Be a Good Neighbor – Exploring the Passages

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Proverbs 12:26 (printed below) describe the role of the righteous man with regard to his neighbor? How does the righteous man fulfill this role?

The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked causes them to go astray. (Proverbs 12:26)

As a Christian, by your conduct and your counsel, you should be setting a godly example for your neighbor. Are you living a life that reflects the righteousness of God by keeping His commandments? Are you living a life that recognizes the lordship of Jesus Christ by accepting what He brings into your life and thereby presenting to your neighbor a true example of godly living?

2. Consider Proverbs 14:21 (printed below.) What do you think it means for a man to “despise his neighbor?” Hint: Note how the opposite attitude is described in the latter half of this proverb.

He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has pity on the afflicted, blessed is he. (Proverbs 14:21)

The situation envisioned here is one in which a neighbor is in need: he is “afflicted” with some type of trial that is weighing down upon him and threatening to crush him. As opposed to “despising” him, (which is sin), we are to have compassion on him. To despise him, or treat him with contempt, is here used in the sense of avoiding contact with him and his burdens. It is the Christ-like attribute of compassion that moves us to perform deeds of mercy. There is the promise that the man who shows compassion towards the afflicted shall be blessed.

3. What counsel does Proverbs 25:17 (printed below) give us as to how we are to treat our neighbor?

Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, or he will become tired of you and hate you. (Proverbs 25:17)

We are not to make a nuisance of ourselves, we are not to impose upon our neighbor’s hospitality or monopolize his time. In Robert Frost’s poem, the line “Good fences make good neighbors” is expressing the importance of respect for our neighbor’s privacy and personal rights. The poem asks, “Why do they (fences) make good neighbors? Isn’t it where there are cows?” Cows, like some self-absorbed people, do not have the sense to respect privacy and unspoken boundaries, hence the need for fences. We should be careful not to act like cows.

4. What does Proverbs 26:18-19 (printed below) tell us about the adverse effects of playing practical jokes on our unsuspecting neighbor?

Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows, (19) so is the man who tricks his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19)

This proverb is describing a practical joker: he has played a trick on his neighbor that has caused his neighbor harm or inconvenience, and now he declares, “It was all in fun, I was only joking!” Note: the practical joker is described as “a madman” who recklessly hurls around flaming firebrands or who randomly shoots off arrows. In other words, he is not aware of the danger and potential destruction he is causing to his neighbor’s well-being and to his good relationship with his neighbor. What biblical principle should guide our conduct towards our neighbor? Note Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

5. How does Proverbs 25:18 (printed below) describe the man who bears false testimony against his neighbor?

A man who bears false testimony against his neighbor is a club and a sword and a sharp arrow. (Proverbs 25:18)

Bearing false testimony against one’s neighbor (in the form of outright lies, or unsubstantiated accusations, or slander, or gossip) is viewed as the equivalent of making war against him: wielding “a club or a sword, shooting a sharp arrow.” To bear false testimony against your neighbor is viewed as assaulting him; it is an assault on his name, his reputation. To bear false testimony against your neighbor is to become a source of destruction, violating the very commandments designed to protect life, honor truth, and promote peace (note Leviticus 19:16).