Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness Gets Its Hands Dirty

October 17, 2023 Jennifer Gross

The air pressure in my car’s tires was running low, so I pulled up to the gas station’s air compressor to top it off. But when I connected the air hose to one of the tires, I saw that it had gone nearly flat. Putting more air into it didn’t help. I would have to change the tire.
 
I soon ran into a problem, though—I did not have the strength to loosen the machine-tightened bolts. The gas station service center had closed, so I called my husband to help. It would take him about fifteen minutes to get there, so while I waited, I continued to try but had no success.
 
A contractor’s company van pulled up, and the driver asked if I needed help. I told him the situation and that my husband was on his way. Nevertheless, he wanted to help. Turned out that my tire iron was not easy for him either. When my husband arrived a few minutes later, the man rummaged in the back of his van and came up with his own heavy-duty tire iron. Together, he and my husband changed the tire. We tried to offer the man some money for his time and help, but he refused, accepting only our thanks .
 
Kindness is not afraid to get dirty.

Love in Action

In Galatians, Paul includes kindness as one of the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22– 23)
The meaning of the Greek word translated here as “kindness” overlaps somewhat with “goodness” and “generosity,” but the Greek term brings with it the concept of being helpful or useful, or having integrity in relations with others. Kindness is not just an inner attitude but an action that benefits others. It is outward focused. Kindness notices the needs of others and strives to meet them. Kindness sees that a stranger is having car trouble  and gets out its tools.

The Gospels show many instances of Jesus being kind, but the account of Jesus and the widow’s son in Luke 7 stands out. Jesus and His followers are on their way into a town while a funeral procession is on its way out. A young man is dead, and his widowed mother walks with the bier. In Jesus’ time, women were provided for by their male relatives. A widow whose son had died probably faced abject poverty in addition to the grief of losing her child.
 
This widow likely doesn’t even notice Jesus, other than seeing His group walking toward her outside the city’s gate. They are just people passing on the road. But Jesus notices her, and He “had compassion on her” (Luke 7:13). The NIV translates this as His “heart went out to her” (Luke 7:13, NIV).
 
Jesus’ compassion moves Him to action:
Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. (Luke 7:14–15)
Unlike what we see with many of Jesus’ miracles, no one asks Jesus to heal or raise the son. No, Jesus notices the widow’s distress and need, and He steps forward to help. In a culture where touching a dead person makes a person “unclean,” Jesus is not afraid to get His hands dirty. He touches the bier where the dead man lies to stop the procession. He does what it takes.

God’s Kindness

Of course, God’s kindness is the very center of our faith. Paul writes this:
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages H e might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–7)
God saw our need for forgiveness and redemption and stepped forward to provide it. Jesus “got dirty” in the most profound sense, coming to us through the blood and pain of birth, living with and loving all the sinful humans around Him, dying in pain and humiliation, and rising again to demonstrate His victory over death.
 
Every kindness we share with others is like a child’s imitation of the immense kindness of God. God our Father and Jesus our Brother show us what kindness looks like, and, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, we get to extend that kindness to others. Like Jesus, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty.
 
Scripture: ESV® unless otherwise marked; NIV®.

golden fruitEach session of Golden Fruit will focus on one fruit of the Spirit and consider how the life and story of one of nine biblical women convey that characteristic.

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