“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.” (Proverbs 3:28-30)
Today at an appointment with one of my favorite Christian doctors I shared with him about the goodness of God in answering my prayer and those of my friends to have my knee replacement surgery scheduled sooner rather than later. My physician and I rejoiced in the providence and grace of God. Then, because it was the end of the day, my doctor shared a beautiful account of a time when he felt compelled to pray for a patient for whom he thought he could do nothing more. (Aren’t humble, vulnerable physicians wonderful?) He hesitated to pray with her because in all their time together over the years they had never discussed spiritual matters. After feeling prompted a second time, he asked, she agreed most positively, and he prayed. Just a few weeks later she came to his office to show him something she had found in a book, about the importance of a physician praying for his patient, lest there be something the doctor could have done but neglected to do. I couldn’t think of a better illustration for Proverbs 3:28 (and the Lord provided it through a very ordinary human experience of a pre-op EKG appointment).
We are often easily given to blurting out the easiest and most convenient response to a person’s request. Other times we quickly and enthusiastically provide the answer we think will be most agreeable or expected. Our answers could be either yes or not but should be well-considered rather than a bunch of words tumbling out of our mouths. If we can help someone we should; if we can’t, we shouldn’t. Carefully thought-out words from a sincere heart are always welcome by real friends. In this way we can prove that we want to do good, not evil, to our neighbors, faithfully following Jesus’s and James’s instructions. “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40-42). “…Do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no” (James 5:12).
Solomon further advises us, in verse 30, to leave well-enough alone. Whereas Jesus instructs us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:40-42), here is someone who hasn’t harmed us. Let’s not start arguments merely to prove ourselves expert in the skill of arguing over nothing. A week ago, I was driving through my compound’s parking lot and was about to turn into my section when I realized a woman was walking across the street. We both stopped. I waved her on, and she waved me on. I thought it would better for her to continue as she had already started across the street and it was hot outside. This seemed logical to me, being in an airconditioned car, and used to living in countries where pedestrians have the right-of-way. However, she was quite annoyed with me for hesitating and finally insisted that I go first. Next time, I will definitely proceed if she waves me across. Unfortunately, although I was calm, I was not as Christ-like as I would have wished when we exchanged greetings in the road.
Will you think about the conversations you had yesterday or the day before, asking God for the opportunity to reconsider your words to those who deserve your best love?