There is a lot of unneighborly conduct these days—all manner of unkindness and cruelty result when hearts are full of jealousy, envy, bitterness, and malice. For example, the woke cancel culture of today shows no mercy to a neighbor. Its virtue signaling, self-vindication, and hypocritical deflection of self-scrutiny are bearing the fruit of injustice, suspicion, and division among us. Conversely, being a neighbor means showing mercy to others when they need it. To do that, we must have hearts full of compassion (Col. 3:12). Being a neighbor is about loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did that? In this encounter between a lawyer and Jesus (Luke 10:25-37), the critical question was not when the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29)? It was Jesus’s question back to him, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves” (Luke 10:36)? The true neighbor actively shows mercy to others (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Pet. 3:8-9). We ought to look for opportunities to show mercy to others. They are not hard to find. Be a neighbor today. Show mercy to someone in their time of need. You will reap what you sow (Matt. 5:7).
4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: …6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth…” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7, NKJV)
Kindness is produced in those who are led by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22, 18). It is a mark of those who serve God. According to the apostle in the passage above, God is not served where kindness is absent. Kindness carries the idea of graciousness, usefulness and serviceability toward others. Like love, kindness looks outward toward others, treating them with grace. “Be kind to one another” is not a suggestion, it is a commandment of God (Ephesians 4:32). We cannot mask unkind words and deeds behind the facade of “boldly speaking the truth.” Neither does kindness prevent speaking the truth. Indeed, truth must be spoken boldly in love, not with unkind, harsh and rude words (Ephesians 4:15). Kindness comes from being “tenderhearted” – being compassionate and sympathetic toward others (Ephesians 4:32). The sin of unkindness separates Christians from God and from one another. Works of the flesh like hatred, contentions, jealousies, and outbursts of wrath display themselves in unkind words and treatment of others (Galatians 5:20). By kindness, may we always commend ourselves as ministers of God.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35–37, NKJV)
The flooding in Texas and Louisiana from hurricane Harvey has been unprecedented, with more than 50 inches of rain in the Houston area. Truly astonishing. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones, and to all who continue to be impacted, as they face the tremendous work of rebuilding shattered lives. This unprecedented trial also produced unprecedented kindness, as officials, neighbors and strangers rushed to the rescue. For most, this was the first time they have ever lost so much, so fast. What began with force and fury, continued with unrelenting rain, that kept on falling, as the water kept rising. Trials are like that sometimes. They seem to never end. But, eventually, they do. The sun eventually came out from behind the clouds, but much work lies ahead. There are spiritual parallels: Trials may come on us when we do not expect them. When we are not fully prepared, they seem to sweep us away by a torrent of forces beyond our control. Yet, for Christians, trials purge our faith of its dross, purifying and strengthening us in the Lord (Jas. 1:2-4). “Weeping may endure for a night; but joy comes in the morning” (Psa. 30:5).
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NKJV)
The tongue is powerful. It can comfort the grieving with kindness and concern, and it can destroy a person’s credibility and good reputation through malicious gossip. It can build up brethren and it can destroy churches. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5). Let us learn to restrain the tongue by controlling the heart. Jesus said what comes out of the mouth defiles the person, because it comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11, 18). Gossip is one such defilement. It tears down others to justify self. It is ugly and void of kindness. Gossip is prevented by keeping the meditations and issues of the heart pure (Philippians 4:8). Today’s proverb reminds us that love promotes forgiveness, not the separation caused by talebearing and gossip.
What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar. (Proverbs 19:22, NKJV)
God looks behind our actions, and sees our motives and intentions. God expects us to have both clean hands and pure hearts prompting what our hands find to do (Jas. 4:8). What desire of the heart are you accomplishing by your actions? Here, Solomon notes that kindness is measured and meted out by what is in the heart. A poor man who shows kindness from an empathetic heart (though he possesses little), is of greater value than the rich man who says kind things, but does little (1 Jno. 3:17-18; Jas. 2:15-16). When we say, yet fail to do, we show ourselves to be liars. Solomon acknowledges this, in order to urge us to be sure that our kind acts toward others are a genuine reflection of our heart, and not an exercise in vanity and self-promotion. If they are, then we have our reward (Matt. 6:1-4).
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12, NKJV)
Worldly-minded people do not follow the Golden Rule. They practice the exact opposite, which is condemned in Solomon’s proverb, “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Proverbs 24:29). Christians rise above the world’s standard treatment of others. We do good to those who do not return it. Indeed, we are called upon by the Lord to do good to others without thought of their response (Matthew 5:44-48). So today, make it a point to think about how you treat others. Use kind words and thoughtful actions. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Your day will be happier, and you will please your Father in heaven.