Proverbs on Friendship, Part 4 – Neighbors

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 22, 2012

Proverbs on Friendship, Part 4 – Neighbors

Selected Proverbs

Introduction

In the last three sermons we have looked at friendships in general and then concentrated on the character qualities of those who would make good close and intimate friends. (See: Proverbs on Friendship, Part 1) We have seen that it is by God’s design that we have close and intimate friends because he has created us to need other people in our lives. We mature best and fastest when there are godly people influencing us and we do the same for others. We need to be in relationships in which we will be teaching, encouraging, comforting, admonishing, rebuking, correcting and instructing one another as needed. That is why isolation from friends is dangerous and contrary to all sound wisdom (Proverbs 18:1). Humans do not do well as hermits. It is why we must also avoid being inundated by acquaintance and casual friends to the point that we no longer have time to develop the close and intimate friends we actually need. Be careful of how you use social media so that your life is not drowned by acquaintances. Go out and live life and put the time into developing true friends.

I also warned you about the character qualities of those people whom you have as your close and intimate friends, for they will influence you. So avoid those who are characterized as flagrant sinners, wicked, evil, immoral, a fool, hot-tempered, or a gossip (See: Proverbs on Friendship, Part 2) . Develop your own character so that you can be a true friend who will be a godly influence on those around you. Remember, the goal of our existence is to glorify God and we do that in part by helping one another become like our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to reflect the Lord in being humble, loving and loyal. We are to be people who can hold the confidence of our friends while at the same time being honest and speaking to them with candor and even confronting and rebuking them as may be needed. We are to be true friends who love God above all else and are committed to helping others walk with God, even at the risk of losing the friendship. (See: Proverbs on Friendship, Part 3)

This week I want to concentrate on what Proverbs says about being a neighbor. Recall that I have mentioned in previous sermons that the Hebrew word, reya’ (ray’ah), can be translated as either friend or neighbor. The context of the passage will determine the particular meaning. Friendships begin at this level. While you may have a neighbor that is a close friend or even a best friend, your neighbor could also be a casual friend or just an acquaintance. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 demonstrates that a neighbor can also be someone you have never met before.

While we must be careful of becoming inundated with acquaintances and casual friends so that we are not able to develop our close and intimate friends, at the same time, we must be careful not to neglect them either. We do need to put some thought and energy into those relationships if we are going to be godly influences on them for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. Proverbs has much to say about neighbors and so will help us keep our relationships with them in proper balance.

We will look first at the things Proverbs states that neighbors should not do to one another and then work our way to what neighbors should do.

Evil Neighbors

Since we live in a fallen world in which even the redeemed struggle against sin, it should not be a surprise that Proverbs makes strong statements against desiring evil, for that is the natural bent of mankind. We begin with Proverbs 21:10, “The soul of the wicked desires evil; His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.” Wicked here is rasha` (raw-shaw’), a parallel term for sin, evil and iniquity. It describes those whose character is antithetical to God’s and are guilty of violating the social rights of others. Evil here is ra’ (raw) which is the moral opposite of good. It is conditions or actions which are unacceptable in God’s sight. However, don’t think of the evil the wicked desire to do as the most heinous possible things you can imagine, for the expression of this evil in this Proverb is that the eyes of this wicked person yield no favor to his neighbor. Favor is chanan {khaw-nan’}, to have mercy, to pity, to be gracious. The root of the evil of the wicked is selfishness that is thoughtless and without compassion toward others. For the wicked, neighbors are people to exploit or even destroy, not to aide and help build up.

The wicked may seek evil against his neighbor with words and / or actions. Proverbs 25:18 describes the destruction that comes from slander. “[Like] a club and a sword and a sharp arrow Is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.” A club, a sword and a sharp arrow are all weapons used to kill an opponent. At minimum, breaking the ninth commandment is character assassination. The old adage, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words do hurt and they can destroy a person’s living and family by murdering his reputation. A false witness spreads strife among brothers (Proverbs 6:19). He who speaks lies is treacherous (Proverbs 14:25). Yet this behavior has become standard operating procedure in politics as each group strives to gain power and advance its agenda. This is aided by a shameless media that is happy to repeat the lies or even produce their own when it fits their agenda.

The latest flagrant example of this was NBC editing the police recordings of George Zimmerman’s call as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer concerning a suspicious person in his area. NBC edited out Zimmerman’s reasons for being suspicious and the police dispatcher’s question so that Zimmerman would sound like he was a racist. NBC finally was forced to issue an apology and fire the producer who did it, but the damage was already done. The race baiters Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have taken off with this and tried the man in the court of their own opinion without all the facts concerning the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. At one time American society upheld the idea that a man was innocent until proven guilty, but that does not hold if false witnesses can use the story to somehow advance their evil agenda. Until the court can sort out the facts, we do not know what actually happened and why.

Proverbs has some more sharp points about those who are witnesses against their neighbor. Proverbs 24:28, “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, And do not deceive with your lips. 29 Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.'” This Proverb gives three directives. First, unless there is just cause, don’t be a witness against your neighbor. To do otherwise places you among the gossips, whisperers and talebearers who reveal secrets (Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 20:19). Second, do not be a deceitful witness for this makes you a false witness and breaks the ninth commandment. Proverbs 12:17 states, “He who speaks truth tells what is right, But a false witness, deceit.” Pro
verbs 19:5 warns, “A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who tells lies will not escape.”

Proverbs 11:12-13 adds to these two points, “He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent. 13 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” It can be tempting to reveal the secret of someone you do not like with the desire that by doing so you may be able to cause them harm. However, despising your neighbor in such a way lacks sense. To despise, from buwz (booz), is to hold in contempt, regard as insignificant. It is another expression of a person’s foolish pride. It is the opposite of reverence, honor and esteem. Even from a pragmatic sense, it separates you from those who you may need to help when there is trouble. Remember from Proverbs 27:10 last week that in such times of calamity, “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.” In addition, you harm yourself by demonstrating the lack in your own character. Proverbs 25:9 warns, “Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, 10 Lest he who hears [it] reproach you, And the evil report about you not pass away.”

Third, do not seek revenge, for that is contrary to the Lord’s command in Leviticus 19:18“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” The desire to treat others in the same manner as they have treated you is understandable, but treating others badly because they treated you badly is just as wicked. The Pharisees had twisted the principle of rex talionis, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, etc. (Exodus 21:24), from a limitation on revenge into a command to revenge. Jesus raised the standard in Matthew 7:12 from treating others how they treated you to treating them how you would like to be treated and said the Law and the Prophets were based on that principle. Remember, that while justice is to be sought (Deuteronomy 16:19), justice can only be carried out in righteousness.

A false witness cannot only cause havoc in someone’s life, it can even cause physical death when the lie incites others to violent action or results in a miscarriage of justice. The New Black Panther Party fosters such evil in issuing a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster offering $10,000 for the capture of George Zimmerman though he was freely available to the police and came in of his own accord when an arrest warrant was issued. Perhaps worse is Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to even say anything against the New Black Panther Party’s actions. 1 Kings 21 records king Ahab’s coveting the field of a man named Nabal so he conspired to have worthless men bear false witness against godly Nabal resulting in his execution. Elijah then confronted Ahab and delivered God’s curse upon him proving Proverbs 19:5 true, “A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who tells lies will not escape.”

Proverbs 11:9 gives some hope while describing evil against a neighbor by means of words. “With [his] mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.” Many are ruined by what godless people say, there is some hope for the righteous to overcome such evil by their ability to bring the truth to bear and expose the lies, slander and falsehoods.

Desiring evil against a neighbor is displayed in words and also in actions. Proverbs has many things to say against murder, adultery and stealing as well as the motives that prompt them to selfishness, envy and coveting. Proverbs 1:10-19 warns about joining in with those who shed innocent blood with Proverbs 6:17 adding that such people are an abomination to the Lord. Warnings about the adulterer are given in eight different chapters of Proverbs with all of chapter 7 given to that subject. Proverbs 6:29 warns succinctly that like a fire that burns those it touches, “So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 29:24 gives a similar warning about stealing, “He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He hears the oath but tells nothing.” Being an accomplice to the thief brings the same consequences before God as stealing it directly.

Much worse than desiring to do evil upon a neighbor is seeking to include the neighbor in the evil. Proverbs 16:29, “A man of violence entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good. 30 He who winks his eyes [does so] to devise perverse things; He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.” Proverbs 1:10-14 and 2:12-15 give strong warning about falling for the enticements of wicked people to join them in their evil. Proverbs 3:30-32 warns, “Do not envy a man of violence, And do not choose any of his ways. 32 For the crooked [man] is an abomination to the Lord; But He is intimate with the upright. 33 The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.”

The Contrasts

Proverbs 12:26 states, “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The contrasts between a good neighbor and a wicked neighbor can be dramatic. “The desire of the righteous is only good” (Proverbs 11:23), so they will go out of their way to guide others to the path of righteousness which “is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Proverbs 4:18). The wicked do the opposite and devise evil as we have already seen.

Good neighbors should not desire evil in any form against others. Proverbs 3:29 states this directly, “Do not devise harm against your neighbor, While he lives in security beside you.” Good neighbors trust one another while wicked neighbors are to be feared. The problem is that wicked neighbors are not always easy to identify for evil people are often deceitful. They can present themselves to be something they are not. Proverbs 10:11 contrasts their speech, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” Notice the speech of the wicked hides the violence they intend. Proverbs 29:5 warns, “A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps.” Be wary of flatterers. They can be very charming in the effort to disarm you so that they can exploit you later. Be cautious of those who lavish praise and compliments.

Good neighbors are honest in speech and action while evil neighbors are deceitful. Proverbs 3:27-28, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do [it.] Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give [it,]’ When you have it with you.” This principle applies equally to paying debt, returning borrowed items and giving to the poor. If you have the means or the item, it is evil to put off repaying, returning or giving what is right. If you owe it, then it is not really yours and needs to be repaid or returned at the agreed time. As Psalm 37:21 expresses it, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives.” This makes the contrast even greater. The wicked are even less than stingy since they would have to at least pay back what they owed to move up to the category of stingy. They are thieves, but the righteous are generous. They understand Proverbs 19:7, “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.”

A good neighbor is also thoughtful in paying attention to understand what others are like and practices courtesy and has respectful manners even if they are dealing with people of a different culture. Those who in wisdom practice kindness and truth will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3-4). Proverbs 13:15 tells us, “Good understanding produces favor” and Proverbs 14:9 adds, “among the
upright there is good will.”
This is in contrast to the wicked who are selfish and expect everyone to understand and adapt to them.

Proverbs 26:18-19 describes such a person, “Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, 19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, ‘Was I not joking?'” Perhaps he honestly thought he was joking, but at the minimum, the joke failed, the humor was lost and there should be an apology, not such a lame excuse. It is also likely that since “doing wickedness is like sport to a fool” (Proverbs 10:23), and “folly is joy to him who lacks sense” (Proverbs15:21), the deceitful joke was only an expression of the man’s senseless foolishness. Such behavior is dangerous and can be the cause of widespread and severe strife.

The good neighbor is even careful about overstaying their welcome. Proverbs 25:16-17, “Have you found honey? Eat [only] what you need, Lest you have it in excess and vomit it. 17 Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, Lest he become weary of you and hate you.” This is actually a single complementary or synonymous Proverb with the second line of each verse using the same word. As translated in the NIV, “too much of it, and you will vomit,” and “too much of you, and he will hate you.” A good neighbor knows when to stay home and when to go home while a selfish one is insensitive, misses the social cues and becomes an irritant. Proverbs 27:14 also describes such a poor neighbor, “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him.”

The Loving Neighbor

When it comes to dealing with our neighbors, the issue reduces down to a simple and direct command from God given in the Hebrew scriptures and repeated multiple times to the church. Galatians 5:14 explains it well, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the [statement], “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Every command from God concerning how people are to treat one another comes down to this one command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Turn to Luke 10:25 where we find Jesus in a debate with a Jewish religious lawyer who wanted to put Jesus to the test and so asked Him, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus pointed him back to the Scriptures and asked him what was written in the law. The lawyer answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But the man knew, as all men intrinsically know, that he had not and could keep both of these laws. They are too contrary to man’s sinful nature. He responded, wishing to justify himself, “And who is my neighbor?”

That is a common method by which man seeks to justify himself before God. He will read God’s commands and then seek to limit them in some way to something he thinks he can obey. Jesus’ answer starting in Luke 10:30 removed all doubt about who is a neighbor as well as illustrated what it means to love.

30 Jesus replied and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. 31 “And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 “And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 “But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on [them;] and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 “And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ [hands?]” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

This story is even more pointed to those that know something of Jewish culture at that time. The priest should have been the most godly person that could possibly have come along. He was supposed to know the Mosaic Law the best and was charged with being the mediator between God and man. If anyone should have understood God’s commands and had compassion upon this man that had been mugged, it should have been the priest. The priest would have even had full access to the financial resources of the Mosaic welfare system and the authority to get additional help for the man. Yet, he sees the man and walks around him.

The Levite would have logically been the next most likely person to have shown compassion on this man who had been robbed and beaten up. While he did not have the specific duties of the priest, he still enjoyed being part of the tribe and was specially set apart as those who served God. According to Deuteronomy 26, the Levite also had access to the funding that was part of the tithe given for the benefit of the stranger, orphan or widow that needed aide. But the Levite did the same thing as the priest. In the cases of both of these men, seeing a brother in need and having the means to meet that need yet closing their hearts against him showed the love of God did not abide in them (1 John 3:17).

By contrast, the Samaritan would logically be the most likely person to not have compassion on this suffering man. As John 4:9 comments, the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. There was great animosity between them that had been solidified by centuries of prejudice. Yet, Jesus said it was the Samaritan that had compassion not only to notice and respond to the man giving him immediate aide by the side of the road, but then to change his plans and take him where he could give him proper care at his own expense. They he went even further to guarantee payment to the inn keeper for any additional costs the man might incur while staying there to recover.

Rightly did the lawyer conclude that it was this Samaritan that showed mercy that proved to be the neighbor, and in doing so lost his attempt to justify himself, for a neighbor was not reduced down to a group that met some narrow qualifications. A neighbor could be anyone. And what Jesus alluded to by using the Samaritan as the example, He stated plainly in Matthew 5:43-48.

Jesus repeated the common saying among the Jewish religious leaders that recounted God’s command to love your neighbor and then added their own order to hate your enemy. Jesus corrected their error and then took it farther than they could imagine saying, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

There is no restriction on who is our neighbor, but that fits with what God wants us to do. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we are to be godly influences on everyone at every level of friendship including the many strangers we meet in the course of life. They become our acquaintances and over time perhaps even a casual friend. You may even become a close friend to them, and if they are believers striving to also walk with the Lord, then perhaps a close friend or even a best friend to you.

The Balance

There is a hierarchy in our friendships and with that a corresponding level of responsibility.
Our greatest commitment is to our intimate and close friends. You must limit those who influence you at this level to fellow disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ while seeking to be an influence on those who are not. This priority of commitment to other believers is explained by Jesus in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It will be this outward expression of sacrificial love for one another that will demonstrate to everyone that we are indeed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will also show sacrificial love to other people, but the priority is toward other believers. The Apostle Paul explains this balance in Galatians 6:9-10, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Conclusion

How well are you doing in your relationships with your close and best friends? Does your love for other Christians demonstrate you are Jesus’ disciple? How are you doing in your relationships with your neighbors – the people you meet in the course of life? Are you avoiding the wicked influencing you even while you are striving to be a godly influence on them? Are you making sure that your speech and actions to all people be that which brings a blessing. If you are, then you are being a good and loving neighbor. If not, then begin to make those changes in your life today.

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the Scripture references made. 2) Count how many times the word “neighbor” is used. Talk with your parents about how who your neighbor is and how you can be a good neighbor to them.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the importance of close and intimate friendships? What is the danger of isolation from friends – or inundation by acquaintances and casual friends? What characteristics would make you avoid having such a person as a close friend? What is the goal of your life? How do friendships fit with being able to accomplish that goal? What is the significance that the same Hebrew word can be translated as both friend or neighbor? Should the fact that people desire evil be a surprise? Why or why not? What are some of the ways the wicked use speech against their neighbors? What can be the consequences of false witness? Give examples. Why is it wrong to seek your own revenge? How does God want Christians to act instead? Why does despising a neighbor show a lack of sense? What are some of the Proverbs that speak against murder, adultery and theft? What is worse than doing evil against someone – Proverbs 16:29-30? What is the contrast between a good neighbor and a wicked neighbor in each of the following areas: desire & direction, speech, honesty, courtesy and manners? How is the whole Law fulfilled in “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”Galatians 5:14? Concerning Luke 10:25-37: How was the lawyer hoping to put Jesus to the test? Why did Jesus point him back to the Law? Why did the lawyer have a need to justify himself? In the story of the Good Samaritan, why did Jesus include a priest and a Levite? What should have been their expected response to someone who had been mugged? Contrast the response of the Samaritan with what would have been expected and the responses of the Priest and the Levite? Who is your neighbor? How does Jesus raise the bar in loving your neighbor in Matthew 5:43-48? Who are your close and intimate friends? Are they a godly influence upon you? If not, why not and what needs to change? How are you doing in your relationships with your acquaintances? Does anything need to change? If so, what? Upon whom are you a godly influence?

 

Sermon Notes – 4/15/2012

Proverbs on Friendship, Part 4 – Neighbors

Introduction

God has designed us to need good close and intimate ______________

Be careful that your close and best friends are ____________influences on you – avoid those who are not

The goal of your existence is to ________God which is done in part by helping others become like Jesus

The Hebrew term reya’ (ray’ah) can be translated as either friend or _____________

Evil Neighbors

Since we live in a fallen and sin cursed world, do not be surprised that people desire _____- Prov. 21:10

The root of the evil of the wicked is ______________ which does not have compassion for others.

The wicked will _______(Prov. 25:18) which spreads strife (Prov. 6:19) and is treacherous (Prov. 14:25)

Warnings about being a ______________ against a neighbor – Proverbs 24:28-29

1) Do not be a witness without ______or you will be a gossip, whisperer, talebearer (11:13; 18:8; 20:19)

2) Do not be a _____________ witness – Prov. 12:17; 19:5.

Proverbs 11:12-13 – despising your neighbor lacks ____________ – Proverbs 27:10; 25:9-10

3) Do not seek _____________. Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 7:12; Deuteronomy 16:19

A false witness can wreck havoc and even cause ______________- 1 Kings 21

Proverbs speak against ___________actions: Murder (1:10-19; 6:17); adultery (7; 6:29); theft (29:24)

It is worse to ____________someone to join in the evil – Proverbs 16:29; 1:10-14; 2:12-15; 3:30-32

The Contrasts

Contrast in ___________ and direction: Proverbs 12:26; 11:23; 4:18; 3:29

Contrast in ___________: Proverbs 10:11; 29:5

Contrast in ___________: Proverbs 3:27-28; Psalm 37:21; 19:7

Contrast in _________& manners: Proverbs 3:3-4; 13:15; 14:9; 26:18-19; 10:23; 15:21; 25:16-17; 27:14

The Loving Neighbor

Leviticus 19:18; Galatians 5:14 __________________________________________________________

Luke 10:25-37 _______________________________________________________________________

The Priest – should have been the ____________ likely to help

The Levite – well positioned to __________

The Samaritan – most likely to __________ help

A neighbor could be _____________

Matthew 5:43-48 extends loving your neighbor to your ______________ too

There is no _______________________ on who is your neighbor

The Balance

The priority commitment is to other __________________ – John 13:34-35

Galatians 6:9-10 gives us the __________________

Conclusions

Do not follow the example of th
e wicked, but strive to be a ___________________influence upon them


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