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The Proverbial Neighbor

Neighbors often provide a remarkable experience. Neighbors can be extremely helpful and friendly. In some cases, however, some neighbors are extremely rude. Nevertheless, “Wise people do not deride their neighbors, even if insulted by them, and do not answer them in kind”.1 Proverbs 3:29 reminds the reader that, “It is a bad person who derides his neighbor and thus leads him or her to despair” (cf. Ps. 31:11-13).

The social realities associated with and practical practice of being a neighbor is often mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Indeed, several passages warn readers of the danger of becoming or being a bad neighbor. Proverbs 11:12 points out that a godless person seeks to destroy his neighbor. Rather, as a psalmist suggests (Ps. 28:3), people, especially believers, are to speak cordially with their neighbors, even if they think otherwise in their hearts.

Proverbs 14:21 warns its readers that he who despises his neighbor not only lacks good judgment but sins. Indeed, a good neighbor does not testify against a neighbor without cause (Prov. 24:28). A good neighbor is careful to follow the proverbial advice: “Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor” (Pr. 25:18). Even if there may be a cause, yet it is best to reconsider the problem. For “A good neighbor neither plots against his neighbor” (Pr. 3:29) nor refuses one who asks for his help.2 Rather, as the psalmist also suggests, we are to treat our neighbors well (Ps. 15:1-3; cf. 12:2).

Surely a neighbor nearby may be of special help, especially in hard times. Accordingly, the Scripture is especially descriptive in saying this one rule -- “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom 13:9; cf. Lev 19:18). Especially applicable here is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. One can imagine the Good Samaritan’s great happiness, as told by Jesus (Luke 10:25-37) and depicted by the hymn writer:

Let your heart be broken For a world in need –
Feed the mouths that hunger, Soothe the wounds that bleed,
Give the cup of water And the loaf of bread –
Be the hands of Jesus, Serving in His stead.
Let your heart be tender And your vision clear –
See mankind as God sees – Serve Him far and near;

Let your heart be broken By a brother’s pain,
Share your rich resources – Give and give again.3

1 Richard D. Patterson. “What About My Neighbor?” (Biblical Studies Foundation, 2017), 2.


3 Byron Jeffery Leech, Let Your Heart Be Broken.

Related Topics: Devotionals

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