Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

September 15th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 3: 29-30 (NLT)

29 Don’t plot harm against your neighbor,
      for those who live nearby trust you.
 30 Don’t pick a fight without reason,
      when no one has done you harm.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Neighborhoods are a key feature of American culture.  Most of us, unless we possess huge tracts of land, are surrounded by other homes that border our property.  Within these houses live individuals or families who probably have similar incomes, similar interests, and similar challenges as we do. They may leave and come home at different times and they may decorate the interior and exterior of their homes differently than us, but they share something with us: a neighborhood.

My neighborhood is a newer one in the Mt. Juliet area.  We built our house some three years ago and at present, there are still other new homes being built just down the street.  Since moving in, we’ve already seen several families come and go in the homes around ours.  That’s the nature of subdivisions– some will live there for twelve years and some will live there for twelve months.  

I’ve never considered myself a very good neighbor, mainly because I’m almost never home.  My job (believe it or not) consists of a lot of early mornings and even more late nights.  Between office hours, almost a dozen major trips annually, weekly events at church, counseling sessions, and just hanging out with students, sometimes I leave the house at 6:00 am and don’t return until midnight. Thus, I sometimes go weeks at a time without seeing or talking to my neighbors.

Having a baby, though, has opened my eyes a bit to a new season of “neighbordom” (not “neigh-bordom,” but “neighbor-dom.”)  I’ve had significantly fewer late nights and I’ve been home a lot more during these first crucial few months of Sadie’s life.  When we returned home from the hospital, some “loving” person from church had lined our driveway with plastic, pink flamingoes.  I liked them so much that I left them up for several weeks.  Thus, most of our neighborhood must have figured out that we had a baby . . . a small minority of them concluded that I had joined some strange flamingo cult– but that’s another blog for another time.

The outpouring of congratulations and gifts from our neighbors has been overwhelming.  We’ve been given food, diapers, toys, cards, gift certificates, and more.  Our neighbors have made our new parent experience even more enjoyable with their support.  But the most amazing example of neighborly kindness came a couple of weeks ago.  Laura and I were sitting at home after I had returned from work when we heard a lawnmower in our back yard.  Peering out the window, to our surprise we beheld our neighbor push mowing the grass near the back of our property.  I went outside to talk to her and she said that she thought we were out of town and she knew that since we had the baby, our time was limited.  Therefore, she just wanted to help us out by mowing our grass for us.  Wow!  That’s some neighbor!

Now, when the Bible speaks of neighbors, it doesn’t really mean the people who geographically live near us.  It just means those individuals whose lives intersect ours on a daily basis.  Your fellow students.  People at work.  People at church.  All of these are your neighbors in some capacity.

This particular passage is a great example of an Old Testament application of Jesus’ seemingly revolutionary teachings that wouldn’t come until thousands of years later.  Just goes to show you to that God truly hasn’t changed throughout the ages.  What’s the application of this verse?  “Be the kind of neighbor that can be trusted.”

We’ve all seen stories of neighborhood wars and fighting.  The new movie Lakeview Terrace with Samuel L. Jackson is about this very thing (this is purely speculation from the trailer.)  But if our neighbors are all of those around us, then we’ve got many more people to be trustworthy for than just the people who live next door.

It’s really about discarding our self-centeredness.  Setting fire to the ideas that we are the center of the universe and that no one else’s welfare or problems are comparable to ours.  It’s about discovering that the people around you are just like you– they have dreams, emotions, feelings, needs, worries, and hopes for the future.  Therefore, don’t plan to harm them in any way; no, be the kind of neighbor they can trust.

Then, the verse takes these truths to the next level by stating: “Don’t pick a fight without reason, when no one has done you harm.”  So we progress in thought past just the encouragement to be neighborly to the idea that we should not deliberately enter into altercations with someone when there is no worthy cause.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to pick a fight just because I was hungry, sleepy, or irritable.  These kinds of arguments never end well because they exist purely because of emotion and not because of any actual issue.

As a person who’s been married for eight years, I’ve somewhat discovered what causes fights in my home.  Sometimes, there’s a real cause to disagree.  You may be surprised to hear this, but I think that sometimes a good argument is a good thing . . . if the issue is worthy of the fight.

But then sometimes, I find myself picking a fight and there is no cause- I’m just cranky and she’s just the only one present.  At those moments, nothing good can occur.  I’m far from perfect, but I’m trying to learn to stop in those moments and just say, “You know, I’m just tired.  Let’s not talk about this right now because it doesn’t matter anyway.”  Usually, when I have the wherewithal to do this, life goes much smoother in the Driver household.  

There is a time to fight and then there’s a time to just go to sleep.  Proverbial wisdom again leads us to learn the differences between the two.  So, be a trustworthy neighbor and don’t pick fights with no cause.  Simple, yet extremely valuable to everyday life.  Yeah, that’s describes Godly wisdom in a nutshell.

Oh, and you can practice your neighbor skills anytime you want on my back yard.


~ by johndriver on September 15, 2008.

3 Responses to “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

  1. “Don’t pick a fight without reason, when no one has done you harm.” I love this!

    If we could all just learn to STOP before reacting to something and truly evaluate if the fight is “worth it” or not. The world would be such a brighter place.

    I gotta say though, what wonderful neighbors you have! We have a wonderful neighbor too. When we came back from National Fine Arts, we arrived home to a freshly cut lawn. Yep! Our wonderful, next door neighbors cut it for us. I was so touched.

    I sent you this link last week through but I think I want to post it here for everyone to watch. I was so incredibly moved by this family’s story and their calling to their “neighborhood.”

  2. There is a time and a purpose to everything. I constantly feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things i must do. If I am using those scarce hours for picking fights that are not needed, or diliberately causing harm to someone then my priorities are out of line. If I just focus on the good/ spiritual things in my life then I will not even have to bother with hurting someone else. Besides, chances are that if I am doing everything that God wants me to do at that certain season in my life, then I am pretty sure it will take up most of my time anyways. This is kind of what last week’s devotion was about; Do the do’s and you will not have time to do the don’ts. I guess God is trying to tell us something here. 😉

  3. True true. Fights for no reason. I find myself getting into more of those with my mom and sisters than anybody, though. If I could eliminate that I know things would be a lot smoother. Funny though, I never thought of that as being Biblical advice. Haha. More like common sense. That does not mean it is any easier to abide by, though.

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