Proverbs 25:8-20 gives counsel on relationships with neighbors. This section advices us that we must at times use our feet and tongue hastily, while at other times, we must halt them, lest we weary our neighbor and be hated.
The Bible instructs us that we must not go forth hastily to strife (dispute) but when we have a dispute, we must be hasty with our feet to go and make peace; to amend the relationship and reconcile (Proverbs 25:8). We must also be hasty with our tongue, to debate our cause if we are at fault or speak words of compassion (mercy) and forgiveness, if we have been wronged (Proverbs 25:9). A word spoken at the right time (fitly) is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).
The Bible is balanced in its counsel. We are also advised to halt our feet and tongue, when dealing with neighbors. Have you ever come across someone who is always in someone else’s business. Every time that person is encountered, people often exclaim something to the effect of “Oh no, here he/she comes!” We are to mind our own business. We are not to be bothersome. We are to halt our feet from our neighbor’s house lest we make them weary and hate us (Proverbs 25:17). If we are respectful of the other person’s time, we are more likely to be invited. We must also exercise restraint and halt our tongue from speaking lies and giving false witness against our neighbor. For in doing so, we end up, pounding (mauling) and piercing our neighbor for no real cause, because a man who bears false witness is a maul (to pound) and a sword, and a sharp arrow (to pierce) (Proverbs 25:18).
The word ‘Neighbor’ according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary is defined as one living or located near another. We live on earth and God is in heaven (Ecclesiastes 5:2). We are in this sense God’s neighbors. According to the parable of the good Samaritan, the one who had mercy is the one who is a neighbor (Luke 10:37).
Jesus was hasty with his feet to come and settle the strife (dispute) of sin between God (Himself) and us (mankind). He was hasty with his tongue to speak words of eternal life, love and compassion (mercy). Jesus also halts his feet. He does not barge into anyone’s life, but waits patiently at the door, knocking, and waiting for the person to open their life and let Him in (Revelation 3:20). Jesus halts his tongue, being God, for He cannot lie or bear false witnesses (Numbers 23:19), but instead truthfully mediates for us, even if we sin (1 John 2:1). Jesus Christ is the best neighbor one could ever have.
Jesus said, love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. This would mean, we should learn from the Scriptures how to relate with our neighbors; know when to be hasty and when to halt our feet and tongue.
Points to ponder:
1. Do you have anyone to go make amends with? Be first to go and settle the dispute and reconcile! Be hasty with your feet!
2. Is there someone who deserves a word of forgiveness or compassion or mercy from you? Withhold not your words that is fitting! Be hasty with your tongue!
3. Are you considered by others as being bothersome? Halt your feet and withdraw them from your neighbor’s house, lest you be hated.
4. Do not lie or bear false witness against your neighbor. Halt your tongue!
Proverbs 25:8-11 and 17-18 (KJV)
8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.