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Love is Kind (1 Corinthians 13:4)

(Introduction to "Kindness")

Kindness - Goodness that Expresses Itself in Action!

There are three New Testament Greek word groups which can be translated "good" or "goodness." Two of these groups focus primarily on the moral and aesthetic aspects of goodness. The third group - the one in this study - has the basic idea of being "useful" and focuses more on the practical outworking of goodness: kindness expressed to others.

Generally speaking, this aspect of goodness (the expression of kindness) is seen by its actions toward others. It is more than just a "kind" attitude or a "kind" manner of communicating to others (although these are certainly a part of it). This is a kindness that is interested in the good of others and is eager to make itself helpful or available for serving others. No wonder it is an aspect of the Bible's concept of love!

For the most part, the Bible uses this word to describe an aspect of God's character. Because God is good, he does what is good, or kind, when he interacts with people. This is true even when he interacts with those who are his enemies.

It is our duty, as those who have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, etc.), to reflect this character quality in our own lives, when we interact with other people. Sin has destroyed our ability to do so, but God - because of his own kindness and graciousness - has given us a new ability, in Christ. (More about this later.)

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Word Definitions / Verse List

[You can skip this part, if you don't like N.T. Greek!]

The Greek words which form this "kindness" word group are defined below...

[Based on Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T.]

To show one's self mild, to be kind, use kindness.
1 Cor. 13:4

1. Prop. Fit for use, useful; virtuous, good; 2. Manageable, i.e. mild, pleasant (opp. to harsh, hard, sharp, bitter: of things - pleasanter; of food and drink; yoke: (opp. to burdensome); of persons, kind, benevolent: of God
Matthew 11:30 (an "easy" yoke); Luke 5:39 (older wine - "good")
Luke 6:35; Romans 2:4; 1 Cor. 15:33; Ephes. 4:32; 1 Peter 2:3 ("kind" or "good")

Moral goodness, integrity; benignity, kindness
Romans 2:4; Romans 3:12; Romans 11:22; 2 Cor. 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephes. 2:7; Col. 3:12; Titus 3:4

The following word has been included, though it is actually a combination of two Greek words: chrestos (kind) and lego (to speak):

Fair speaking, the smooth and plausible address which stimulates goodness.
Romans 16:18 ("smooth" talk)

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OUTLINE: What does the Bible say about Kindness?

[** Read the context of these verses. **]


1. The basic facts

2. Because God is kind...

3. Our proper response to his kindness:

4. God's kindness & those who are saved, who "stay in his kindness"

5. God's kindness & those who reject/disregard it, who don't "stay in his kindness"

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A commentary on this basic fact

In our "natural selves," it is possible for us to have a superficial or self-centered "kindness" toward others. It is possible for us to do things which appear to be kind - especially when those things are done to those who respond back in the same "kind" way. (Pagans can do this, according to Luke 6:32-34.)

The kindness that God requires - a reflection of his own character (Luke 6:36) must come from the heart. It can exist only when the Spirit of God is present, since it is the fruit of his presence (Galatians 5:22-23). We ourselves cannot generate this type of kindness without the Spirit. (If the Spirit is present, the kindness will be present.)

This kindness (which comes from God) is expressed not only to those who might respond back with kindness, but also to those we know will respond back with evil. (These "unfavorable" situations - kindness "paid back" with evil - actually provide the best context in which the true nature of one's "kindness" can be seen.)

2. Kindness WILL be present where the Holy Spirit and godly love are present

3. Ability & Obligation: Because of what God has done, we CAN & MUST be kind.

4. Expressing kindness to others

NOTE: The following two verses mention a "kindness" which is not necessarily a reflection of the heart. As such, it can be changeable or corrupted. It can also be a cover-up for evil. [Of course, it can also be an expression of good, if the Spirit is in control!]

5. Warnings associated with specific types (or expressions) of kindness

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PART 3: OTHER USES OF THE WORD "KIND" (slightly different meaning)

1. A "kind" (easy) yoke, associated with "rest," and contrasted with being weary & burdened - Matthew 11:28-30 (Jesus contrasts his message to the "system" taught by the religious leaders of the day.)

2. A "kind" (smooth-tasting) wine: aged wine contrasted with new wine - Luke 5:39 (Jesus contrasts the "newness" of his way - which people found difficult to accept - to the "old" system that people had become comfortable with.)

A commentary on these two verses

When Jesus addresses those who are "weary and burdened," who is he referring to? John Gill, in his "Exposition of the Entire Bible," describes them quite well:

[They are] ...such who groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin upon their consciences, and are pressed down with the unsupportable yoke of the law, and the load of human traditions; and have been labouring till they are weary, in order to obtain peace of conscience, and rest for their souls, by the observance of these things, but in vain. These are encouraged to come to him, lay down their burdens at his feet, look to, and lay hold by faith on his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; when they should enjoy that true spiritual consolation, which could never be attained to by the works of the law. [Modern edition, edited by Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario]

The religious leaders of Jesus' day did nothing to ease this burden. Instead, they developed a complex "religious system" of traditions and rituals that the people simply could not follow.

The law of Moses required a perfection that no person could ever achieve (because of sin in our lives), and so it was described as a "yoke" (Acts 15:10). But the Law intended to show people their need for mercy and grace (compare with Gal. 3:24), whereas the Pharisees had replaced mercy and grace with burdensome human works, which could never atone for one's sins! It was for a good reason that Jesus described them in this way:

They tie up heavy loads [burdens] and place them on other's shoulders; but they themselves are not willing to lift even a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)

Ironically, the very sins and attempts people make to "appease" God are enslaving. People are unwilling (perhaps even afraid?) to give them up - even for something as liberating and refreshing as the free grace that Jesus offers. They become accustomed to their burdens and slavery and prefer them over Jesus' "new way." And so they say, "The old is better!" (Luke 5:39)

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: "Kindness" Occurs in What Type of Context?



Other Concepts that Occur in the Same Context



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This week, you will probably have opportunity to be kind to people who are not kind to you. Are you going to be just like them, and respond back in an unkind way? Or are you going to follow the words of Jesus, who told us to respond the way the Father responds (Luke 6:35)? In the weeks ahead, consider how you respond in such situations. If you are doing things the way the Father does, it will be a reason for encouragement (and thanks to God). If not, it may show you an area in which you need to repent. Remember this: the way you respond in such situations may be an indication of who your father really is. (The other "father" is mentioned in John 8:44.)

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Dennis Hinks © 1996
Matthew 23:4  (quoted) my own translation