Show Loving-Kindness to Those in Need
“Carry on with one another loving-kindness.”—ZECHARIAH 7:9.
1, 2. (a) Why should we display loving-kindness? (b) What questions will we consider?
JEHOVAH GOD’S Word exhorts us to love “loving-kindness.” (Micah 6:8, footnote) It also gives us reasons why we should do so. For one thing, “a man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” (Proverbs 11:17) How true! Showing loving-kindness, or loyal love, forges warm and lasting bonds with others. As a result, we will have loyal friends—a precious reward indeed!—Proverbs 18:24.
2 Moreover, the Scriptures tell us: “He that is pursuing righteousness and loving-kindness will find life.” (Proverbs 21:21) Yes, our pursuing loving-kindness will endear us to God and will put us in line for future blessings, including life everlasting. But how can we show loving-kindness? To whom should we extend it? And does loving-kindness differ from normal human kindness or from kindness in general?
Human Kindness and Loving-Kindness
3. How does loving-kindness differ from human kindness?
3 Normal human kindness and loving-kindness differ in various ways. For example, those showing human kindness often do so without having a deep and personal involvement, or relationship, with the individuals they treat kindly. If we show loving-kindness to someone, however, we lovingly attach ourselves to that person. In the Bible, expressions of loving-kindness between humans may be based on already existing relationships. (Genesis 20:13; 2 Samuel 3:8; 16:17) Or they may be founded on relationships resulting from prior acts of kindness. (Joshua 2:1, 12-14; 1 Samuel 15:6; 2 Samuel 10:1, 2) To illustrate this difference, let us compare two Bible examples, one of kindness and one of loving-kindness expressed between humans.
4, 5. How do two Bible examples cited here illustrate the difference between human kindness and loving-kindness?
4 One example of human kindness relates to a group of shipwrecked people, including the apostle Paul. They were washed ashore on the island of Malta. (Acts 27:37–28:1) Although the Maltese had neither a prior commitment to the stranded voyagers nor an existing relationship with them, the islanders received the strangers hospitably, showing them “extraordinary human kindness.” (Acts 28:2, 7) Their hospitality was kind, but it was incidental and shown to strangers. Therefore, it was human kindness.
5 By comparison, consider the hospitality that King David showed to Mephibosheth, the son of his friend Jonathan. David told Mephibosheth: “You yourself will eat bread at my table constantly.” Explaining why he was making this provision, David told him: “Without fail I shall exercise loving-kindness toward you for the sake of Jonathan your father.” (2 Samuel 9:6, 7, 13) David’s enduring hospitality is rightly referred to as an exercise of loving-kindness, not merely kindness, for it was an evidence of his loyalty to an established relationship. (1 Samuel 18:3; 20:15, 42) Similarly today, God’s servants show human kindness to mankind in general. Yet, they express enduring loving-kindness, or loyal love, to those with whom they share a God-approved relationship.—Matthew 5:45; Galatians 6:10.
6. What characteristics of loving-kindness expressed between humans stand out in God’s Word?
6 To identify some additional characteristics of loving-kindness, we will briefly consider three Bible accounts that feature this quality. From these we will note that loving-kindness extended by humans is (1) expressed by specific actions, (2) extended willingly, and (3) shown especially to those having a need. Moreover, these accounts illustrate how we may exercise loving-kindness today.
A Father Shows Loving-Kindness
7. What did Abraham’s servant tell Bethuel and Laban, and what issue did the servant raise?
7 Genesis 24:28-67 relates the rest of the story of Abraham’s servant, mentioned in the preceding article. After meeting Rebekah, he was invited into the home of her father, Bethuel. (Ge 24 Verses 28-32) There the servant recounted in detail his search for a wife for Abraham’s son. (Ge 24 Verses 33-47) He stressed that he viewed the success he thus far had met with as a sign from Jehovah, “who had led me in the true way to take the daughter of the brother of my master for his son.” (Ge 24 Verse 48) The servant no doubt hoped that his heartfelt recounting of the incident would convince Bethuel and his son Laban that Jehovah was behind this mission. Finally, the servant said: “If you are actually exercising loving-kindness and trustworthiness toward my master, tell me; but if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”—Ge 24 Verse 49.
8. What was Bethuel’s reaction to matters involving Rebekah?
8 Jehovah had already shown loving-kindness to Abraham. (Genesis 24:12, 14, 27) Would Bethuel be willing to do the same by allowing Rebekah to go with Abraham’s servant? Would divine loving-kindness be complemented with human loving-kindness? Or would the servant’s long journey have been in vain? It must have been very comforting to Abraham’s servant to hear Laban and Bethuel say: “From Jehovah this thing has issued.” (Ge 24 Verse 50) They recognized Jehovah’s hand in matters and unhesitatingly accepted his decision. Next, Bethuel expressed his loving-kindness by adding: “Here is Rebekah before you. Take her and go, and let her become a wife to the son of your master, just as Jehovah has spoken.” (Ge 24 Verse 51) Rebekah willingly accompanied Abraham’s servant, and she soon became Isaac’s beloved wife.—Ge 24 Verses 49, 52-58, 67.
Loving-Kindness Shown by a Son
9, 10. (a) Jacob asked his son Joseph to do what for him? (b) How did Joseph show loving-kindness to his father?
9 Abraham’s grandson Jacob also received loving-kindness. As Genesis chapter 47 relates, Jacob was then living in Egypt, and “the days approached for [him] to die.” (Ge 47 Verses 27-29) He was concerned because he was going to die outside the land that God had promised to Abraham. (Genesis 15:18; 35:10, 12; 49:29-32) Jacob did not want to be buried in Egypt, however, so he made provisions for his remains to be taken to the land of Canaan. Who would be in a better position to make sure that his wish would be carried out than his influential son, Joseph?
10 The account states: “So [Jacob] called his son Joseph and said to him: ‘If, now, I have found favor in your eyes, . . . you must exercise loving-kindness and trustworthiness toward me. (Please, do not bury me in Egypt.) And I must lie with my fathers, and you must carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their grave.’” (Genesis 47:29, 30) Joseph promised to comply with this request, and shortly thereafter Jacob died. Joseph and Jacob’s other sons carried his body “into the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, the field that Abraham had purchased.” (Genesis 50:5-8, 12-14) Thus Joseph exercised loving-kindness toward his father.
Loving-Kindness From a Daughter-in-Law
11, 12. (a) How did Ruth show loving-kindness to Naomi? (b) In what way was “the last instance” of Ruth’s loving-kindness better than “the first”?
11 The book of Ruth relates how the widow Naomi received loving-kindness from her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth, who was also a widow. When Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem in Judah, Ruth displayed loving-kindness and determination, saying: “Where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Ruth later expressed her loving-kindness when she indicated her willingness to marry Naomi’s elderly relative Boaz.* (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6; Ruth 3:6-9) He told Ruth: “You have expressed your loving-kindness better in the last instance than in the first instance, in not going after the young fellows whether lowly or rich.”—Ruth 3:10.
12 “The first instance” of Ruth’s loving-kindness referred to the time when she left her people and stuck with Naomi. (Ruth 1:14; 2:11) Even that act was surpassed by “the last instance” of loving-kindness—Ruth’s willingness to marry Boaz. Ruth would now be able to provide an heir for Naomi, who was beyond the age of childbearing. The marriage took place, and when Ruth later gave birth, the women of Bethlehem cried out: “A son has been born to Naomi.” (Ruth 4:14, 17) Ruth truly was “an excellent woman,” who thus was rewarded by Jehovah with the wonderful privilege of becoming an ancestress of Jesus Christ.—Ruth 2:12; 3:11; 4:18-22; Matthew 1:1, 5, 6.
Expressed by Actions
13. How did Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth exercise their loving-kindness?
13 Did you notice how Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth expressed their loving-kindness? They did so not only with kind words but with specific actions. Not only did Bethuel say, “Here is Rebekah” but he actually “sent off Rebekah.” (Genesis 24:51, 59) Not only did Joseph say, “I myself shall do in keeping with your word” but he and his brothers did for Jacob “exactly as he had commanded them.” (Genesis 47:30; 50:12, 13) Not only did Ruth say, “Where you go I shall go” but she left her people and accompanied Naomi, so that “they both continued on their way until they came to Bethlehem.” (Ruth 1:16, 19) In Judah, Ruth again acted “according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her.” (Ruth 3:6) Yes, Ruth’s loving-kindness, like that of others, was expressed by actions.
14. (a) How do God’s present-day servants show loving-kindness by actions? (b) What acts of loving-kindness do you know of among Christians in your area?
14 It is heartwarming to see how God’s servants today continue to express loving-kindness by actions. For example, think of those who provide enduring emotional support to infirm, depressed, or grief-stricken fellow believers. (Proverbs 12:25) Or consider the many Witnesses of Jehovah who faithfully drive the elderly to the Kingdom Hall to attend weekly congregation meetings. Anna, aged 82 and plagued by arthritis, speaks for many others when she says: “Being driven to all meetings is a blessing from Jehovah. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for giving me such loving brothers and sisters.” Are you sharing in such acts in your congregation? (1 John 3:17, 18) If you are, be assured that your loving-kindness is deeply appreciated.
15. What characteristic of loving-kindness is further highlighted by the three Bible accounts we have considered?
15 The Bible narratives that we have considered also show that loving-kindness is extended freely and willingly, not under compulsion. Bethuel willingly cooperated with Abraham’s servant, and so did Rebekah. (Genesis 24:51, 58) Joseph showed his loving-kindness without outside prodding. (Genesis 50:4, 5) Ruth “was persistent about going with [Naomi].” (Ruth 1:18) When Naomi suggested that Ruth approach Boaz, loving-kindness moved the Moabitess to declare: “All that you say to me I shall do.”—Ruth 3:1-5.
16, 17. What makes the loving-kindness of Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth especially meaningful, and what moved them to display this quality?
16 The loving-kindness shown by Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth is especially significant because Abraham, Jacob, and Naomi were in no position to bring outside pressure on them. After all, Bethuel was under no legal obligation to part with his daughter. He could easily have told Abraham’s servant: ‘No, I want to keep my industrious girl close by.’ (Genesis 24:18-20) Likewise, Joseph was free to decide whether to act on his father’s request or not, for Jacob would be dead and could not compel him to keep his word. Naomi herself indicated that Ruth was free to stay in Moab. (Ruth 1:8) Ruth was also free to marry one of “the young fellows” instead of aged Boaz.
17 Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth showed loving-kindness willingly; they were moved to do so from within. They felt a moral responsibility to display this quality toward those with whom they had a relationship, even as King David later felt obliged to manifest it with regard to Mephibosheth.
18. (a) With what attitude do Christian elders “shepherd the flock”? (b) How did one elder express his feelings about helping fellow believers?
18 Loving-kindness is still a mark of God’s people, including the men who shepherd God’s flock. (Psalm 110:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12) Such elders, or overseers, feel a responsibility to live up to the trust conferred upon them by reason of their appointment. (Acts 20:28) Even so, their shepherding work and other acts of loving-kindness in behalf of the congregation are carried out, “not under compulsion, but willingly.” (1 Peter 5:2) The elders shepherd the flock because they have both a responsibility and a desire to do so. They express loving-kindness toward Christ’s sheep because they ought to and want to do this. (John 21:15-17) “I love to make visits at the homes of brothers or call them for no other reason than to show I was thinking of them,” says one Christian elder. “Helping the brothers is a great source of joy and satisfaction to me!” Caring elders everywhere wholeheartedly agree.
Show Loving-Kindness to Those in Need
19. What fact about loving-kindness is underscored by the Bible accounts discussed in this article?
19 The Bible accounts we have discussed also underscore the fact that loving-kindness is to be shown to those who have a need that they themselves cannot fill. In order to continue his family line, Abraham needed Bethuel’s cooperation. To have his remains taken to Canaan, Jacob needed Joseph’s help. And to produce an heir, Naomi needed Ruth’s assistance. Neither Abraham, Jacob, nor Naomi could fill those needs without help. Similarly today, loving-kindness should especially be shown to those in need. (Proverbs 19:17) We should imitate the patriarch Job, who gave attention to “the afflicted one crying for help, and the fatherless boy and anyone that had no helper” as well as to “the one about to perish.” Job also ‘made glad the heart of the widow’ and became ‘eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.’—Job 29:12-15.
20, 21. Who are in need of our expressions of loving-kindness, and what should each of us be determined to do?
20 Actually, there are ‘afflicted ones crying for help’ in every Christian congregation. This may be the result of such factors as loneliness, discouragement, feelings of unworthiness, disappointment in others, serious illness, or the death of a loved one. No matter what the cause, all such dear ones have needs that can and should be filled by our willing and enduring acts of loving-kindness.—1 Thessalonians 5:14.
21 So, then, let us continue to imitate Jehovah God, who is “abundant in loving-kindness.” (Exodus 34:6; Ephesians 5:1) We can do so by willingly taking specific action, particularly in behalf of those in need. And surely we will honor Jehovah and experience great joy as we “carry on with one another loving-kindness.”—Zechariah 7:9.
For details on the type of marriage involved here, see Volume 1, page 370, of Insight on the Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How Would You Answer?
• How does loving-kindness differ from human kindness?
• In what ways was loving-kindness exercised by Bethuel, Joseph, and Ruth?
• With what attitude should we display loving-kindness?
• Who need our expressions of loving-kindness?
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How did Bethuel show loving-kindness?
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Ruth’s loyal love was a blessing to Naomi
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Human loving-kindness is extended willingly, is shown by specific action, and is displayed to those in need