By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Quotation For Consideration
“I LIKE MY SISTER’S Simple, yet practical interpretation of kindness: Be nice to one another, just be nice. Say nice things to one another. That best portion of a good man’s life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and love. -(William Wordsworth)
One of the most important lessons that we learn from Job’s friends is on the topic of kindness.
The words and actions of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zohar show us they were completely unkind toward Job in his suffering.
What exactly is “kindness?”
Kindness is very important in the Bible. We are often told about the “kindness” of God and of man. In the Old Testament, the word most often translated as “kindness” is the Hebrew word checedh, which was a very interesting word in the ancient world.
“checed (2617), “loving-kindness; steadfast love; grace; mercy; faithfulness; goodness; devotion.” This word is used 240 times in the Old Testament, and is especially frequent in the Psalter. The term is one of the most important in the vocabulary of Old Testament theology and ethics. The Septuagint nearly always renders checed with eleos (“mercy”), and that usage is reflected in the New Testament. Modern translations, in contrast, generally prefer renditions close to the word “grace.” KJV usually has “mercy,” although “loving-kindness” (following Coverdale), “favor,” and other translations also occur. RSV generally prefers “steadfast love.” NIV often offers simply “love.” In general, one may identify three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: “strength,” “steadfastness,” and “love.” Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. “Love” by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet “strength” or “steadfastness” suggests only the fulfillment of a legal or other obligation….Even the Creation is the result of God’s checed (Ps. 136:5-9).” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 9899-9936 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The New Testament description of “kindness” is also fascinating.
In Galatians 5, Paul describes the “fruit of the Spirit.” He writes:
Galatians 5:22-23-22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
William Barclay, in describing the similarities and differences between “kindness” and “goodness,” shares some excellent information with us:
“Kindness and goodness are closely connected words. For kindness, the word is chrestotes. It, too, is commonly translated as goodness. The Rheims version of 2 Corinthians 6: 6 translates it as sweetness. It is a lovely word. The Greek historian and philosopher Plutarch says that it has a far wider place than justice. Old wine is called chrestos, mellow. Christ’s yoke is called chrestos (Matthew 11: 30), that is, it does not cause discomfort or irritation. The whole idea of the word is a goodness which is kind. The word Paul uses for goodness (agathosune) is a word peculiar to the Bible and does not occur in secular Greek (Romans 15: 14; Ephesians 5: 9; 2 Thessalonians 1: 11). It is the widest word for goodness; it is defined as ‘virtue equipped at every point’. What is the difference? Agathosune might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes can only help. The nineteenth-century Bishop of Dublin, R. C. Trench, says that Jesus showed agathosune when he cleansed the Temple and drove out those who were making it a bazaar; but he showed chrestotes when he was kind to the sinning woman who anointed his feet. Christians need that goodness which at one and the same time can be kind and strong.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To The Galatians And Ephesians, 61 (Kindle Edition): Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
So, the quality of kindness possesses the following characteristics.
First, kindness is an outgrowth of true love-a chosen compassion and goodwill for others that seeks their highest good. This kindness finds its’ origin in the Nature of God Himself.
Second, kindness is loyalty to the one who is loved-a steadfastness that will endure even in failure, hardship, and personal failure. This kindness is that which is freely shown to the moral rebel and transgressor.
Third, kindness will include strength-a quality that is willing to help and encourage, especially in suffering and adversity. This strength is willing to face obstacles of all kinds, for the ultimate good of the beloved.
The words and actions of Job’s friends were anything but kind. They demonstrate only the self-righteous and selfish reflections of a calloused and graceless heart. For example:
Job 8:4 (CEV)-He made your children pay for their sins.
Job 15:1-5 (CEV)-1 Eliphaz from Teman said:
2 Job, if you had any sense,
3 you would stop spreading all of this hot air.
4 Your words are enough to make others turn from God and lead them to doubt.
5 And your sinful, scheming mind is the source of all you say.
Job 18:1-21-1 Bildad from Shuah said: 2 How long will you talk? Be sensible! Let us speak. 3 Or do you think that we are dumb animals? 4 You cut yourself in anger. Will that shake the earth or even move the rocks? 5 The lamps of sinful people soon are snuffed out, 6 leaving their tents dark. 7 Their powerful legs become weak, and they stumble on schemes of their own doing. 8 Before they know it, 9 they are trapped in a net, 10 hidden along the path. 11 Terror strikes and pursues from every side. 12 Starving, they run, only to meet disaster, 13 then afterwards to be eaten alive by death itself. 14 Those sinners are dragged from the safety of their tents to die a gruesome death. 15 Then their tents and possessions are burned to ashes, 16 and they are left like trees, dried up from the roots. 17 They are gone and forgotten, 18 thrown far from the light into a world of darkness, 19 without any children to carry on their name. 20 Everyone, from east to west, is overwhelmed with horror. 21 Such is the fate of sinners and their families who don’t know God.
In all of their speeches, Job’s friends show that they believe Job himself is responsible for the evil that has befallen him and his family.
Talk about low: telling someone whose children have died that it is God punishing them for the parents’ sins! It is no wonder that Job described the words of his friends as worthless (Job 6:26), torturous (Job 19:2), empty and meaningless (Job 21:34).
With these things in mind, let’s consider some practical lessons about kindness.
One: Be Kind
There is a choice before each of us: to be kind, or to be cruel.
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that kindness is extremely important.
Proverbs 19:22-What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar.
Mark 12:31-34-31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.
One author, in describing the scathing words of Eliphaz to Job, has powerfully demonstrated the need for being kind and gracious:
“In the second cycle, which starts in chapter 15 of the Book of Job, Eliphaz takes off the gloves and starts swinging barefisted, thinking it’s time to really get down to business. Hard as it is to imagine, there is not a hint of grace. It’s now “same song, fourth verse . . . could be better . . . but it’s going to be worse.” Much worse. Eliphaz throws more verbal punches in the first round of this second cycle. They are nothing more than graceless words for a grieving man. In case you wonder what those kind of words sound like, they begin with pride….Then there’s guilt,…So, there’s condemnation as well. In the words that follow we find exaggeration and sarcasm, where one humiliating question follows another….Can you imagine the unmitigated gall it took to stand before a man shaking and shattered by pain and unloading such a diatribe on him? This is verbal abuse at its lowest level, intensified by the pride in this man’s heart who is delivering the blows so relentlessly. The sarcastic interrogation continues…He tears Job apart with his sharp teeth, never even pausing to give the grieving man a chance to answer….Having rebuked him, he follows up with reminders of the fate of the wicked as he ends his speech. He says, in effect, “Job, because you’re wicked, you writhe in pain. Plain and simple, that’s why you’re in pain. You’re only getting what you deserve.”…“That’s it, Job! It’s your arrogance!” Eliphaz backs away and stares at him with that glare, saying, again, “You are getting exactly what you deserve!” The style of communication Eliphaz employs is not that unusual to those who lack grace. It may not always be this brutal, but haven’t you noticed this tone when you’re around people who evidence no grace? When you’re down, they kick you. When you’re drowning, they pull you under. When you’re confused, they complicate your life. And, when you’re almost finished, they write you off. Other than that, they’re pretty good folks. It is easy to forget the grief Job was trying to get past—the shocking loss of his adult children. Releasing the vise grip of grief that comes from a sudden death takes an enormous toll….I can’t help but think of that when I see Job, as he sits there enduring this, awash in his grief, trying his best to believe his ears—that this man who was once a friend is saying such graceless words. I’m left with one thought: “Lord, if you are teaching us anything through Job’s endurance, teach us the value of grace. Teach us about demonstrating grace. Show us again that grace is always appropriate. Always needed. Not just by a student in Missouri taking a final exam. Not only by a grieving family in Dallas. All of us need it! The person sitting near you in church next Sunday, the lady pushing that cart in the grocery store, the one who’s putting gas in his car at the next pump, the man behind you at the movies, waiting to buy his ticket, the student across from you at school. You have no idea what that person is going through. If you did, chances are you’d be prompted to show grace or to say a few encouraging words even quicker. Remember this please: Grace is always appropriate, always needed!” (Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man Of Heroic Endurance, 129-134 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson)
Two: Be Kind In Your Words
Job’s friends were “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2), and one of the reasons why is because their words were filled with cruelty instead of kindness. Throughout the Book of Job, God points out that there is a need for kindness in speech. For example, when Eliphaz described the words and actions of Job, he says:
Job 4:3-4-3 Surely you have instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands. 4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees;
Job had been an example of kindness and graciousness in his dealings with his fellow man. Sadly, Job’s friends could not return the favor in helping Job through his time of grief. As a result, we find Job point out this important principle:
Job 6:14-“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Job’s friends should have shown kindness to their friend in his affliction.
Notice also that this kindness should be extended towards one who had forsaken the fear of the Almighty. Isn’t this one of the lessons that the Apostle Paul teaches us in discussing church discipline?
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15-14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Job points out that if their circumstances were reversed, he would use his words to offer comfort and solace to his hurting friends:
Job 16:5-But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.
Christians need to work at being kind in our speech. Paul wrote of this to the church of the Colossians:
Colossians 4:6-Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Colossians 4:6 (ERV)-When you talk, you should always be kind and wise. Then you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.
Speaking of the wording of the Apostle in this passage, one author has written:
“It is not enough simply to walk wisely and carefully before unbelievers. We must also talk with them and share the gospel message with them. But we must take care that our speech is controlled by grace, so that it points to Christ and glorifies the Lord. This means we must have grace in our hearts (Col. 3: 16), because it is from the heart that the mouth speaks. With grace in our hearts and on our lips, we will be faithful witnesses and not judges or prosecuting attorneys! The Lord Jesus Christ spoke with grace on His lips. “And all … wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4: 22). Among the many statements about Jesus Christ in Psalm 45 (a messianic psalm) is this: “Grace is poured into thy lips” (v. 2). Even when our Lord was dealing with sin, He spoke words of grace. Our speech is supposed to “minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4: 29). But it cannot do that unless we have grace in our hearts and in our words. “Speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4: 15) is God’s ideal for our conversation. Why did Paul add “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4: 6)? In that day, salt was used as a preservative as well as a seasoner. We should never say to anyone, “Now, take this with a grain of salt.” We must put the salt into our speech to make sure it is pure and properly seasoned. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” (Eph. 4: 29). Our speech must be pure. Salt was also added to the sacrifices (Lev. 2: 13). Perhaps Paul was suggesting that we look on our words as sacrifices offered to God, just as our words of praise are spiritual sacrifices (Heb. 13: 15). It would no doubt help us to say the right things in the right manner if we remembered that our words are looked on as sacrifices to God. It is unfortunate when a Christian speaks in a rude or coarse manner, particularly when the unsaved are listening. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3: 15). Meekness is the opposite of harshness, and fear is the opposite of arrogance. There is no place in a Christian’s conversation for a know-it-all attitude. While we need to have convictions and not compromise, we must also cultivate a gracious spirit of love. The Christian’s walk and talk must be in harmony with each other. Nothing will silence the lips like a careless life. When character, conduct, and conversation are all working together, it makes for a powerful witness.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Colossians: Be Complete! Become The Whole Person God Intends You To Be, 157-158 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO; David C. Cook)
Several other Scriptures remind us of the need to cultivate our speech:
Ephesians 4:29-Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Proverbs 12:18-There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.
Proverbs 15:2-The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
Proverbs 15:4-A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:23-A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
Proverbs 16:21-The wise in heart will be called prudent, And sweetness of the lips increases learning.
Proverbs 18:21-Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 25:11-12-11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
Three: Kindness Includes Weeping With Those Who Weep
Perhaps the kindest display of Job’s friends was in their willingness to shut up and grieve with their friend when they first arrived (Job 2:13). As members of Christ’s body, we do our best to encourage and console each other in times of sorrow:
Romans 12:15-Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
David displayed this attitude for his friends:
Psalm 35:13-14-13 But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart. 14 I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.
In everything we do, let’s try to be kind.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
What are the three main ideas of the Hebrew word checed? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
According to Leviticus 2:11-13, what were all Old Testament sacrifices to be offered with? ____________
What is the main difference between chrestotes (kindness) and agathosune (goodness)? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How did David display his kindly concern for his suffering friends? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer Partners
1. Consider the imagery of our speech being seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). What are some ways that this applies to those who hate us and hurt us (Matthew 5:44-45)?