I am going to talk about a danger of kindness that recently came up, and you are going to anticipate that I will speak about how being kind opens a person up to risk or to being used. But this is not the particular danger I have in mind at the moment.
“Being used” is not the worst thing that can happen to you when you are kind. It may well be that from time to time, despite your best effort to discern a situation correctly, the person to whom you are showing the kindness may be “using” you—that goes with the territory. A worse possibility, as far as that goes, is of not ever “being used” because you so protect yourself from it by never risking kindness.
But the danger that has come to light in the situation I am privy to is a fault in the doer, not the receiver, of the kindness. And perhaps most of us have been guilty of this. Consider this scenario: You are sincerely moved with compassion for someone who is down and out and needs a place to stay. You have the means, you have a spacious house, you have far more resources than the other person in question, and so you invite him to move in for a season. You even say to the person, “Stay as long as you need to.”
He does. The first couple of days are idyllic. You are buoyed up by the sense of having served the Lord. By day three you start thinking, “Hmm, I notice that guy doesn’t say thank you very often.” (The fact is, he has said it at least once, but you feel he should be saying it more often.) “Hmm, the least he could do is make himself useful around here.” (In fact, he has offered several times, and has mowed the lawn and done a few helpful things you didn’t notice. But you start to do some mental calculations and arrive at the conclusion that his board is worth more in the scales than the amount of work he has given you or gratefulness he has expressed.)
With God “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). But with people, not so much. There is a tendency for kindness to start looking at itself in the mirror, for the shine to come off the penny, for the good deed-doer to start wondering if he is getting a fair deal in life.
Let us be on guard against this dark side of “kindness.” What helps is to remember first of all that we have nothing in this world that we have not received (1 Corinthians 4:7). Secondly, God promises to supply more:
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way …” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
And if at some point in our lifestyle of showing kindness we should “get used” unawares, what’s the big deal? That’s a whole lot better than not getting used at all.