I used to wake up every morning and ask the Lord to help me to be “nice”. You see I worked in the customer service department and well, if you work with customers you have to put on your “nice” face. And some of the individuals that worked with me were not the easiest to get along with either. So I just wanted to be able to be nice to those around me, and learn to be nice in general.
I thought I was getting one step ahead as I began each day. It was all good until I mentioned it to someone— interchanging the words nice and kind. The individual casually mentioned that being nice and being kind are two different actions. Apparently they weren’t synonyms like I assumed. I was stumped and decided that I would do some of my own research on the subject.
I started in the dictionary and found that a couple of the definitions for the word nice are pleasant and agreeable. Hmm. That seems right. But I cannot be agreeable on all things with all people. A few sites explained nice as being polite with good manners.
If you look at the life of Jesus you would find that he wasn’t pleasant or agreeable all the time. Truth was far more important to him than simply being pleasant or agreeable or even polite. What happened when Jesus found the money changers in the temple?
“So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their table. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:14-17 (NIV)
Wow, that wasn’t very nice!
Nor was he nice when he told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites or whitewashed tombs. Nor was he nice when he looked at Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:23 (NLT) There were many other occasions when he did things that may not have seemed polite, agreeable or pleasant.
Because he didn’t come to this earth to be pleasant. He is not Santa Claus, trying to spread Christmas cheer. He came to bring truth. Many people DON’T want to be told truth. They just want to hear wonderful things.
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. they will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (NLV)
There are a lot of NICE Christians and NICE churches. I have heard it said that we should just accept people the way they are PERIOD. Churches are being consumed with fun activities to draw in the lost– all the while sin is being ignored.
If a baker chooses not to make a cake for an event that bothers his conscience he is considered intolerant or to put is simply — “not nice” and can be sued. We shouldn’t talk about conviction, about sin, about changing our hearts, about sacrifice or eternity. Someone might get offended and that isn’t nice.
Why can’t we all just be NICE?
The problem with just being nice is that it is a facade. There is no substance in it. So when you are having a bad day niceness can turn into ugliness in a minute flat. I’ve had people be nice to me one minute and the very next want to claw out my eyeballs. On the flip side, I’ve been the nice person, biting my tongue, becoming a push over so I could appear pleasant and yet squirming inside.
I continued my research, this time from the Bible. Of course I didn’t find the actual word nice, but I knew the word kind or kindness was there. Most believers are aware that kindness is one of the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Nice on the other hand, not being part of the fruit of the Spirit, has no strength or foundation. It is like building your house on the sand and not on the rock of Christ. (Matthew 7:24-27) When a storm comes, nice will not suffice.
Kindness led by the Holy Spirit is a God-given quality of compassion, generosity and understanding. It is considerate, not expecting anything in return. It far exceeds the act of just being nice.
Jesus showed these qualities. He forgave the adulteress but warned her to sin no more. He wasn’t just being nice, telling her that he accepted her lifestyle. But he was filled with kindness and forgiveness.
He showed kindness to the lost, kindness to the broken, kindness towards the sick and even the lepers (which was unheard of), kindness towards the tax collectors and those that were rejected by the world. He gathered the little children around him and showed them love and acceptance when the disciples were telling them to leave him alone.
Yet people wanted him dead! Why? He had healed the sick and even brought some back to life. But they wanted him dead because he had disrupted their lives. He had offended them by speaking truth. Truth STILL offends people today because sometimes it isn’t NICE.
People want to shut down the voice of truth.
Digging deeper I discovered this on wordcentral.com:
Main Entry: nice
Etymology: Middle English nice “foolish, stupid,” from early French nice (same meaning), from Latin nescius “ignorant,” from nescire “not to know,” from ne- “not” and scire “to know” –related to SCIENCE
1 : finicky in tastes or habits
2 a : not obvious : SUBTLE <a nice distinction> b : having the ability to notice small differences <a nice ear for music>
3 : PLEASING, AGREEABLE <a nice time> <a nice person>
4 : well behaved : RESPECTABLE <wasn’t a nice thing to do>
– nice·ly adverb
– nice·ness noun
Word History Five hundred years ago, when nice was first used in English, it meant “foolish or stupid.” This is not as surprising as it may seem, since it came through early French from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” By the 16th century, the sense of being “very particular” or “finicky” had developed. In the 19th century, nice came to mean “pleasant or agreeable” and then “respectable,” a sense quite unlike its original meaning.
After reading the word history I realized that every morning when I was asking the Lord to make me nice, maybe I was really asking him to make me foolish, stupid, ignorant or perhaps finicky and at best agreeable or pleasant. Blah.
It makes me think about Garth Brook’s song, “Unanswered Prayers”. Anyway God knew my heart. He knew what I really wanted was to learn to be kind. And he allowed me to go through circumstances that would help me to understand what kindness vs niceness was really all about.
So back to the question from the title: Do nice guys finish last? I would say, yes they do UNLESS they walk in the fruit of the Spirit of kindness, as well. Don’t get me wrong I believe that being polite, having manners and being pleasant are fine qualities and should be part of our lives. But just being nice will not sustain you in this world. It will gobble you up.
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 (NLT)
“Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 (TLB)
Lord, teach me to be kind.
Amen and God bless.