Kindness: The Make or Break Virtue
Study Guide, July 26, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
Sometimes we think we’re helping ourselves…but we’re really not. But let’s face it, if you really want to do yourself a favor…if you really want to do something that will be of a real help in your life, here it is: Prov 11:17- “You do yourself a favor when you are kind. If you are cruel, you only hurt yourself.” TEV Does that surprise you? What an amazing principle for life: Kindness to others is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself as well. On the other hand, cruelty to others, rudeness to others, harshness with others is one of the most damaging things you can do to yourself as well. There is no gain in rudeness…only loss. And there is great gain in kindness. And that is really good to know.
In fact, did you know that by developing and practicing the art of kindness that it even has physical benefits? For example: practicing kindness increases the serotonin levels in your brain. Being kind and doing kind things for others boosts this chemical in your body. Now, serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the ‘happy chemical’ because it contributes to well-being and happiness. The scientific name for serotonin is 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT. Just thought you’d want to know that.
But go figure, by extending kindness in thoughts and words and deeds, your own brain is designed by God to reward you with greater feelings of satisfaction, well-being, and happiness. Kindness also increases the production of endorphins as well. And endorphins are often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can act as a pain reliever and a happiness booster. This entire reaction in the body for these acts of kindness is commonly called ‘the helper’s high.’ That’s right…the ‘helper’s high’. And that’s a legal kind of high! You don’t get into trouble for having this kind of ‘high’. It’s like kindness is intoxicating, in a really good way!
Well, and no wonder, because it’s also one of the fruits of the Spirit. Gal 5:22-23- “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” NASU And we are called to be filled with the Spirit. I love how the Amplified Verson puts this: Eph 5:18- “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” AMP ‘Be stimulated with the Holy Spirit…or be under the influence…like intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. How like our loving God to create us in such a way that when we obey His will by seeking to be filled with His Spirit, and under the control of His Spirit, and then growing holy fruit and doing holy things, like being kind to others…doing ‘kind’ things for others…treating others with kindness…that God has made us in such a way that it sets off chemical reactions in our brains to make us feel good things! How amazing is our God!
But that’s not all…for God has made us in such a way that kindness is also a natural stress reducer. Really…kindness releases the hormone ‘oxytocin’. Yes, and oxytoxin, dopamine, and serotonin are often referred to as our ‘happy hormones’. And so this helps with things like relaxation, positive social relationships, and just overall psychological stability.
So, are we done with the benefits? Not quite…for God has also made us in such a way that thoughts and acts of kindness assists the actual chemical balance of our heart. Nitric oxide is released in our blood vessels, which expands them. And so this reduces blood pressure and acts as a protective measure for our heart. Really, kindness strengthens the human heart physically and emotionally.1
Pretty amazing, right? But wait…there’s more…and this is not a commercial! Helping others and practicing kindness toward others also helps reduce inflammation in the body. And inflammation is associated with all sorts of health problems. And while some are simply caused by genetics or hereditary factors, still, although kindness is not a drug, this ‘fruit of the Spirit’ can help us in our health battles. Thank you Lord!
We could even go further in listing further benefits of kindness in our lives. But there’s an even greater motivation than what we just revealed here about why we are to give such priority to this great virtue in our lives. Many people who visit Emerald Isle are impressed by a lot of things about this blessed community. But one of them is that Emerald Isle has an unusual motto: ‘Nice Matters’. That was a great vision by our Town Leaders to choose this motto, because it sets the tone and identifies the target that this community is aiming toward in how they are to treat one another and the attitude that its businesses and residents are to practice in dealing with each other on a day to day basis. It’s really good. Way to go Town Leaders.
But while this is a really good motto, the Scriptures even take it up a notch, because they reveal to us that not only is it true that Nice Matters, but it is also true that Kindness is Commanded. Kindness is commanded! Actually, the reason that nice matters is BECAUSE kindness is commanded. Kindness is not something that has anything to do with a person’s personality or their heritage or their up-bringing or their down-bringing or anything else…No, kindness is a virtue that is simply a command to act upon and to act out, due to the fact that God created us in His image, and His fundamental image includes this fundamental virtue of ‘kindness’. In other words, to be godly, you must be kind, for our God is kind.
Remember, when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God also proclaimed to Moses what His fundamental virtues were as well. And notice what He pointed out: Ex 34:6- “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth…” NASU The Hebrew word for ‘lovingkindness’ is also translated as ‘mercy’. God also emphasized this particular characteristic about Himself in the New Testament as well. And, again, it’s not a suggestion, but a command. Luke 6:36- “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” NASU
So this virtue, mercy…lovingkindness…kindness is a make or break virtue. Mark that down. You can have abilities, capabilities, talents, and gifts…but none of these will make up for a refusal to practice kindness. On the other hand, if you’re merciful, if you show lovingkindness, if you practice kindness in your relationships with others, then regardless of your abilities, capabilities, talents, or gifts, your usefulness and your significance is great in the family of God and you will be rewarded greatly in the Kingdom of God.
So again, not only is the development and practice of ‘kindness’ the best thing that you can do for yourself and others, it is one of the central commandments that God requires of His people. And how do we know that? Mic 6:8- “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” NASU
‘To love kindness’…that’s an interesting combination of words. And why would God put it that way? Well, remember, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s people get to choose what they will love. It can be an acquired taste you know, like learning to love some foods that you used to not want at all. No doubt you can think of a few of examples of those foods that were like that for you. But, it’s like the difference between those deeds of the flesh from the fruit of the Spirit. Or, like we often say, the ‘weeds’ of the flesh from the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit. Converted Christians learn to love the fruit of the Spirit instead of some of those weeds that their old nature once loved. For example, look at the differences: Gal 5:19-23- “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” NASU
For those who have become followers of Christ, Christ is now looking for the formation of more and more Christ-like traits and virtues and habits in their lives. God even expects that we grow to ‘prefer’ these things in our lives; like remember; to ‘love kindness’ and to delight in showing kindness to others in your life. God expects that there would be less and less preference for those deeds and weeds that the flesh used to default to and used to treat others according to those damaging things like strife and jealousy and dissensions and such. Instead, God expects, even requires, as He said in Micah…He expects and requires us to come to the place where we prefer, even love showing kindness to others…mercy to others, just like our God does.
So, if we are not or have not come to the place in our lives that we love kindness, or that we prefer to show mercy to others in our lives, the question arises – Why not? What are we doing or what are we not doing that is interfering with the development of kindness in our lives? What is this barrier or barriers to becoming more Christ-like in our Christian life? Is it self-pride? Is it a critical spirit? Is it a bad habit of being rude? Is it a love of self before the Savior? You need to get it figured out!
Again, kindness is not an option for Christians. Kindness is a command. Certainly, it doesn’t rule out justice, since that is also required. It doesn’t rule out tough love, as we sure saw demonstrations of Jesus’ tough love when He overturned tables in the Temple and drove out those religious criminals. There’s a time for tough love and a time for tender love, right? But as far as the temperament that God expects us to develop and to practice in our day to day relationships with our family and our community, that is one that is to be characterized by ‘kindness’.
So there’s no wiggle room when it comes to how God expects His people to act toward, and treat, and deal with others. In fact, God has even worked it so that other things that we long for are dependent upon the development of this key virtue of kindness. Take ‘wisdom’ for example. Who doesn’t want to develop wisdom in their life? And yes, we know that the Proverbs reveal that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It starts there, but guess what is next in line? And if you neglect the development of this one, then you have just limited yourself on developing the wisdom that God desires to give you, but He will with-hold if He doesn’t see us acting upon what He has required.
So here it is: Wisdom begins with the fear of God, but it’s conditional upon the development of kindness. That’s what the Apostle James reveals to us in 3:17-18- “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” NASU This is a formula that needs to be precisely followed in order to develop godly wisdom. If you neglect, say, morality, or being peaceable, or being gentle and humble, or if you neglect seeking to grow in the practice of being merciful…of being kind to one another, then you will forfeit the very wisdom you desire and need in order to live a wise life.
Remember, you can have all kinds of knowledge, but very little wisdom. For knowledge is based upon the acquiring of information, but wisdom is based upon the development of character…Christ-like character. And your ‘character’ is the most important thing there is about you. In fact, when it comes to God’s evaluation of His children’s faithfulness in their lives for the purposes of their rewards for service assignments in the Kingdom of Heaven, godly character assures God’s rewards, but ungodly character cancels out God’s rewards. You gain nothing and lose much by not developing and practicing the character of Christ in your life. But you gain everything and lose nothing by seeking to form and practice the character of Christ in your life. And God has told us exactly what to do about doing that: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
And, Praise God, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we can not only choose to do what God requires us to do, but we can even learn to love it. We can come to the place where we prefer to treat others with kindness, because it’s the way our Savior treated people as well. Plus, we even feel better and are happier when we practice kindness.
- Maile Proctor, 6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind Is Good for Your Health, quietrev.com