Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
Those closest to you deserve the most from you. Yet men often treat family or friends more harshly than strangers. The more people trust you, the more you owe them. The more vulnerable a person becomes to you, the greater obligation you have to honor and protect him. You know more about your neighbors than others in your life, but this privilege brings the duty to protect rather than an opportunity to defraud. Beware!
Who is your neighbor? While lawyers quibble about words and wish to reduce this noun to a few friends (Luke 10:25-29), Solomon’s son Jesus Christ expanded it to anyone God places in your life (Luke 10:30-37). It includes your parents or a spouse to colleagues at work or a stranger you happen to sit beside on an airplane or bus. Of course, it also includes those who live next door, but it includes many more than those as well.
It is easy to discover the assets, faults, habits, and weaknesses of those closest to you. Your proximity to their activities and their trust in you combine to make them vulnerable to any lust on your part. God and Solomon, knowing this reality of relationships, warned against any wicked ambitions or defrauding by these advantages. Godly men are scrupulously honest with neighbors, and they are exceptionally protective of them.
Cain slew his trusting brother. Jacob’s sons deceived and murdered Shechem, and then they sold Joseph into slavery. King Saul tried to murder David as he played for him. Joab slew the trusting Abner and Amasa. Judas knew the Lord’s habits, and he used them to earn a few coins by betraying Him to a murderous mob. The sin of this proverb is the cruelest form of personal malice (Ps 41:9; 55:12-15; Matt 26:46-50; John 13:21).
Do you exploit or protect knowledge of colleagues at work? Does the nearness of your neighbor’s wife make him more or less vulnerable to you? Do you exploit or protect gullible classmates? Can any sitting near you anywhere trust you with their belongings? Do you always have fellow church members’ best interests at heart in any interaction? When someone confides in you, is that information strictly off-limits to anyone else?
The sin can also be found at home. Abuse or neglect of spouses is treachery, for marriage exposes everything to another, and marriage is based on assumed loyalty and faithfulness (Mal 2:10-16). Never compare your wife to another woman! Never defraud or demean the man in your bed! Private events of a family at home should never be shared outside the home, for family members assume they are fully secure at home. Only the cruel without a conscience share such private information to promote or protect themselves.
Are all around you fully secure in their relationship with you and in relating things to you? Can your neighbor trust you with a key to his house and cars? Do church members know they can trust you with the intimate details of their lives? Or do they know your evil heart could be tempted to exploit their weakness for your own advantage or to share it with others? Always protect others. Let this proverb warn you. Learn godliness today.