What the Bible Says about Neighbors

August 31, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 3 Comments
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Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:43-46

You may have heard the common expression, “Good fences make good neighbors.” As Christians, God has specified two groups of people that we are commanded to love: our neighbors and our enemies. It may be that God grouped these together because they are often the same people!

In several previous posts we have opened the Bible and learned to “S.W.I.M.” (see what it means) concerning some of the doctrines in the Word of God relative to our neighbors. Now we will use an acrostic – N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R. – to help review those lessons.

N.otorious and N.eedy neighbors (Luke 10:25-37): No one would have expected a notorious Samaritan to help someone in need, but Jesus used this as an illustration for us to consider before we decide who is, and who is not, our neighbor.

E.quivocal neighbors (Psalm 12:2-3): Equivocation is “doublespeak” or duplicitous language. We must be wary of neighbors who say one thing and mean another.

I.nsurgent neighbors (Joshua 9:15-16): Obedient Christians are anxious to be “neighborly” toward outsiders, but we are cautioned by God to be careful of those who would pretend to be something they are not in order to disrupt Christian fellowship.

G.lorified neighbors (Luke 14:12-14): Christians ought not to cultivate influential people as our favored neighbors, hoping to get something in return, while neglecting those around us who are truly in need.

H.ypocritical neighbors (Psalm 31:11,15): Our highest level of trust should be reserved for God. There are some neighbors who are friendly when things are going great, yet they are nowhere to be found when trouble comes.

B.eneficial neighbors (Ruth 4:16-17): Believers should teach their children – and encourage one another – to be a blessing, instead of a burden, to their neighbors.

O.bservant and O.btuse neighbors (John 9:8-10): Remember, your neighbors are watching you. When God blesses your life, do not let “luck” or “chance” take the credit. Be sure to let your neighbors know more than “how” you were blessed. Make sure they know by “Whom” you were blessed.

R.epudiated neighbors (Ezekiel 16:26): As faithful children of God we should do our best to maintain a good relationship with our neighbors. However, we are commanded not to give in to the temptation of joining in with sinful practices, even if it means the breaking off of fellowship.

Cross-Examining the Master

August 7, 2009 at 9:41 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 4 Comments
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Lawyers in Bible times were not the same as what we call “lawyers” today. They were thought to be experts in Old Testament law. However, like lawyers today, they had a penchant for trying to trip folks up with tricky questions:

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:25

Jesus, the Master, however, was not fazed by such a question. Instead, He turned the tables, forcing the lawyer to confront his own self-righteousness:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Luke 10:29

This question Jesus answered with the story of the “Good Samaritan.” This story (so familiar to us today) forced the lawyer to realize that a hurting neighbor should not be a problem to be avoided or a topic to be debated. Instead of analyzing who is, and who is not, our neighbor, Christ taught that we should see a hurting neighbor as an opportunity to serve. As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, our question should not be, “Who is my neighbor?” Our question should be, “To whom can I be a neighbor?”

Spiritual Cheating

July 22, 2009 at 9:01 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors, Ezekiel | 23 Comments
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The Bible shows that, throughout history, God’s people have been given the responsibility of being witnesses to their lost neighbors, while being warned of God not to join in with any sinful practices.

However, in the Old Testament we find, time and time again, God’s people succumbing to the worldly and fleshly activities of unbelievers they lived among. This is still a problem today, as Christians grieve the Holy Spirit by crossing the line, and going from being “in the world,” to living like we are “of the world.” To show the seriousness of this in the Lord’s eyes, He likens such unfaithfulness to fornication and adultery.

As God’s people began to dabble in idol-worship, pagan religious practices, and making treaties with heathen nations, rather than trusting in the Lord their God, He used the prophet Ezekiel to speak forth some of the strongest language in the whole Bible.

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

Ezekiel 16:26

Believers today must avoid the temptation of committing spiritual prostitution. We must not invest the great blessings we enjoy into worldly, or flesh-driven, pursuits, even those of our neighbors.

The How versus the Who

July 3, 2009 at 9:39 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 9 Comments
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The Lord Jesus was known for healing the blind. He did this not only out of compassion and to prove He was the Messiah, but also as the prelude to a spiritual lesson. Once, when He encountered a beggar who had been blind since birth, Jesus made clay out of spittle, and applied it the man’s eyes. When the man obeyed Jesus, and washed the clay from his eyes, he could see for the first time!

Almost immediately, the man’s neighbors, who had known him to be blind his whole life, began to question the miracle.

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?

John 9:8-10.

When Christ miraculously changes the life of a believer today, this pattern will often still hold true. First, the neighbors will notice. Second, they will begin to wonder “how” the change was wrought. However, this is really the wrong question. What the observers in John Chapter 9 should have been asking was, “Who?” instead of “How?” When your neighbors see a God-made change in your life, and want to know “how” it was done, take that opportunity to tell them instead by “Whom” it was done.

Having the Neighbors over for Dinner

June 12, 2009 at 9:15 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 7 Comments
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The Pharisees, the self-righteous religious ruling class during Christ’s days on earth, knew of Jesus’s compassion for those who were suffering. In order to “trap” Jesus into some type of perceived religious violation, they were not above cruelly using a sick or disabled person to unwittingly play a role in their false accusations. However, the Lord Jesus was and is a keen discerner of ulterior motives.

In Luke Chapter 14 we find Him invited to a meal at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. After the Lord shamed them into silence by healing a man afflicted with dropsy, He took the opportunity to explain a valuable lesson.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Luke 14:12-14

We must be careful not to play the game of false hospitality. Although fellowship with our neighbors is an important part of the Christian life, the love of God should motivate us to be kind, loving, and hospitable especially to those who will not be able to reward us or pay us back in kind.

Watch Out for Pretenders

June 4, 2009 at 9:26 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 15 Comments
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Joshua was the great general, who had, by faith in God’s promises, led God’s people into Canaan, the Promised Land. Joshua had a “hit-list” of enemies. God’s instructions were to not appease his ungodly neighbors, but rather to conquer and destroy them.

The Gibeonites, hearing of this (possibly through the influence of Satan), devised a plan to trick Joshua. Taking on the disguise of weary but friendly travelers, they pretended to be something that they were not. The Bible describes Joshua’s dealings with them:

And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them. And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.

Joshua 9:15-16

God ultimately blessed Joshua for keeping his oath, by using these circumstances to bring about a great victory. However, it is clear that Joshua’s discerning by sight, rather than faith, had been a mistake. We must learn from this. Although the Christian’s orders today are not to destroy our neighbors, we must beware of “sneakers,” who are pretending to be “seekers.” Take time to consult the Lord in prayer before placing your trust in strangers, regardless of how harmless they may appear.

Naming Neighbors

June 2, 2009 at 11:20 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical neighbors, Biblical Parenting | 4 Comments
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God had been gracious to Ruth. He had given her the faith to trust Him and be saved. His blessings continued as He led her to her husband, Boaz, and even gave her a son. Through this son, not only was Ruth blessed, but so was the child’s grandmother, Naomi, the child’s people, and even his neighbors.

And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:16-17

The name “Obed” meant “servant,” partially as a reminder of Ruth’s humble beginnings, and partially as a praise to God for the great service that would be done through Obed’s descendants, including Jesse, David, and eventually the Messiah. The Bible says that children are a “heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), and they are! But, as followers of the Lord, and good stewards of this heritage, we must remember to teach them to be servants to the Lord, to their parents, their grandparents, and even their neighbors.

Friends or Foes?

May 22, 2009 at 9:32 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical neighbors, Selected Psalms | 7 Comments
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The great psalmist of the Bible, David, was surrounded on all sides by threats, enemies, danger, and slander. He described his condition in Psalm 31:11: “I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.” Malicious lies have a way of spreading, and fake friends, perceiving that someone is persecuted, tend to make themselves scarce in the time of need.

David’s response to this situation should be an example for us today: He put his trust in the Lord, believing that his “times” were in God’s hand. (Psalm 31:15) Understanding that God is in complete control of all circumstances is a great source of comfort, and a great encouragement to draw near to Him. What enemy can intimidate us when we are in His hands?

Noisy Neighbors

May 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical neighbors, Selected Psalms | 8 Comments
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Much of the “double-speak” in today’s exploitative society can be frustrating. A large corporation which fires dozens of employees is said to be “downsizing.” Innocent bystanders injured in a war are called “civilian casualties.” A self-serving flatterer is called a “smooth talker.” Such duplicitous language has even crept into the church, as those who try to undermine the vision of their spiritual leaders, and disrupt the unity of a body of believers, call themselves “change agents.”

David, in his day, called upon the Lord to end this type of vain speech.

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:

Psalm 12:2-3

God has given us a great gift in being able to communicate through talking. What a shame if, as believers, we usurp the use of our tongues, and use them to spread gossip and stir up trouble, instead of surrendering them to the Holy Spirit for the building-up and encouraging of others in our church family. Our prayer should be that our “communication” is not really “manipulation” in disguise.


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