Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.
Proverbs 11:17 (NLT)
I remember so clearly the day my friend Jane said she needed to talk to me. I walked back to her office and sat down, unaware of the blow that was coming but nervous all the same. She told me that I’d hurt her deeply with an offhand remark someone had overheard and reported to her, and she didn’t understand why I’d say such a thing.
Staring at her in shock, my eyes filled with tears and all I could think was, But I prayed for you! I couldn’t consider how my actions had hurt my friend or how my misconstrued words had the opposite effect of what I intended. All I could think about was how, just a few weeks earlier, I’d prayed around the clock for Jane’s family during a crisis. I’d supported her and loved her and been there for her, and now she doubted me. She took the word of another that I had said something to hurt her. My heart was crushed, and my defenses were sky-high. We sat in that room, both of us feeling betrayed and let down by the other.
Though I didn’t feel sorry in the moment, I apologized to my friend. And I eventually did understand how the words I’d intended to be kind and encouraging to another friend had, in fact, been hurtful to Jane. Genuinely remorseful, I then apologized to her again.
I realized something after that situation though. This wasn’t the first time I’d felt doubly offended by someone I’d prayed for. Not only had they wronged me (at least in my mind), but they did it despite how fervently I’d prayed for them. I realized that I was treating prayer — an intimate act of kindness that, to me, carried enormous relational weight — as a guarantee that the person I prayed for would owe me a similar kindness. Rather than seeing prayer as an unconditional gift on behalf of someone I care about, I saw the act of praying for my friends — or helping them move or throwing them a baby shower or helping them write a résumé or, if I’m honest, any sizable gesture of kindness — as an investment or as friendship insurance.
Somewhere along the way, I began to believe that kindness deserved to be repaid, that kindness was a deposit into a relationship and I’d eventually see dividends returned for my efforts. If you had asked me, I’m certain I would have said that kindness was its own reward, that helping others was how I showed them my love and God’s love. But part of me still expected to get what I’d “earned” with all my good deeds and kindness.
Unfortunately, that experience permanently changed my friendship with Jane. But God also used it to begin changing my heart. He showed me that while I was often kind, my motives weren’t pure. And He reminded me that I shouldn’t expect earthly rewards anyway. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus flipped many of His listeners’ assumptions upside-down—including how they should treat their enemies. He said, “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).
Jesus said our reward for showing kindness — to enemies, yes, but also to friends — would be great. But He never promised that reward in this life. Now, when I read His words and Proverbs 11:17, which promises a reward for kindness, I understand that the reward we receive is a heavenly one. It’s the satisfying knowledge that we are acting like our heavenly Father did when He showed us His love by sending His only Son, knowing we could never repay that gift.
Love without strings and kindness without expectations aren’t easy. They are impossible, really, unless we ask God to give us His heart for others. Only then will we be able to truly love one another, giving freely and offering kindness as a genuine expression of God’s love. And our eternal reward for that will be more than we can imagine.
God, I’m so grateful for Your unconditional kindness. Please forgive me for treating kindness as a transaction, and please give me the strength and love to be kind to others without expecting anything in return. Amen.
Amen, Amen, Amen.
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Mary Thank you so much for this today. I know how you would have felt away back then. Why your friend said your word hurt her. What makes it worse is someone passed what you had said to your friend. When I believe they should have come to you and said I don’t like what you said about that person not went and told the person you said. I had a friend we are still friends. But what she said it too me hurt me on day alot. I didn’t mean anything by what I was explaining to her. I was only trying to explain to my friend why I couldn’t do something big to eat during the day and she wanted me to. My friend words back to me because I said I couldn’t during the day have a big meal hurt so much I wanted to cry and not go to the Birthday meal. It was to do with her 50th birthday meal she was having to celebrate it about 4 years ago. I was only saying that during the day I couldn’t eat a big meal. My friend said word to this effect your going to have a mouse’s meal and spoil my Birthday go on spoil it. Then I told another good friend of mine that was going with me to the Birthday meal for our friends 50th. She said pray for her and forgive her don’t let it eat you up she probably never thought before saying it. I did that and I said if anything like that happens again I not be at her Birthday or anything else again she invites me to again to my friend that was going as well. So I went to my friends Birthday meal. With ok heart but not brilliant. As everytime I looked at my friend that said those words. I could feel the hurt coming up again. Then I looked at another lady at the Birthday meal as well. I could see she wasn’t have a big meal either that lunch time. All she was having was soup and bread. As we had to have our orders in before the Birthday meal of my friend. I said to myself bet my friend who Birthday meal it was. Said nothing to the other person she had livited to the Birthday meal for just having soup and bread. I could then at that moment feel myself getting annoyed. Then thinking why did my friend who was having the Birthday meal for her Birthday as it was a special one. Give of to me for saying I not be having a big meal. When another friend of her that was there was just having soup and bread. I had contain myself say nothing that day. Show I was different than her because she said words that hurt me and that I still love my friend who is saved in the Lord. Show her still the Love of the Lord and friendship even though her words hurt. As God brought it into my head when at the table that day looking at another friend of hers having soup and bread. Not to let it eat me up that my friend probably said nothing to friend who ordered soup and bread and what she said to me that was not nice. Then Look at Jesus as God said to me that day. He had to as this old saying says on his time of earth. Turn the other cheek many a time if people said hurtful things to him like my friend did who should have knew better because she is saved. Be like Jesus God said he would have done this yes it would have been hard for Jesus God said but he still loved them and prayed for them and forgive them. You Dawn have to do the same for your friend even though her words were not nice. I then saw the whole thing in completely different light after God saying that to me. I let it go what my friend said to me. I began to enjoy the Birthday meal and chatting others that where there that day. As I thought of Jesus and what he would have done and that is forgave them and prayed for them. I did that. In the pain I learnt that beautiful lesson on unconditional kindness. Like Jesus showed people no matter what or how they treated him and we are to do the same to our Brothers and Sisters saved or not saved. Even if they hurt us with their words. How true that it. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little keeping you all incourge in my prayers xxx
Karen Knowles says
Loved this, Mary, and I’m so grateful for His unconditional kindness too!
Lieve Mary, bedankt voor het delen van je ervaring. Ik heb meermaals de ervaring dat wanneer ik voor iemand bid, deze persoon met kritiek naar mij toekomt of zegt, “Ik ben helemaal klaar met jou!” of “Waarom doe je zo gemeen tegen mij”, oid. Als ik nu voor iemand ga bidden is dat voor mij een teken dat onze liefdevolle God met deze persoon aan het werk is. Het moedigt mij tevens aan vriendelijk te blijven tegen deze persoon en voor hem of haar dóór te blijven gaan met bidden voor hem. We mogen door Gods Liefde mensen die zich vijandig tegenover ons gedragen, leren liefhebben. In de zekerheid dat als we onszelf open stellen voor Gods Liefde, we van Hem de kracht krijgen om alles vol te houden en alles te verdragen(Kolossenzen 1:4-12). God bless.
This is really good, Mary! I will be examining my motives for giving much more closely.
Ruth Mills says
Amen! Realizing my motives make even my best actions suspect highlights how holy our God is! Thank you for this challenging & insightful post, Mary!
When I was a child, we moved frequently. It wasn’t until I was 10 years old, that we lived next to neighbors with some girls my age. But I had problems, because I expected these girls would be my “friends” because I lived next to them.
My Mom quoted me the saying, “To have Friends you have to show yourself Friendly.” This is true in general, but there is so much more to a close friendship than that.
I did my best to be friendly to these girls, but they weren’t always friendly back. This began a lifetime of lessons God has taught me about getting my needs for love, acceptance, & friendship first & foremost from him. That way I won’t be expecting another person to fill those needs, because they can’t. They can love me, accept me, & be my friend, but it’ll always be imperfect, because they’re imperfect humans.
Beth Williams says
Over time I have learned to give & be kind without expecting anything in return. Deep down I know God sees everything & will repay in kind. I remember about 7 years ago I quit a good job to care for my aging dad. One day I visited him at assisted living. He was trying to eat lunch, but hands were trembling so much food wasn’t making to mouth. I offered to feed him & he nodded yes. The man to the right of us said “you will get jewels in your crown for this”. I knew that God was watching me & would reward me-I thought in Heaven. Fast forward to September 2021 I was working as hospital clerical-working full-time (was part-time) till my co worker came back. They shut my unit down & moved to ICU Covid unit. In December of that year they offered me a full-time permanent position in ICU-in fact they wrote the job just for me. Right away I knew this was part of the reward God was giving me for being kind & caring for my aging parents.