Over the past few months, I’ve been hearing about some self-confessing Christians doing, promoting and priding themselves for “random acts of kindness.” Have you heard about these things? It is when you “randomly” meet somebody on the street who is in dire need of physical provision — food, clothing, shelter, or God forbid, they think they need drugs and/or alcohol. And in a random “act of kindness” you decide to help out the homeless beggar. Because after all, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ (I mean, “What would Jesus do?”!); you are simply trying to work out Matthew 25:40 in your life!–“as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Ok, maybe you don’t have that eschatological passage in mind when you get into a situation like this. Maybe you simply (mis)use the passage for the sake of proof-texting for your “random” act of “kindness,” leaving out the point about judgment that Jesus was making. Whatever the case, out of kindness you don’t give him spare change, but instead go inside the coffee shop / burger joint / gas station to buy him some food and a drink. However, because you’re in a tight schedule to get back to your pointless, eschatologically meaningless activities, you care for the homeless beggar and do what you think Jesus would have done — you feed him.
Give him change vs. give him food. And since in all likelihood the guy might buy drugs or booze if you gave him some money, you think the wisest thing, the kindest thing you could do is give him some food.
You refrain from having a genuine conversation with the (wo)man in need, seeking to get to know them on a more personal level so that you could better pray for him/her. You neglect to tell them that in spite their dire physical need, they also have a greater spiritual need — one that if not provided for would lead them into an eternity in punishment for their sins. You don’t share with them the hope of the gospel — the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crushed for their iniquities — and it is only through trusting in his atoning sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins, made right with God and be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. You do not call the beggar to come to faith in the One who truly sustains.
At the end of the day, if we only do these things I just mentioned, I am convinced that we have not performed a random “act of kindness.” In and of itself, giving a neighbor a free burger or cup of coffee may be a kind act. But anybody could do that — even many unbelieving people I know. But there is nothing “kind” about only giving our neighbors a free burger or coffee if we also neglect this opportunity to give them everlasting hope (Matthew 28:18-20; cf.Acts 3:17ff). It would be the complete opposite of “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” The choice for those who have been born-again by the Spirit is not remedy physical need OR remedy spiritual need. No; the gospel compels us to do both. For if we fail to proclaim the gospel at such Divinely-appointed opportunities, we may have helped our unregenerate neighbors survive for a few hours but we will have damned them for an eternity.
And that, brothers and sisters, would be the most unkind thing we could ever do to our neighbors. This is not a random “act of kindness” at all.
*Edit: This Thanksgiving, let us not only do so-called random acts of kindness; let us purposefully share the gospel of grace.