Proverbs – News From The Source – Part 20 A
“Do not devise evil against your neighbor, for he dwells by you for safety’s sake. Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm. Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools. Proverbs 3:29-35
Here we have a series of axioms for life in community with others, particularly those who live with us daily, our neighbors. More specifically, this scripture is addressed to the people of God who were by virtue of the Law of Moses commanded to live in places together with those who shared their common acknowledgement and respect for The Law in order to please God and thereby gain the rewards of obedience. The assumption is that neighbors are those who share common values, common laws of behavior, common traditions of celebrations and observances where all share with and among one another certain activities, such as feast days, holidays, regular gatherings of worship and remembrance and expressions of gratitude to God.
These communities were also to be places where each family and individual looked out for one another and guarded each one’s property as though it was their own, at least to the extent of sounding and alarm if a thief was found in the community, or if a threat of destruction or loss came from any source. If anyone suffered loss all would bring contributions to help restore them to provision and safety or gather to help rebuild their homes lost by misfortune.
This standard of living was common for centuries, across social, economic and ethnic lines well into the 20thcentury and for the most part still remains today. Sadly, though, it is under attack and has been for several years. Boomers look back to a time when there was virtually no need for home alarm systems, because people respected one another’s property and many never locked their doors day or night, being available to one another whatever the need whatever the time.
As a general rule, no one abused the trust that neighbors enjoyed with one another, and if anyone did, they were swiftly and severely dealt with. Children were taught from infancy that each one’s home and belongings was sacred to them and not to be disrespected, stolen for any reason, abused, vandalized or destroyed. The common value was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12
It was taught and lived by at home, at church and in school, both public and private, from kindergarten through college and university instruction.
But, from the days of Cain and Abel, men have not always lived in true communities of caring and compassion with respect for the life of one another. The enemy of all, the thief that Jesus referred to when He said,
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” John 10:10
has always been with us and against us. From the time of the fall of Adam and Eve, evil has been present in the world and all who commit evil, who steal, kill and destroy are doing so under his influence.
So, we are warned to be on our guard against any temptation to deal treacherously with our neighbors who trust us to be there for their wellbeing and they for ours. In true community we share a mutual trust and respect for one another. This particularly should be the relationship of all those in the body of Christ who trust in Jesus alone for salvation.