“He who despises his neighbor sins. But happy is the man who is gracious to the poor.”
– Proverbs 14:21
If you know me, you know that I am extremely annoying and extremely passionate about Christians establishing community in their neighborhoods and the art of godly neighboring. I am genuinely convinced that if as Christians, we lived missionally and purposefully within our neighborhoods, revival would spark our cities rather quickly. But if you know me, you probably know that. This is not a matter I’m shy about y’all.
As I was spending time with the Lord today, Proverbs 14:21 caught my eye. It’s my heartbeat and my heart’s message for this season. And there it was, living and breathing right in front of me. Being the good nerd that I am, I looked up the original meaning and words in Hebrew and I broke it down that way. Let me share my findings with y’all.
The original Hebrew word for “despises” means to despise, hold in contempt… or the one that struck me– to hold as insignificant. Our culture is one that holds little to no regards for our neighbors. In our circle of priorities, we hold them as insignificant and sometimes even in contempt. Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of complaining about the weird hoarder neighbor down the street or the grumpy old lady that lives under our feet. It’s kind of a status quo here in America. The culture. But, as believers, we are called to defy a culture and create one that is filled with the glory of the Kingdom of our God. What if as believers, we suddenly gave great honor and significance to the people that live around us? Middle Eastern culture has always been amazing at this. They honor their neighbor as deep and close friends and they will go to great lengths to serve them. Y’all… our Bridegroom King is a Jewish man. He’s middle eastern and this is His culture. He longs to see believers honor and respect and genuinely consider and care for our neighbors. It is no coincidence that the second commandment declares that we love our neighbors as ourselves. We, again in our culture, have generalized this to mean all men. And it does — 100%. I’m not about to shatter or even try to dismember that theology. But what I am saying is that our perfect and purposeful God chose to use the word neighbor. He kinda does things on purpose. What if our neighbors are the launching pad for all men? What if besides our family, we were intended to start the second commandment with our immediate neighbors?
Think of it this way:
When a man of God ministers outside of the home, for the purpose of advancing the Gospel but forsakes the roles he bears in his home — it is counted to him as sin. Scripture actually says it’s better for a unbeliever than for him (can we say yikes? look it up in 1 Timothy 5:8). That being said, does it really make sense for a man or woman of God to minister all throughout the city, the region, the state or the world but forsake the neighbors God has set around him? God is sovereign and He opens doors for us to live where we are. He has purposefully ordained your neighbors and you friend are the closest beacon of light to them. Are we really going to hold them as insignificant and ignore them?
The second half of Proverbs 14:21 talks about the man who is gracious to the poor. In my good ol’ nerd searching, I discovered that poor in Hebrew translated to “needy, poor, weak, afflicted.” Doesn’t that sound like every soul we know without Christ? In our natural state, we are all needy, poor, weak, afflicted. Every person has a story and every person bears the poverty of spirit. The sermon of the mount tells us that. And it also shares that blessed is the man who recognizes it, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel y’all! 🙂
I want to encourage you as a believer to prayerfully consider this call. It’s going to look different for every family and I understand and recognize that. But I am praying and contending for a culture shift among believers that begins to esteem neighbors as significant and pivotal roles in our lines of service. I am believing and begging God for a movement that will begin to love neighbors [real neighbors] in such a radical and intense way that it cannot be ignored. May we learn to love our neighbors as ourself and honor and esteem and get to know and serve them until all they see is the tremendous message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Praying for you,