“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.”
~Proverbs 3:27-28 (NRSV).
Beyond the assurances for living wisely in Proverbs 3:21-26, this final section of Proverbs chapter 3 (verses 27-35) focuses on how we are to interact beyond the doors of the family home, plus the crescendo. It may even be seen to have applications of neighbourliness within the home.
But, first, let’s have a look at what verses 21-26 might be saying.
Another Repetition to ‘Go’ With Wisdom
We tend, by nature, to be slow learners. It’s therefore very understandable that we will have to fail repetitively before we succeed, particularly in the important—difficult to establish—things of life.
Wisdom here is part of the resilience set that, from retrospect, will stand us never in better stead. The best changes in our lives so far as growth is concerned tend to be those things that happen after a long fight toward the establishment of the visions God’s given us for a ‘new’ or better ‘us’ that we take hold of and sustain, praising God. Good growth is hard.
There is a surety of shalom to be experienced in this cherished place, certainly as we reflect upon how far we’ve come with God (Wisdom). Relatively contented we are, and God affords this satisfaction. Our faith, vindicated.
Ushering Forth the Golden Rule in Proverbs 3:27-32
These verses may all be summed up in the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12a (NRSV): “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This is the very basic premise of the Christian message. Negatively set then, verses 27-32 pack in no fewer than five “do nots” which help us understand behaviours that God has cursed from the beginning.
These (in order) involve the greed of retaining that which we could otherwise give, deceiving people unsuspectingly, arguing without reason, and envying the callous. These are sins against others and certainly against God too. The “do not” pattern here foreshadows a pattern that returns in the Sayings of the Wise (Proverbs 22:17 – 24:22) where half of the thirty sayings start with “Do not”.
Clearly what this section is saying is we don’t abuse the trust and respect of others, whether implied or otherwise. We do all we can to live at harmony with all people and situations so far as it depends on us (Romans 12:15, 18).
Not unlike the previous chapters, the last three verses solidify the foregoing, contrasting life’s likely results for those going with Wisdom and those who don’t. In the words of The Message the wise will receive honour whilst the wicked foolish will gain only the “booby prize”.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.