In 2000, a movie hit theaters about a young boy named Trevor McKinney who receives a challenging assignment from his social studies teacher. The assignment is to think of an idea that would change the world and then put that idea into action. Trevor comes up with the idea of repaying good deeds not by paying back the person who performed the good deed, but by paying forward with new good deeds done to three new people. The movie was Pay It Forward.
The concept of paying something forward is not a new idea. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Benjamin Webb, “I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.” In her 1916 book, In the Garden of Delight, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” The definition of the term “pay it forward” is to respond to the kindness that someone shows to you by being kind to someone else.
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As such, it is something that a follower of Christ should look to cultivate in his or her life. Jesus said that, if we want to be His disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). He has set the example for us, and it should be our desire to be like Him. We need to have the same attitude toward each other that He had toward us (Philippians 2:5). Jesus placed our interests and the interests of God above His own, so we must place the interests of others above our own Philippians 2:4). He came to serve, so we must serve (John 13:14-16). He loves us, so we must love others (John 15:12). Jesus showed kindness, or compassion, to those He came in contact with, so we must show kindness to others.
Ephesians 4:32 (NET) tells us that we must “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” The things that Jesus does for us, we must do for others. In other words, as followers of Christ, we must always look to “pay it forward.”