Why a Random Act of Kindness Isn’t as Random as You Think

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

In the mid-80s, I attended a Christian college for two years in their work-study program. (Yes, that long ago. I know this ages me – a little.) This gave me a part-time job on campus, with the pay earned going toward my tuition.

During my second year, I landed one of the better shifts in Food Service: filling vending machines in the student commons while it was closed during the dinner hour. To quickly fill the many candy, snack, and soda machines, I had a partner for the evening shift, Tammy. Working beside Tammy made the job more enjoyable, and we became better acquainted as we worked.

It was halfway into the first semester of working together when I spied it. When reaching over to our cart for more products, I spotted Tammy’s shoes. They were coming apart at the seams (literally). She confided that they were her only shoes and hoped they would last the semester. I wasn’t sure this was possible – with the campus layout at that time, we would walk miles each day, easily.

With us both on the work-study program, money was undoubtedly tight for her as it was for me. From working a restaurant job during college breaks, I had a small amount I could budget for the essentials I needed. In fact, purchasing a bag of chips or a candy bar from the vending machines I filled each day was considered too extravagant for my budget. But I had three to four pairs of shoes I could rotate use during the week.

After that conversation, Tammy’s worn, taped-up shoes never left my mind. That evening, I mentioned this need during devotional time with our adjoining dorm suite. I asked if they would consider pitching in a dollar or two each, which would be enough for a pair of shoes. (During the 80s, you could buy a decent pair of shoes from Payless Shoes for about $15.00.) My suitemates, stirred with compassion, wanted to help. With my contribution, I collected more than enough for new shoes.

The following day, I wrapped the gift in a note that simply said: “for a shopping trip.” With the message and envelope written in my best-disguised handwriting, I mailed it through the inter-college mail. Then tried to wait patiently for the results.

After the next mail call, Tammy couldn’t wait to tell me the surprising news. Not only did she rarely get notes through the inter-college mail, but she gets one with money! I loved seeing her excitement and gladly accepted her invitation to go shopping that Saturday.

This was one of my best memories from college.

And I never told her who was behind the gift.

Many may call this a Random Act of Kindness. Yes, it was a spur-of-the-moment gesture, but kindness is always more intentional than random. Genuine kindness is clothed with compassion for another. Not only did Tammy receive a blessing, but I did too.

What is Kindness?

The world may know kindness as warm-heartedness, generosity, and helpfulness. As Christians, we also recognize kindness as a fruit of the Spirit, as we read in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is no law against these things!

Throughout the Bible, fruit means evidence that is within. (1) If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you will show evidence of these fruits, called “fruits of righteousness.” (Philippians 1:11) As a believer, you can exhibit these fruits because you have God’s Holy Spirit within you, instructing and guiding you. (John 14:26)

In her book, Creating a Beautiful Life, Elizabeth George describes kindness as the fruit that plans to do something. Kindness chooses to look for opportunities to do something for others. Kindness, she adds, “is a matter of the heart.” (2)

What the Bible says about Kindness

Many passages in the Bible explain kindness, its characteristics, and its outcomes.

Kindness blesses us.

It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy. (Proverbs 14:21)

Kindness honors others.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10, NKJV*)

A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. (Proverbs 11:16)

Kindness is necessary for leading and teaching.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24)

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. (Proverbs 31:26 NKJV)

Kindness is forgiving.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Kindness is love.

Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Kindness honors God.

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

God shows us kindness.

I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7)

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Showing Kindness to Others

Jesus, who modeled every one of the fruits of the Spirit, spoke of kindness when He said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” and “love your neighbor as yourself. (3)  After Jesus made this last statement, a questioning lawyer from the crowd responded, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29, emphasis added) This was when Jesus told one of his better-known parables we now call “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37).

Why was this story about a Samaritan so significant for its time?
Read about it in my post:
A Healthy Heart Comes from Loving Others.

And who, like State Farm, was “like a good neighbor?” It wasn’t the two Jewish priests who first walked by. It was the third man, a Samaritan, from a people group the Jews despised. When finding the man beaten by robbers, the Samaritan traveler was moved with compassion and chose to do something. He nursed the man’s wounds and transported him to a local inn to rest and recuperate on the Samaritan’s dime.

From this parable example, we learn that we are to show kindness to those we don’t know, and that kindness is a choice. But just as important – kindness partners with compassion.

After all, if kindness has no compassion, is it really kindness at all?

My response to Tammy’s need was compassion and love, not just generosity. Because I was concerned for her, I made an intentional choice to give honor to Tammy by meeting her need. I followed what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans – and this is the best translation – “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

Genuine kindness is lacking in the world today. As Christians, let us be the best examples of kindness – choosing to honor others with acts of love and compassion.

Other stories of kindness in the New Testament:
The Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33-34
The Islanders (Acts 28:2-3) and Publius on Malta (Acts 28:7-10)

1. Creating a Beautiful Life, Elizabeth George, p 86.
2. Creating a Beautiful Life, Elizabeth George, p 90.
3. Luke 6:31, Matthew 19:19

Unless stated otherwise, all verses are quoted from the New International Version Bible translation. Many references are linked to BibleGateway.com for the reader’s convenience. *NKJV = New King James Version. As an Amazon Affiliate, links in this post to Amazon will incur a small commission if a purchase is made. There is no obligation to purchase from my link, but it would be appreciated.

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