This month we celebrate our two year anniversary as a constituted church. Throughout these last two years we have often studied and referred to the premier commandment to Love God with all of our heart…and rightly so since it is the greatest commandment, today we are going to take a little deeper look at the second greatest commandment…you are familiar with the second great commandment? ‘‘Love your neighbor as yourself’’ (Matt. 22:39). Jesus said that how we treat our neighbors is second only in importance to our love relationship with God. The word neighbor that is used in Proverbs means anyone from our casual acquaintances to our very best friends. And here is a fact that we really need to remember even if it does not settle well with us…the word used for neighbor in Proverbs is used even for our enemies. It’s a brief passage but it has a potent message for how we treat others…So let’s delve into this second greatest command and how we should treat our neighbors.
I. Help your neighbors when they have a need (Prov. 3:27, 28).
Did you ever stop to figure out how God meets needs? God doesn’t send
chariots from heaven with money and clothes and food. He moves the heart of people to meet the needs other people have. These two verses indicate two kinds of neighbors we should bless:
First, Be generous with the neighbor whose need we owe (v. 27).
This verse is talking about relationships in which we owe a debt of some kind, ‘‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due.’’ The literal sense is the idea of paying a financial debt we owe, but this verse goes much deeper. There is more than one way to owe someone …sometimes we owe someone by the virtue of our relationship. If you are married, you owe good to each other. Children owe their parents obedience and honor; parents owe children time, love, and discipline. The list goes on. This scripture is a reminder that we should be paying our ‘‘debts’’ to others out of the gifts, time, resources, and talents God has equipped us with.
Second, Be generous with the neighbor whose need we know (v. 28).
What do we do about the needs of people who aren’t very close to us, or even people we don’t know at all? Once we know of a need and realize we have resources that can help, we become obligated. I saw a man on I-45 the other day…he had stopped to help an elderly woman who had a flat tire… I don’t know if he knew the lady he was helping…(probably not) but he was being a good neighbor. That is a Proverbs 3 kind of action. Then there was a man that saw that his neighbor’s cows were out. He gathered them up, drove them back into the pasture, secured the gate and never said a word to his neighbor. Then there are the countless times that I know of folks helping someone out in a time of need…financial, emotional, or other difficulties. I think these types of things happen fairly often and they too are proverbs 3 types of actions. I also know that there is a flip side to that last coin. Perhaps someone asks for help that you know and in our individualistic mindset fed to us by our culture, we think they should have worked harder, that there’s no reason for us to bail them out, so we either avoid them or flat out refuse. Here is Proverbs 3 we are told that we are not to ignore or refuse a need when we have the resources to meet the need. We are to step up immediately and minister a blessing.
II. Guard against mistreating your neighbors in any fashion (Prov. 3:29,
30). We live in a day of troubled relationships. There will be times that relationships will be strained. It happens in every marriage, in every friendship, in every partnership. Solomon gives us some good and godly advice. Don’t make unnecessary trouble with your neighbor.
Avoid harmful intentions and actions against other people (v. 29).
The most important part of this verse is the period. There are some people in life we just aren’t naturally drawn to. There are some we may not like. And by the way…I know it will shock you to know that they may not be drawn to you and perhaps they not like you! Then there is the next step to that teaching. We are even to avoid any harmful action toward people that have wounded and injured us. Whether we like them, don’t like them, whether or not they like us, whether or not they have or have not hurt us….
It doesn’t matter. God’s word says there is never a reason to plan harm against someone else…Period! Even when people seem to deserve something bad to happen to them, we are not to plan nor hope harm to them. God says, ‘‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay’’ (Heb. 10:30).
Verse 30 has an interesting thought that gets forgotten! Be sure there is an offense before you confront (v. 30). There is a time and a place to confront someone. When there is a real need for intervention and you need to confront someone and don’t, things will only get worse. But there are some who shoot first and ask questions later. We are not to be contentious in our manner of life, yet some people make it their way of life…they are constantly confronting and challenging and faultfinding about everything that they don’t like…and it seems most anything offends them. God’s Word is saying not to be like that man. The word for ‘‘contend’’ in verse 30 is a strong word. It literally means ‘‘to come to hard blows.’’ It came to mean ‘‘to quarrel, to argue noisily, to fight because one is angry.’’ It describes a reaction we have in response to an actual or perceived injustice against us. We find through God’s word that it takes a bigger and more godly person to forgive than it does to fight. We also find through life that those people who are not contentious are happier people as well!
God wants us to be a blessing to those around us…to our neighbors…liked and disliked. Proverbs 3 gives us two great hindrances to our being a blessing to others: selfishness (vv. 27, 28) and aggression (vv. 29, 30). We need the wisdom of God if we are going to treat people right. We also need the wisdom of God to remember that our neighbor is the person that God puts in our path: that is the person in our marriage. It’s the parent or child at home. It’s the person you know in this church. It’s the person who lives across the street. It’s the ticket agent in the airport. It’s the person who has wronged you. Its the person in the other car. It’s the person on the other side of your debate or argument. Do you want to be a man/woman of God’s Word? Then we must take an honest look at how you are treating your neighbors. With God’s help it not only can get better…it can be your daily ministry!