Unreciprocated kindness

Be kind. This is a clear mandate in scripture without any conditions attached to it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  There is no question that we are supposed to treat other people with kindness even if they don’t return the favor. Our motivation for doing so is to bring glory to God.  But if we’re honest, we’ve at least sub-consciously assumed that if we are nice to someone, they’ll be nice to us. That if we show kindness and generosity to someone, it will benefit us someday. But how often is this not the case? How often is our kindness and generosity rudely overlooked? Or worse, how often are we instead repaid with selfishness and cruelty?

When this happens, it is hard not to decide that if being kind is going to get us nowhere, we might as well not bother. It is hard not to develop an “I’ll show you” attitude and to set out to even the scales. The Bible tells us about a time when King David faced a situation like this, and his initial response wasn’t great. His initial response was to get even!

David and his men had been spending time in the desert hiding from King Saul. While they were there, they had gotten to know some shepherds that worked for a rich man in the area. David and his men were kind to them and offered them protection while they tended the sheep. (1 Samuel 25:15-16)  It doesn’t appear that they were being kind with the intention of cashing in on it.  It seems to be the way they treated people. After all, David had spared the life of King Saul even though he was hunting David down to kill him.  (1 Samuel 24:10-11).  Nevertheless, there came a time when the kindness that David and his men had shown the shepherds could have benefited them. David sent a message to the rich man, Nabal, asking if he could look out for them as they had done for his shepherds. Nabal’s response was not what David had expected.  He basically said, “What’s your kindness to me? I couldn’t care less.” David could not believe that after all the good they had done, this man was not going to return the favor.

“It’s been useless – all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good.” – 1 Samuel 25:21

It angered David so much that he decided he was going to get even and had it not been for the intervention of God through the rich man’s wife (1 Samuel 25:23-34), he would’ve killed Nabal out of spite. And chances are he would’ve regretted that impulsive act of revenge for a long time.

I can relate with David’s exclamation that his kindness had been useless. I can hear myself saying the same thing. “Why do I even bother being kind when I’m getting nothing in return?” But then I thought about how self-centered this response is. It doesn’t show any love for others and it certainly doesn’t reflect the fact that I’m supposed to be doing everything for the glory of God. As a Christian, showing love and kindness to someone else is never useless!  It is exactly the way God wants us to treat people. The same way Jesus treated people. And not just people that might return the favor, but even and especially those that probably won’t.

If we feel as though we’ve been wrongfully mistreated, we have to let God be the one to right the scales. As difficult as it might be, we must ask him to fill us with the love of his Holy Spirit so that we can love even the unlovable. We may not see the rewards for our selfless love for others until we stand before Jesus and hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant”. But there is no doubt that hearing him say those words will make up for any ways in which we may have been slighted here on earth.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35

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