Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 25, Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:27, 1 Corinthians 13:4, Colossians 3:12-13, Luke 6:35, Romans 12:10, Galatians 5:22-23, Acts 28:2, Micah 6:8, Proverbs 11:17, Romans 2:4, Luke 6:27-31, Proverbs 21:21, Ruth 3, 2 Samuel 9:7
Guiding Question: How can we accurately reflect God’s kindness to those around us?
Optional Introductory Activity: As students enter the classroom, treat them as you normally would. Have the most comfortable chair in the room marked “reserved” (bring one in if there isn’t one). Have a favorite treat of students in view, but don’t offer it to them and ignore any requests for it. After most of the students arrive, choose the next two or three students who arrive and be overly kind to them. You can do things like offer them the choice seating. give them a cold bottle of water or soda you pull from a cooler of ice, offer them the treats you brought (ignoring requests of the other students). Ask them is there is anything they need, if the lighting is good for them, etc. In short, act like an attentive personal assistant or servant.
After a few minutes, address all of the students. Ask the ones who received special treatment if they liked all of the “extras” you provided them. Some may say they were uncomfortable with the extra attention. Tell them to remember that thought for later in the discussion. Others may point out the things they liked. Ask the other students how they felt when you showed kindness to others, but not to them. Share the treats with everyone as they give their personal definitions and examples of kindness.
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Read or tell the story in 1 Samuel 25. How would you describe the personalities of Nabal and Abigail based on the story? The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. On the other end of the kindness spectrum, cruelty is defined as willfully causing pain to others or feeling no concern about the pain others are feeling. Unkindness is defined as being inconsiderate or harsh to others. Which actions of Nabal and Abigail could be described as kind, cruel or unkind? Why would Nabal be considered as being unkind or cruel to David even though he didn’t actively do something to cause pain to David and his men?
It’s easy to think because we don’t go around actively causing physical or emotional pain, we are being kind to everyone. It’s important to notice though that unkindness and cruelty can include ignoring what others may be doing to someone to cause pain, while kindness is actively doing friendly, generous and considerate things for someone. What are some passive ways people are often unkind or even cruel to others? Why do you think the dictionary defines kindness as an active, rather than a passive way of interacting with others?
There are three incidents in the Bible when someone is described by the Bible as doing something kind for someone else. The first is found in Ruth 2:11-12 and 3:10-13. What kindness had Boaz observed in Ruth? Boaz noticed the kindness Ruth exhibited by how she left her people and cared for Naomi and how she interacted with him. Notice it was her actions that made Boaz conclude Ruth was kind.
The next incident is found in 2 Samuel 9:3-7. What did King David say he would do to show kindness to Mephibosheth? Notice that Mephibosheth appears to have been surviving without the help of King David. David, however, was not content to merely allow Mephibosheth to stay alive (which would have been considered a major kindness in the culture of the day). David went above and beyond what he needed to do to show kindness to Mephibosheth.
The third incident is found in Acts 28:2. Why does Paul say the people who lived on the island were kind? It seems like it would be common for people to build a fire and welcome people who were cold and wet from a storm and shipwreck, but evidently the behavior was unusual enough that Paul made a note to mention their kindness as unusual.
God expects His people to be kind. The average person might agree that they should be kind to others. Often this kindness is to people they know, love or not as commonly to strangers. The human definition for what a kindness is can vary greatly from person to person. God’s commands about how He wants us to be kind would be considered extreme kindness by most people in the world. Read the scriptures below to discover some of God’s expectations for our kindness.
- Ephesians 4:31-32 – Note that with this command to be kind to one another, Paul has added that we should also be tender- hearted and forgive one another. How can tenderheartedness and forgiveness expand our definition of kindness?
- Matthew 7:/Luke 6:31 – Note that Christianity is the only religion where the “Golden Rule” is stated in the positive. Other religions have similar rules – EXCEPT they are stated in the negative – as in don’t do something to someone you wouldn’t want done to you. Notice God’s wording is positive…we should DO things for others we would want to be done for us….the kinds of things that define kindness as well.
- Luke 10:27 – Although this verse, known as the second greatest command, doesn’t specifically mention being kind, why would it be safe to assume kindness is one way to fulfill this command?
- I Corinthians 13:4 – Why do you believe kindness is part of the definition of love? Can you love someone and be unkind to them? If you are unkind to someone you love are you demonstrating your love to them?
- Colossians 3:12-13 – What are some of the attributes of Christians that Paul includes with kindness? Can you be kind without a compassionate heart, humbleness, meekness and patience? Why or why not?
- Romans 12:10 – Although this scripture does not use the word kindness, how does the concept of outdoing one another in showing honor to each other add to our understanding of the kindness God expects from Christians?
- Micah 6:8 – Why do you think God requires His people to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God”? Are those three things connected in any way? Do you think “loving kindness” is different from being kind? Why or why not?
- Luke 6:27-31 – Although this verse doesn’t use the word kindness, how are the acts listed kind? What would be the modern equivalent to turning the other cheek, or giving someone your tunic? Why would Jesus include giving to beggars and not asking for something back that had been taken to you to this list?
Perhaps the most difficult thing the Bible tells us about kindness is that we are to be kind and loving to our enemies! It’s interesting that the Bible understands how hard this can be and explains why God asks this of us. Read Luke 6:35 and Romans 2:4. We are to reflect God’s kindness to the world around us. Isn’t it interesting that the Bible says God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil? How would it change some people’s opinion of God if they read this verse? The Bible doesn’t leave us guessing as to why God shows kindness to the ungrateful and evil (and us). It tells us God does this so we will be moved to repentance. How could God’s kindness move someone to repent? Could our extreme kindness encourage others to learn more about God and repent, too? How?
God knows that some of His commands are really hard for us to do consistently alone. Part of the gift of the Holy Spirit that Christians receive at baptism is help with these difficult things. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Notice how the Bible says others can know we have the Holy Spirit in us (implied helping us do these things more than the average person) by these attributes in our lives. Why do you think kindness is listed with these other attributes?
As is sometimes the case, God makes a promise to those who pursue kindness in their interactions with others. Read Proverbs 21:21. What does it mean that we are promised life, righteousness and honor? Why does God believe this promise is a benefit to us for our obedience in being kind to others?
Skills Activity: Review the main points from the lesson. Point out that kindness has several parts. The two most commonly expected are consideration and acts of service. Consideration is defined as careful thought, especially over a period of time. What are some ways of being considerate to others? Manners can vary over time and from culture to culture. Having excellent manners as defined by the older adults in your society is often how people or judged to be considerate (or not). Why should we allow older people to define the manners that make one considerate? (Because usually, older people will have the strictest definition of what is considerate behavior. Younger people may be ambivalent about some of these manners – meaning they won’t be as upset if we don’t have them. Because God wants us to be extremely kind to others, one could assume He also wants us to be extremely considerate and have extremely good manners. (Note: Some students may want to debate these ideas. It can help to point out that good manners rarely offend, while poor manners often will offend someone.)
Below are some of the behaviors considered the standard from good manners in one culture. Go through the list with students. If possible, bring in some older members of your church so they can participate in the discussion. Which manners are different in your culture? If the older people disagree about which manners are important with your students, remind students their goal should be extreme kindness, not the bare minimum.
- Saying “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”
- Avoid interrupting others
- Don’t use ugly language
- Ask permission for touching or taking things belonging to others
- Take good care of things belonging to others and offer to repair or replace anything we damage
- Return things that are borrowed
- Clean up any mess you make/put things back where they belong
- Write thank you notes
- Don’t use phones when eating or talking with others
- Use silverware appropriately
- Treat servers with respect
- Put napkin in your lap
- Close your mouth when chewing
- Don’t talk with food in your mouth
- Ask to be excused before leaving the table
- Offer to help clean up table and wash dishes
- Open the door for others
- Shake hands and make eye contact when meet someone
- Offer your chair to those who are older, pregnant, etc.
- Offer to help those carrying packages or struggling in some way
- Introduce people to each other
- Offer to help when you are a guest somewhere
- Put trash in a trash can or recycling bin
- Don’t put your feet on furniture
Have students practice any manners (like “fancy” table manners”) that may be new to them. Have them plan a social function like a dessert or meal for the older people in your congregation. Encourage them to practice their best manners as they host the function. After the function, discuss the role manners played in being kind to their guests. Would the act of service of your event have been less kind if they had poor manners and were inconsiderate during it? Encourage students to constantly work on improving their manners and consideration for others as well as treating people kindly in other ways including acts of service.
Application Challenge: Give yourself imaginary grades on the different areas of kindness – especially consideration and acts of service. Read the scriptures from the lesson again. Practice the manners you learned in class so they become automatic and natural for you. What other strategies can you find to help you be kinder to others?