There is more to kindness than sharing

Posted on July 20, 2013 · Posted in Wisdom

You know your child should learn to be wise and kind. For example:

“Jessica, mommy wants you to be wise all day. Is that clear!?! So, today let’s work really hard on having some wisdom as you play with your little brother.”

This example doesn’t really work, does it? Okay, let’s try it another way.

“Jessica, mommy wants you to be kind all day. So, let’s work really hard at being kind to your little brother.”

This example seems a little more realistic. However, Jessica will not be any closer to a life of wisdom and service to Christ if this is the type of instruction she is given. You see in these examples the child’s behavior is addressed, but the heart is not instructed. Wisdom is spoken of as if it were only a matter of behavior.

In terms of pointing children toward Christ, the second example of being kind is just as far off the mark as the first one. Focusing on behavior, either good or bad behavior, is exactly what the enemy of your soul wants you to do as you train your children (Col. 2:20-23). God, however, wants you to speak to the heart of the child.

If you interpret kindness as simply giving the other child the first turn with a toy, you have missed the essence of kindness. Sharing toys so that both can have equal time with a toy is not, by itself, biblical kindness. Sharing this way may result in a more pleasant day, but what will the child really be taught?  Could she be learning, “If I am kind I will get what I really want. My brother won’t fuss, I get to play with the toy, and Mommy is happy with me for being kind. “

This is a recipe for teaching Jessica to be selfish. She is being trained in a subtle form of self-service masquerading as kindness. Her kindness is not sacrificial; rather it is a tool that is achieving a more pleasant life for her.

Whoa!  You might not have seen that one coming!

Yes, kindness is wise behavior; but there is much more to wisdom and kindness than first meets the eye. The apostle Paul describes what true kindness looks like in Ephesians 4:32:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Paul begins the same way that Jessica’s mom did in our example. He says, “Be kind to one another.” But he doesn’t stop there. Next, he says, “Be tenderhearted.” Thus, Paul immediately brings in the heart; good behavior is not enough. Jessica is to care deeply and tenderly for her little brother. Her kindness is to extend beyond “giving to get.” There must be a compassionate desire to care for her little brother.

This is what wisdom looks like as it is expressed through kindness.

Jessica, by the grace of God, has begun to be biblically kind. In being trained this way, her heart has been shepherded towards wisdom. Jessica has learned that doing things her way is the opposite of wisdom. She is not kind to advance her own desires; she is kind because she is learning to live for Someone other than Jessica.

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.