The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness
July 21, 2020
The fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5 is a familiar concept to most Christ-followers. Some of the fruit we have discussed already concern areas in which most of us will readily admit to needing growth. But kindness is an area where few of us believe we are seriously lacking. We don’t like to think of ourselves as unkind. But we need to consider what kindness and it’s opposite actually looks like in a person.
Tim Keller helps us get a handle on that. He teaches us this about kindness:
“The definition of kindness is practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security. The opposite of kindness is envy. One is unable to rejoice at another’s joy. The counterfeit of kindness is manipulative good deeds, full of self-congratulation and self-righteousness.”
This information makes it clear that the fruit of true kindness is more than a disposition. Everyone is born with a certain natural amount of kindness, or maybe a lack of it. The things we experience in life amplify whatever was natural and we end up with what we consider our disposition. For some of us, then, kindness comes easy, like swimming to a duck. But in the fruit of the Spirit, we all come to it equally. Paul says this is something supernatural God does in us, regardless of our natural bent. We are all called to live a life of connection with God where kindness grows in spite of what amount of kindness comes naturally to us.
We also realize that this kind of kindness is both internal and external. As the Holy Spirit works within us, kindness becomes part of every place in our lives. It’s not just a warm feeling. It becomes part of our actions. The feelings of kindness we have are intended to lead to kind movements toward those people.
The other factor in the fruit of kindness is that our kindness has integrity—we don’t just “do” kind things while still growing bitterness toward them in our hearts. True kindness requires the power of the Holy Spirit—that’s how we avoid envy, the opposite of kindness, and the manipulative “kindness” which is simply intended to reflect on us.
Perhaps that is the most challenging part of kindness, which is really the fruit of the Spirit: our motivation for what we do. To see where we are on this, we need to examine why are we doing the right, kind thing? Are we trying to get ahead and be liked? Are we simply trying to live up to expectations? Do we just want to look good and better than someone else? Too often, we do the right thing for all the wrong reasons. That leads to us actually becoming more self-centered, more fearful, more performance addicted, more self-righteous, even though from the outside we look truly kind. And most significantly, we will not be living from the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the whole point.
You might feel like, “What’s the big deal? As long as I am treating people kindly, what does it matter?” While of course it is better to treat people kindly than unkindly, the difference in motivation is everything. Sooner or later, our motivations will catch up with us. If we are living for ourselves, doing good things for others but with faulty, selfish motives, we will stall out in our relationship with and growth toward Jesus. We will negate the power of the Holy Spirit to work true kindness in our lives.
Where would you rank your natural disposition in terms of kindness? What experiences in your life have made you into a naturally kind person? Or, what experiences in your life have made it difficult for you to be kind? Have you ever experienced a time when you were externally kind, but internally you felt completely different? The idea of our motives is huge to God. When we do the right thing for the right motives, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is truly growing fruit in us. The problem with our motives is we don’t always know them. We need to take time with the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help us sort them out.
This week intentionally find time to ask God to bring to your mind places where you need your motivations challenged, particularly in the area of kindness. Ask Him to help you abide in Jesus so the Holy Spirit can cultivate true kindness in your life.