Once there was a poor man that had to go with electricity most of the year because he could not afford it. Most of his neighbors felt sorry for him and would help him out as best they could, but one his neighbors despised him and would not do anything but speak badly about him. One day the poor man got some news that changed his life forever. His rich aunt passed away and left him a small fortune. The first thing the former poor man did was offer to pay off the mortgages of those neighbors who had helped him over years, but the bitter neighbor received nothing.
We will never know what kindness we show today might be paid back to us and then some later on. Besides, treating our neighbors with love has been a principle taught throughout the Bible. Paul said: prairie
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.† 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."† 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (See Lev. 19:18).
Early on, the law was to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus also stressed this teaching about the Law of Moses as well:
Luke 10:25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"† 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"† 27 So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' "† 28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
Not only was this principle taught under the Law of Moses, it is also part of the new covenant because we are taught to love another (Jn. 13:34).
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
We are even taught to love our enemy:
Matthew 5:43 " You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'† 44 "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,† 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.† 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?† 47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
The question becomes, who is our neighbor? This was question asked of Jesus.
Luke 10:29 But he,
wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my
neighbor?"† 30 Then Jesus
answered and said: "A certain man went down from
Jesus clearly teaches that everyone is your neighbor and that we are to treat them with the same respect and love that we would others to treat us. We must be careful of how we treat others because it can make a difference in our eternal destination. Again, Jesus stresses this idea in:
Matthew 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:† 35 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;† 36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'† 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?† 38 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?† 39 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'† 40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'† 41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:† 42 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;† 43 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'† 44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'† 45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'† 46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Without a doubt, we should be concerned with how we treat our neighbors. The Book of Proverbs gives us some practical advice on how we should treat our neighbors that will cause us to be numbered among the righteous. Let us consider careful the wisdom that Solomon gives us.
Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so.† 28 Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it," When you have it with you.
In order for to appreciate the wisdom of Solomon, we need to understand that your neighbor during his time was not just the guy across the street, he was the guy that would help you out in your time of need. He was the kind of person that will help defend you against outsiders. While our neighbors today are not as critical as they were back then, they still play important role in our lives. If our neighbor needs some help, we should be willing to give it to them.
When we show compassion for our neighbors in their time of need, they will most likely return the favor in our time of need. They can be great allies in this life, and by our kindness we will have opportunities to share the love of Christ with them. So, do not put off what you can do today for your neighbor because tomorrow may be too late.
Proverbs 3:29 Do not devise evil against your neighbor, For he dwells by you for safety's sake.
Again, during Solomonís time, a good neighbor would be one that will help you fight against outsiders that come in and attempt to take over your place. While the possibility of that is happening today is minimal, a good neighbor is one that will look out for your property while you are not at home. If he sees something suspicious going on, he will call the police or will question the stranger who is hanging around your house. This is why it good reason to be a peace with your neighbors instead of plotting evil against them.
Some have an immense hatred against their neighbor, but we should not. Yes, sometimes our neighbors can be difficult to get a long with especially if they are always doing annoying things, but we should never plot evil things against them.
Solomon tells us some of things we should not do our neighbors:
Proverbs 11:9 The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
Many times when a person does not like his neighbor, he is quick to criticize them and do whatever he can to take a jab at them. No matter how good that person may be, his reputation can be destroyed by all the negative comments. What is worse is that many times this same bitter person will make up lies about his neighbor to ruin his reputation even more, but a servant of God should never act this way toward his neighbor.
Proverbs 24:28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, For would you deceive with your lips?† 29 Do not say, "I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work."
If we want to follow the wisdom of Godís Word, then we abstain from lying about what our neighbors did. We must also abstain from seeking revenge from what our neighbors have done to us. For example, if they throw their trash in our lawn, we might want to get them back by throwing our trash in their lawn. While revenge seems sweet to some, Solomon says, do not seek revenge. We have to take the higher road and set the example.
One of the best ways to resolve an issue with your neighbor is to discuss the matter with them.
Proverbs 25:9 Debate your case with your neighbor, And do not disclose the secret to another;† 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, And your reputation be ruined. ††
Sometimes we assume that our neighbor knows what they are doing is wrong. Other times, we might think our neighbor is doing something wrong, when are not, which is why we should discuss the offense with our neighbor first instead of making wild accusations about them to others. When we fail to discuss a matter with our neighbor first and we do not have all the facts, we can ruin our reputation by discussing things that others know is not true. We will be labeled as a gossip and a trouble maker.
When we do debate our case with our neighbor, we need to clear our minds of the assumptions we have and seek out the truth. We must also have a humble spirit, be willing to listen careful to what they say, and use our words sparingly
Proverbs 17:27 He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
If we find ourselves getting angry, and we know that our words are not going to be kind, then we need to hold our peace and talk with them about the problem another time.
Proverbs 11:12 †He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace.
Solomon also warns us to pay attention to what kind of influence we are being to our neighbors.
Proverbs 16:29 A violent man entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good.† 30 He winks his eye to devise perverse things; He purses his lips and brings about evil.
In this example, we learn how the unrighteous can use their influence to lead their neighbors astray. The last thing we should want as God fearing people is to lead our neighbors astray. Sometimes Christian have the false idea that they only have behave as Christians a church or around other Christians, but we must realize that we are to be examples of righteousness at all times. By our influence, we can either lead people away from or toward God. Let us never underestimate the power of our influence.
Within the 10 commandments we read:
Exodus 20:17 " You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."
People tend to be envious of what other have, and if they covet those things, they are tempted to take them, but as Christian we are told not to covet what others have:
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.
One of the most hurtful things a person could do to their neighbor short of murder is taking another manís wife.
Proverbs 6:32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul.† 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away.† 34 For jealousy is a husband's fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.† 35 He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
Stolen possessions and things that are broken can be replaced, but to violate a marriage is not something that can be full recovered. Yes, forgiveness can be given, and the wounds can slowly be healed, but the scars will be there forever. So, let us stay far away from adultery.
Some might find this next saying surprising:
Proverbs 26:18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,† 19 Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, "I was only joking!"
Many today think it is funny to deceive someone for their own entertainment. They like to see the reaction on a personís face as they spin their lies. Right when the person becomes boiling mad or to the brink of tears, they will say I am just kidding. They are willing to make their neighbor suffer through a range a emotions for the sake of their joke.
While everyone likes a good laugh from to time to time, we should careful consider what kind of jokes we pull on people because it is unkind to upset your neighbor over lies. I have even heard of people hurting or even killing others because someone lied about what a person did or said. Then later, after the damage was done, the person was say I was just kidding, he did not really say or do that. Let us be careful with what we like call little white lies.
Solomon also teaches us not to show partiality with our neighbors:
Proverbs 14:20 The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, But the rich has many friends.† 21 He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
People have a tendency to show favoritism toward the rich while they despise the poor, but, the rich and the poor are all part of Godís creation:
Proverbs 22:2 The rich and the poor have this in common, The LORD is the maker of them all.
Since we are equal in the side of God and God does not show partiality to us, neither should we. James specifically forbids Christians from showing such partiality:
James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.† 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,† 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"† 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?† 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?† 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?† 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?† 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;† 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
While it can be challenging not show partiality, we must strive to treat our poor and rich neighbors the same because one is not better than the other.
Whenever we treat our neighbors that are next-door or half-way across the world with same love we treat ourselves with and follow the advice Solomon has given us then we are going to have peace with them. We will also have great opportunities to lead them to Christ. The world would be at peace if every person would follow the wisdom of Godís Word on how to treat your neighbor. My hope is that every Christian will set the example with their neighbors and that Godís wisdom will spread. The question is, are you willing to treat your neighbor as the Word of God says we should?