A YOUTH in Japan was moved by the kindness of a gentle elderly man. The man, a missionary, had not been in this Asian country for many years and was still limited in his use of Japanese. Yet, each week he visited the young man’s home to discuss the Bible. With friendly smiles and kindly manners, he patiently answered the many questions that the curious young student raised.
The kind ways of the elderly missionary left an indelible impression on the young man. ‘If the Bible makes a man so kind and loving,’ thought the young man, ‘then by all means I should learn about it.’ This gave him the incentive he needed to study something totally foreign to him. Yes, kindness touches the human heart and speaks to it, often more powerfully than words can.
A Quality in the Image of God
It is natural for us to be kind to those closely related to us, for kindness basically means affection arising from kinship.a However, kindness is fundamentally a divine quality. Jesus said that his heavenly Father is kind not only to those who love Him but also “toward the unthankful.” Jesus urged his followers to imitate God in this regard: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:48; Exodus 34:6.
Humans, created in God’s image, are capable of reflecting or manifesting the quality of kindness. (Genesis 1:27) Yes, we can imitate God and broaden the reach of our kindness beyond those related to us. The Bible describes kindness as part of the desirable fruitage of God’s holy spirit, or active force. (Galatians 5:22) Hence, it can be developed and cultivated as one learns more about God, the Creator, and comes closer to him.
Since kindness is not only woven into the fabric of human nature but also highly esteemed by God, it is, therefore, reasonable that God tells us to “become kind to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32) We are also reminded: “Do not forget hospitality,” or “kindness to strangers.”—Hebrews 13:2, footnote.
In today’s largely unkind and unthankful world, is it possible for us to be kind to others, even strangers? What can help us to do so? In fact, why should we even be concerned about it?
Essential Before God
Interestingly, the apostle Paul, after speaking about showing kindness to strangers, went on to say: “Through it some, unknown to themselves, entertained angels.” Can you imagine how you would feel if you were given the opportunity to entertain angels? But Paul prefaced this with the expression “unknown to themselves.” Putting it another way, his point was that if we have the habit of showing kindness to others, including strangers or people we do not really know, we might be rewarded in unexpected ways.
Most Bible versions with cross-references link Paul’s words with the accounts about Abraham and Lot in Genesis chapters 18 and 19. In both cases, we read about angels appearing to them as strangers with important messages. In Abraham’s case, the message was about the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son, and in Lot’s case, it was about deliverance from the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.—Genesis 18:1-10; 19:1-3, 15-17.
If you read the scriptures cited above, you will note that both Abraham and Lot extended kindness to passersby who were unknown to them. Of course, in Bible times, showing hospitality to travelers and passersby—whether friends, relatives, or strangers—was a matter of custom and duty. In fact, the Mosaic Law required that Israelites not overlook the needs of non-Israelites in the land. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19) Even so, it is apparent that Abraham and Lot went beyond what later came to be required by law. They put forth extraordinary effort to show kindness to strangers, and they were blessed for doing so.
Abraham’s acts of kindness brought blessings not only for himself in that he had a son but also for us. In what way? Abraham and his son Isaac played a vital role in the outworking of God’s purpose. They became key figures in the family line leading to the Messiah, Jesus. And their faithful course foreshadowed how the basis for human salvation was to be provided through God’s love and undeserved kindness.—Genesis 22:1-18; Matthew 1:1, 2; John 3:16.
Those accounts impressively indicate what God expects of people whom he favors and how much he esteems the quality of kindness. It is not optional but essential in the sight of God.
Exercising Kindness Helps Us to Know God Better
The Bible states that in our day, many would be “unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) No doubt you are confronted with such people every day. Still, that is no reason to suppress our kind feelings for others altogether. Christians are reminded: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men.”—Romans 12:17.
We can expend ourselves and be openhearted in extending kindness. The Bible says: “Everyone who loves . . . gains the knowledge of God,” and one way our love is displayed is by being kind to others. (1 John 4:7; 1 Corinthians 13:4) Yes, by being kind to our fellow humans, we come to know God better, and that makes us happier. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Happy the kind—because they shall find kindness. Happy the clean in heart—because they shall see God.”—Matthew 5:7, 8, Young’s Literal Translation.
When you are not sure of what to do or say, do or say the kind thing
Consider the example of Aki, a young Japanese housewife with two sons. After suddenly losing her mother, she became seriously depressed. At times, she felt so bad that she had to see a doctor. Then, a family moved into her neighborhood. They had recently lost their father in an accident, and the mother was left with five minor children. Aki felt very sorry for the family and extended herself to become friends with the mother and her children. Doing everything she could to help the family—sharing food, outgrown clothing, and so on—Aki regained her own emotional stability. She felt the truthfulness of what the Bible says: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Yes, showing kindness to others can be the best thing you can do for yourself when you feel down.
“Lending to Jehovah”
Showing kindness does not necessarily cost much. Neither does it depend on your ability or even your physical strength. A smile, a compassionate word, a helping hand, a small thoughtful gift, or just letting others go first in a line can often mean much. When you are not sure of the right thing to say or do under a certain circumstance, say or do the kind thing. The young man mentioned at the beginning of this article was deeply touched by the older missionary’s kind demeanor, which transcended the language barrier. No wonder one of God’s requirements for his worshippers is that they “love kindness”!—Micah 6:8.
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” As eloquently expressed in this Oriental saying, a small kindness can go a long way. When it comes with a proper motive, and especially when coupled with one’s love for God, it can warm the hearts of all involved. Even when your kindness is not appreciated, that does not mean it is wasted. It is valued in the sight of God. The Bible assures us that kindness shown to others is actually “lending to Jehovah.” (Proverbs 19:17) Why not watch for opportunities to express kindness to those around you?
a The Oxford English Dictionary shows that the original meaning of “kindness” is “kinship; near relationship; natural affection arising from this.”