In one story Jesus told, a young man left home hoping to make his fortune, but ended up wasting his share of the family’s wealth on wild living. Finally, penniless and humbled, he returned to his father’s house, probably expecting and psyched up for an angry—or at least condescending—attitude and a stern lecture. His father, however, welcomed him back with open arms and tears of joy.

In another story, a man was traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem when thieves robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead. After a priest and a Levite had passed without helping, a Samaritan (a race despised by the Jews of Jesus’ time) had compassion on the poor man and brought him to an inn in the next town, even arranging to pay all of his expenses until he had made a full recovery.

The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are some of the better-known that Jesus told, and they both focus on kindness. In the first, which pictures a loving, forgiving father, Jesus was describing God’s kindness toward us, an unconditional kindness that is at the very root of His nature. In the second, He was enjoining us to be kind to others, even those we don’t like or who don’t like us.

It can often take effort to be kind. It doesn’t come naturally to us, the way it does to God, but the rewards are real. As the saying goes, “If you’ll be kind to others, they’ll be kind to you.” That’s also what King Solomon observed 3,000 years ago: “Those who are kind benefit themselves.”[Proverbs 11:17 NIV] I’d say that’s pretty promising.