterpretation of the motives behind it.—2Sa 10:2-4.
Law, Paul says, was not made for righteous persons but for bad people, who, among other things, are lacking in loving-kindness. (1Ti 1:9) The Greek word a·noʹsi·os, here rendered “lacking loving-kindness,” also has the sense of “disloyal.”—2Ti 3:2.
Undeserved Kindness. The Greek word khaʹris occurs more than 150 times in the Greek Scriptures and is rendered in a variety of ways, depending on the context. In all instances the central idea of khaʹris is preserved—that which is agreeable (1Pe 2:19, 20) and winsome. (Lu 4:22) By extension, in some instances it refers to a kind gift (1Co 16:3; 2Co 8:19) or the kind manner of the giving. (2Co 8:4, 6) At other times it has reference to the credit, gratitude, or thankfulness that an especially kind act calls forth.—Lu 6:32-34; Ro 6:17; 1Co 10:30; 15:57; 2Co 2:14; 8:16; 9:15; 1Ti 1:12; 2Ti 1:3.
On the other hand, in the great majority of occurrences, khaʹris is rendered “grace” by most English Bible translators. The word “grace,” however, with some 14 different meanings does not convey to most readers the ideas contained in the Greek word. To illustrate: In John 1:14, where the King James Version says “the Word was made flesh . . . full of grace and truth,” what is meant? Does it mean “gracefulness,” or “favor,” or what?
Scholar R. C. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, says khaʹris implies “a favour freely done, without claim or expectation of return—the word being thus predisposed to receive its new emphasis [as given it in the Christian writings] . . . , to set forth the entire and absolute freeness of the loving-kindness of God to men. Thus Aristotle, defining [khaʹris], lays the whole stress on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.” (London, 1961, p. 158) Joseph H. Thayer in his lexicon says: “The word [khaʹris] contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved . . . the N. T. writers use [khaʹris] pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1889, p. 666) Khaʹris is closely related to another Greek word, khaʹri·sma, concerning which William Barclay’s New Testament Wordbook (1956, p. 29) says: “The whole basic idea of the word [khaʹri·sma] is that of a free and undeserved gift, of something given to a man unearned and unmerited.”—Compare 2Co 1:11, Int.
When khaʹris is used in the above sense, in reference to kindness bestowed on one who does not deserve it, as is true with the kindnesses extended by Jehovah, “undeserved kindness” is a very good English equivalent for the Greek expression.—Ac 15:40; 18:27; 1Pe 4:10; 5:10, 12.
A worker is entitled to what he has worked for, his pay; he expects his wages as a right, as a debt owed him, and payment of it is no gift or special undeserved kindness. (Ro 4:4) But for sinners condemned to death (and we are all born as such) to be released from that condemnation and to be declared righteous, this is indeed kindness that is totally undeserved. (Ro 3:23, 24; 5:17) If it is argued that those born under the Law covenant arrangement were under a greater condemnation to death, because such covenant showed them up as sinners, then it should be remembered that greater undeserved kindness was extended to the Jews in that salvation was first offered to them.—Ro 5:20, 21; 1:16.
This special manifestation of undeserved kindness on God’s part toward mankind in general was the release by ransom from condemnation through the blood of Jehovah’s beloved Son, Christ Jesus. (Eph 1:7; 2:4-7) By means of this undeserved kindness God brings salvation to all sorts of men (Tit 2:11), something that the prophets had spoken about. (1Pe 1:10) Paul’s reasoning and argument, therefore, is sound: “Now if it is by undeserved kindness, it is no longer due to works; otherwise, the undeserved kindness no longer proves to be undeserved kindness.”—Ro 11:6.
Paul, more than any other writer, mentioned God’s undeserved kindness—more than 90 times in his 14 letters. He mentions the undeserved kindness of God or of Jesus in the opening salutation of all his letters with the exception of Hebrews, and in the closing remarks of each letter, without exception, he again speaks of it. Other Bible writers make similar reference in the opening and closing of their writings.—1Pe 1:2; 2Pe 1:2; 3:18; 2Jo 3; Re 1:4; 22:21.
Paul had every reason for emphasizing Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, for he had formerly been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” “Nevertheless,” he explains, “I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus.” (1Ti 1:13, 14; 1Co 15:10) Paul did not spurn such undeserved kindness, as some have foolishly done (Jude 4), but he gladly accepted it with thanksgiving and urged others also who accept it ‘not to miss its purpose.’—Ac 20:24; Ga 2:21; 2Co 6:1.