Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbour, "Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it," When you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbour, For he dwells by you for safety's sake. – Proverbs 3v27-29
I remember an ad run by an insurance company in the States. I don’t know if they still use it, but the phrase sticks out in my mind. It was inspired by the idea of good neighbours and it went like this – ‘Just like a good neighbour, State Farm is there.’ (Actually, since it is an American company. The slogan was ‘Just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.’) The idea is pretty simple, good neighbours take care of each other and there are there when you need them. State Farm wanted you to think that they are that kind of company.
I like that and I like the concept it presents. The whole idea of being a good neighbour is a Bible concept. One of the great stories in all of historical literature deals with neighbours and it comes from God’s word. Jesus had just stated that the whole Law could be summarised by this – ‘Love God and love your neighbour.’
Of course that elicited a question – ‘Who is my neighbour?’
What follows is a great story known as the Good Samaritan. A Jewish traveller was injured on a journey. Those who should be his neighbours walked right past him. Eventually a Samaritan passed by. Samaritans and Jews did not get along. No one would have expected the Samaritan to stop and help – but he did. He stopped, cared for the man, and took him to an inn offering to pay whatever it cost to make sure the man was cared for.
That’s what good neighbours do. The challenge comes in the fact that all people are our neighbours. When our neighbour has a need we do what we can to meet it. That is not just a part of the Law. It is carried on in the church. Churches took care of their neighbours. The thing that finally stopped Roman persecution is that Christians just kept giving and caring and loving their neighbours.
We don’t really have an option. Just like a good neighbour, God’s people ought to be there.