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Kindness (Heb. טוֹב; Gr. χρηστότης) is an intrinsic goodness in which pleasant and appropriate conditions result. Also translated as gentleness (KJV), it is in the center of the cluster of the Fruit of the Spirit (fifth of nine)[1]. It is one of the evidences of true sacrificial love[2]. Coupled with "philanthropy" (φιλανθρωπία; KJV "love of mankind"; ESV "loving kindness"), this kindness was the motive for the salvation of the people of God[3].

Like all the fruit of the Spirit, kindness is part of the "image of God" found in mankind at creation[4]. Lost to the majority of mankind due to the fall, vestiges of "kindness" can be found as a demonstration of what some call "common grace"[5]. However, to God's people the fruit of kindness is a special outworking of the love by which the world can know them[6].

Meaning and Usage

In the midst of the creation of the universe, there is a repeating theme, everything was good (Heb. טוֹב, tob)[7]. This is to say, everything was just the way it was designed to be. Not even mankind, though, could ever understand the ends and outs of just how and why this was so. The test of the faith of mankind was to leave that knowledge to God. Nevertheless, the concept of pleasantness was innate to existence, as the trees and other plants were meant to be enjoyed for food[8]. The first act of kindness to mankind was the creation of Eve, the mother of all living[9]. Without the woman, the man would not be able to fulfill his role in the creation.

When Moses asked Yahweh to "show (His) glory", He showed His goodness through the Covenant Name shown in sovereign acts of grace and mercy. This is to say, God's glory is evident when He chooses to favor those who do not deserve His attention. By extension, the attribute of God's kindness in His image bearers is seen in acting outside of one's own circle of family and friends to "random" strangers[10]. Famously, the 23rd Psalm calls God to account for His goodness[11].

The Kindness of God

The kindness, or goodness, of God is a primary attribute that defines Who He is and what He does. Just before Jacob "wrestled with God", he had presumed that the promise of Abraham and Isaac had been transferred to him[12]. It was only after a "close encounter" with a manifestation of God did he learn what his young son Joseph would announce to the rest of the "sons of Israel" -- God's goodness comes in many forms[13].

After the days of Joseph, though, the goodness of God seemed to disappear. The people became slaves. When God acted on their behalf, He showed the opposite side of His nature: wrath. Not since the burning of cities on the plain[14] had God shown His anger upon wicked mankind. In the wake of the ten plagues, God showed His kindness in a large way, saving everyone who trusted His command to stay inside blood-marked houses. Miracles of kindness followed as Yahweh brought His people out of Egypt[15].

In the Pentateuch, Moses assured the people of God that His Law and works were for their benefit[16]. As David and others wrote the Psalms the goodness of God was often affirmed in their prayers and admonitions[17]. The prophets Nahum and Jeremiah trusted in Yahweh even in the face of calamity, knowing that He would be true to His promise -- in the end, the people of God would know of His goodness[18]. The Apostle Paul extols the kindness of God in accordance with love[19] and patience[20], while contrasting it to the severity of his justice towards sinful mankind[21].

Human Kindness

Because of the fall, all mankind is unable to consistently show kindness to others[22]. However, the kindness of God is shown to those to whom he has mercy[23]. The intrinsic goodness of God becomes evident in these lives[24], though they must consciously strive to demonstrate it[25].

Verses

  1. Gal 5:22 (Link)
  2. 1 Cor 13:4 (Link)
  3. Titus 3:3-7; see also, Eph 2:7 (Link)
  4. Gen 1:27 (Link)
  5. Ecc 9:2 (Link)
  6. John 13:35 (Link)
  7. Gen 1: 4,10,12,18,21,25,31 (Link)
  8. Gen 2:9 (Link)
  9. Gen 2:18 (Link)
  10. Mat 7:9; Lev 19:18; Luke 10:27 (Link)
  11. Psa 23:6 (Link)
  12. Gen 32:9-12 (Link)
  13. Gen 32:24-30; 50:10 (Link)
  14. Gen 18:16-19:26 (Link)
  15. Exo 14:30; 15:13; Deut 33:16 (Link)
  16. Num 23:19; Deut 12:28; 26:11 (Link)
  17. Ps 23:6; 25:8; 34:8,10; 119:68; 135:3; 145:9 (Link)
  18. Nahum 1:7; Jer 24:6; 32:38; 33:9,11; Lam 3:25 (Link)
  19. Titus 3:4 (Link)
  20. Rom 2:4 (Link)
  21. Rom 11:22 (Link)
  22. Rom. 3:12 (Link)
  23. Deu 13:17; Jer 31:20; Rom 9:15 (Link)
  24. Rom 11:22, Gal 5:22 (Link)
  25. 2 Cor 6:6; Col 3:12 (Link)
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