Proverbs 25:17

Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.


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Overstaying a visit is rude and offensive. Noble men avoid it, for it shows a lack of courtesy, decorum, etiquette, and manners. It is inconsiderate and selfish, and it can cost you good friends. Part of wisdom is learning to be acceptable and pleasing to others.

God’s children should never be offensive, for the divine library includes practical advice like this proverb. Those who think the Bible a book of irrelevant and impractical history and theology have never read it. Praise God for it, and hope your neighbor reads it.

Friendliness includes visits and communication. But too much of either can burden and spoil friendships, like too much honey can make you vomit (Pr 25:16). Excess may cause contempt or hatred, so Solomon urged temperance and moderation even with friends.

Common courtesy is not as common as you wish. But it should be for Christians, who should be without offence to all men, especially other saints (I Cor 10:32). In this selfish generation, etiquette and decorum are ignored or despised to this generation’s shame.

There are two common variations of this proverb’s wisdom, one negative and one positive. It is said, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” to warn against excessive time with friends. Other than exceptional friends, the more time with another often leads to dislike.

It is also said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” to state the need for space and time even among friends. Valuable friends will be revealed by absence, for affection and desire to see the other party will increase. Do you know and observe both rules?

It is easy to overstay a visit, visit too frequently, call too often, talk too long, email too often, or text too frequently. These intrusions can be a burden and lead to resentment and hatred. What you would never do to a stranger, you might easily do to a friend. Beware!

The Scriptures can make you wise unto salvation (II Tim 3:15) and provide everything needed for ministers (II Tim 3:16-17), but they also teach wonderful practical wisdom. Here is good advice to help you grow in favor with men, as Jesus Christ did (Luke 2:52).

Much of education today is quite worthless. Instead of studying who discovered Bolivia in school, classes on etiquette, social ethics, and practical wisdom should be restored. Solomon’s proverbs should be the textbook. But this book from the finger of God is the treasure of His saints. They should learn it, outshine the world in nobility, and rejoice.

The wisdom in these few words equals Solomon’s solution of cutting a baby in half (I Kgs 3:25). Appreciate it. What great advice in plain words. The fool thinks frequent calls and many words are friendship, but wonders why he has few friends. Here is an answer.

Effeminate and politically correct people mumble with vague generalities, but Solomon called the offence here a cause of weariness and hatred. Love this plain book of the Bible and this individual proverb. God wants you gracious, polite, courteous, and successful.

Ease of communication makes this proverb more needful than ever. A three-mile walk to your neighbor in the past discouraged excessive visitation. But with cars, phones, email, text messages, social media, and more leisure time, limiting factors are reduced. Today, people in their cars with a cell phone assume everyone else is waiting to hear from them.

Ah, dear reader, do not deceive yourself. You are no exception to this rule, though your heart thinks so. Your calls and visits are no more precious than those of others, and to grasp this firmly is to save yourself from hatred, and you will increase your friends. Be wise and err on the side of restraint, rather than run the risk of incurring their contempt.

Is there greater pain than to invite guests for supper and have them stay too late without regard for your need to clean up and get an early start the next day? You wonder why they stay, but the answer is simple. They are selfish and presume you want them all night.

What can you do as a guest? Simply suggest you should leave while the night is young, and let your host dictate how long you stay. If they agree with your request, leave and know you are wise. If they beg you to stay, do so and graciously try it again an hour later.

A related proverb crushes pride and teaches nobility. When invited to an event, sit in the least important seat. It is better to be asked to move upward than to be asked to move down (Pr 25:6-7; Luke 14:8-10). Applying this wisdom to visiting neighbors – it is better to be asked to stay longer by your host than to be asked to leave by him.

True friends remember time is precious. They are conscious of time constraints on the other party. You may be bored with nothing to do, but others are not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Discretion requires you to be conscious of others and their time limitations or needs. Do not presume on others, just because you do not have a life.

Life is short, and there is never enough time. To get everything done takes time urgency. A five-minute phone call once a week is a precious reminder of friendship. An hour phone call twice a week is a burden no man can bear. Keep the conversation moving, and get off the line quickly. Be a true friend, and preserve your friends’ love for you!

Two are better than one, and friendship is a great blessing (Eccl 4:9-12). Hearty counsel from a friend rejoices the heart like ointment and perfume, and friends should be kept carefully (Pr 27:9-10). One way you can do this is to not presume on their time.

The proverb neither constrains nor minimizes friendship, but rather perfects and protects it. Here is no condemnation of warm and friendly discourse, but the abuse of time by presumptuous and inconsiderate friends. The Bible exalts friends and being truly friendly.

Do you still need social guidance? Do not arrive early to a private function, as the host is likely finishing preparations. Bring a small gift, but do not expect them to open it or make a big deal over it. Send a thank-you card after the event. If eating out, attempt to pay, lest your host think you presume on him. Dress at least equal to the occasion for the event.

If you are overcome by the urge to communicate, get down on your knees and pray. The LORD has a multi-tasking switchboard open just for you, but your mere mortal friends do not. Walking and talking with the LORD will do you much more good as well. If you cannot think of what to pray, and your friend is on your mind, then pray for your friend.

There is no need for caution or reserve in coming boldly and repeatedly to God’s throne in prayer and staying there as long as you need or desire, for Jesus lives forever as your High Priest. God requests your importunity, which is bothering and pressing Him enough by your repetitions to get Him to comply, which Jesus taught (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-7).

God is never weary of your coming, and He will draw ever closer to you by your much coming. There is no better time than now to approach His throne, for He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Go to your eternal Friend always, dear reader, and there be comforted forever.