Summary: Solomon teaches his son about how to live at peace with those around him.
Wisdom For The Neighborhood
Once upon a time in a land far away neighbors welcomed new people to the neighborhood with a freshly baked apple pie, they offered to watch one another’s house while they were away visiting family, and people felt a sense of security and unity. Kids who lived in the neighborhood knew that they had lots of “moms” and “dads” who were watching out for them and checking on them to make sure they were acting right. If a young person acted out instead of acting right then they would be corrected twice: First by the neighbor who caught them in the act and then again when they arrived home. Kids wondered if their parents had telepathic powers—how else could they have known about what they had done? What the kids finally figured out, after having experienced the ritual of double correction time and time again, was that the adults were talking and helping one another raise each other’s children. You need to know that this is not mere speculation or a theoretical hypothesis I’ve constructed--I know this firsthand.
When I was a kid growing up in Duncan I went out on Halloween night with some of my buddies. We were acting out instead of acting right. My buddies and I were plotting and scheming a Halloween prank against one of our neighbors. I was chosen by my buddies to go and knock on the door and run. I snuck up to the front door, knocked as hard as I could, and ran like Maurice Green in the Summer Olympics. As I was running away from the house I heard footsteps behind me. As I glanced behind me I saw the silhouette of a big man making ground on me—it was Jennifer Watkins’ daddy. Big John closed in on me and yelled out, “Hays what are you doing?” I was caught like Leonardo DeCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Mr. Watkins wasn’t mean, but he sure sounded a lot like my dad. When I got home my mom and dad said, “What did you do tonight?” As coolly as possible I said, “Aw nothing much. We just walked around the neighborhood.” Then the hammer dropped and my sin was exposed. Oh, those were the days. It was hard to go bad back in the day when there were eyes all over the neighborhood watching you.
My neighborhood was not unlike most neighborhoods in Duncan. Neighbors sat on one another’s front porch and talked in the evening. When someone was sick there was a steady stream of food and well wishers who stopped by. Men helped each other work on one another’s cars and trucks. People trusted one another and knew that they were looking out for each other’s best interest. Those were the days.
Today things are different. Many neighborhoods are war zones today where neighbors are afraid of one another, they don’t know one another. Bars, security systems, and Pit Bulldogs are all in place to protect one’s personal belongings. People don’t discipline one another’s children because they are afraid of a lawsuit or worse yet, a fistfight with the kid’s parent. Even in upscale neighborhoods there is a sense of isolation. Gates or security guards protect the front entrance. Driveways take you to the back of the house where high fences prevent you from seeing your neighbors as you drive into your garage without every saying “Hi” to anyone outside of your own home.
This is taking place in America where we’ve got great neighborhoods, relatively speaking. Think about what it would be like living in Baghdad today. Or maybe you would rather live in a quaint neighborhood in Jerusalem or the West Bank? You wouldn’t be worrying about break-ins this morning while you are away at church, but you would be worrying about bombs going off and taking the lives of your loved ones while you walked to church. Does God’s Word have any wisdom to impart to our neighborhoods? Does God’s wisdom hold any hope for transforming our neighborhoods or ourselves or our neighbors? I believe it does. Let’s take a look at Proverbs 3:27-35 and see what we can learn.
27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”—when you now have it with you. 29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. 30 Do not accuse a man for no reason—when he has done you no harm. 31 Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, 32 for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. 33 The LORD’S curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. 34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. 35 The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame. (Proverbs 3:27-35 NIV)