Benevolence is an important concept in the Bible that refers to the quality of being inclined to do good, be generous, and show kindness. As Christians, we are called to follow God’s example of benevolence and demonstrate His love to others through our words, actions, and generosity. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the meaning of benevolence throughout the Bible and what it means for us as believers today.
- Benevolence refers to the quality of being disposed to do good and show kindness to others.
- God is the ultimate model of benevolence, as demonstrated through His mercy, grace, and generosity towards humankind.
- As Christians, we are instructed to follow God’s example and show benevolence to others, even our enemies.
- Practicing benevolence includes meeting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged with generous giving and acts of service.
- Showing benevolence brings glory to God and is an expression of our love for Him and our neighbors.
- Benevolence is motivated by God’s love and should come from a place of compassion, not obligation or recognition.
The Nature of God’s Benevolence
To fully understand benevolence in the Bible, we must start with the benevolent nature of God Himself. God’s benevolence is one of His primary attributes, meaning that His inclination to do good and show kindness is fundamental to who He is. The apostle John expresses this clearly:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
This well-known verse encapsulates the incredible benevolence of God towards humanity. Despite our sin and imperfection, God chose to send His Son Jesus to provide the way for our salvation through His sacrificial death on the cross. This ultimate act of benevolence was motivated purely by God’s perfect love.
Throughout the Bible, we see demonstrations of God’s benevolence through His mercy, grace, patience, and generous provision for His people. Lamentations 3:22-23 declares, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Even when God’s people turned against Him, He responded with benevolence rather than destruction.
As Psalm 145:8-9 proclaims, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” God’s benevolence is not just for a select few, but extends to all of creation. He faithfully provides for every living thing.
In the New Testament, the ultimate revelation of God’s benevolence is Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated compassion to the sick and downtrodden, generosity to the poor, and mercy to the repentant. His teachings emphasized caring for others, especially those in need. Jesus personified God’s loving benevolence through both His words and actions.
Biblical Calls to Benevolence
If God is the perfect model of benevolence, what does this mean for us as His followers? Throughout the Bible, we are called to emulate God’s loving kindness in our treatment of others. Practicing benevolence is an essential part of the Christian life.
The apostle Paul instructs believers: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)
We are to extend grace and forgiveness to others, just as God has graciously forgiven us through Christ. By showing love and kindness, we imitate our Heavenly Father.
Jesus also emphasizes the importance of benevolence in the parable of the Good Samaritan. When asked “And who is my neighbor?”, Jesus tells of a man who was robbed and beaten, ignored by religious leaders but helped by a Samaritan. Jesus concludes, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) We are to show compassion by aiding those in need, regardless of divisions.
The Bible offers many other exhortations to practice benevolence:
- “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Romans 12:10)
- “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)
- “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
Showing kindness and meeting needs are marks of true Christian love. This benevolence reflects God’s own generous spirit.
Benevolence Towards the Poor & Needy
A key way believers are called to exercise benevolence is by caring for the poor and needy. Scripture frequently emphasizes God’s compassion for the vulnerable and commands us to follow His example.
The Mosaic Law instituted safeguards to provide for the poor, such as leaving grain in fields for them to glean (Leviticus 19:10). The Psalms describe God Himself as a refuge for the poor (Psalm 14:6). Jesus showed deep compassion for the sick, hungry crowds, saying “I have compassion for these people” (Mark 8:2). James 1:27 defines true religion as caring for widows and orphans in need.
As Christians, we are obliged to give generously to those less fortunate. The apostle John asks: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). Our benevolence is tied directly to our love for God.
Proverbs 19:17 promises, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” When we show benevolence through meeting needs, God sees it as an offering to Himself which He promises to repay. However, our motivation should be compassion, not reward.
Some biblical ways to show benevolence to the needy include:
- Giving generously and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7)
- Providing food, clothing and shelter (Isaiah 58:7)
- Supporting widows, orphans in distress (James 1:27)
- Defending the weak and needy (Psalm 82:3-4)
- Visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:36)
- Loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31)
Showing compassion to the disadvantaged and alleviating suffering are paramount in living out biblical benevolence. Our generosity reflects God’s own giving heart.
Benevolence Towards Our Enemies
Perhaps the most challenging display of benevolence involves showing kindness to our enemies. Jesus commands us:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
Loving our enemies is counterintuitive and difficult. But Jesus models this type of radical benevolence throughout His ministry. While being crucified, Jesus prayed for his executioners, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Stephen followed Christ’s example by pleading for God to forgive those stoning him (Acts 7:60).
Romans 12:20 instructs us to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. Rather than retaliate against enemies, we are to show them grace and compassion. Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”
Showing benevolence to enemies softens their hearts, just as God’s benevolence leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Though it is extremely difficult, benevolence towards enemies epitomizes Christlike love.
Expressions of Benevolence
Benevolence should permeate every aspect of the Christian life. Here are some examples of what benevolent living looks like in practice:
- Generous giving: Financially supporting ministries, giving to the needy, providing for others without expectation of return (Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15)
- Serving: Volunteering time and skills to benefit others; meeting tangible needs in the church and community (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10)
- Kind words: Speaking truth gently and with grace; avoiding lies, insults and profanity (Ephesians 4:15, 29)
- Forgiving others: Showing mercy just as Christ has forgiven us; seeking reconciliation over retribution (Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32)
- Including outcasts: Welcoming marginalized groups; valuing all people as made in God’s image (Luke 14:12-14, James 2:1-13)
- Sharing burdens: Helping carry others’ loads in times of grief, pain, or crisis (Galatians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 12:26)
- Meeting felt needs: Investing in relationships and meeting needs of others, not just preaching at them (Acts 2:44-47, 1 John 3:18)
- Praying for others: Lifting up prayers on behalf of friends and enemies alike (1 Timothy 2:1, James 5:16)
Living out benevolence will look different for each believer, but always involves sacrificial giving of our time, abilities, and resources.
The Heart Behind Benevolence
While benevolent actions are important, Scripture also emphasizes the motivation behind them. True Christlike benevolence flows out of a transformed heart of compassion. If deeds are not rooted in love, they profit nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).
The key to sustainability in doing good is responding to God’s incredible benevolence towards us. 2 Corinthians 8:9 reminds us “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” We give because He first gave to us.
Believers must guard against practicing benevolence out of pride, self-righteousness or a savior complex. Our generosity and service cannot earn salvation (Titus 3:5). Benevolence should also not be done primarily for public praise and recognition (Matthew 6:2-4). Rather, our motivation must simply be God’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Proper biblical benevolence recognizes that all we have is a gift from God and that He calls us to steward resources by generously meeting needs. We are conduits of God’s grace, not the source. Our benevolence brings Him glory as we point others to Christlike love.
Benevolence is a beautiful thread running throughout Scripture that encapsulates God’s character and His desires for us as His children. We are called to rise above society’s standards by displaying Christlike compassion, kindness, grace, mercy and generosity even to enemies. This reflects God’s own benevolence which rescues us from sin.
May our lives overflow with benevolent giving and service to others. As we meet needs with sacrificial and cheerful hearts, we point our world to the greatest act of benevolence at the cross. Our benevolence brings God glory as others encounter His love. By following Christ’s model of radical compassion for a broken world, we live out our true calling as God’s beloved children.