Withhold Not Good
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Proverbs 3:27-28: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”
God commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Part of this is the command, “Thou shalt not steal.” As our catechism explains, this means more for us than not being thieves and robbers or dealing fraudulently in business. We are to promote the advantage of our neighbour in every instance we can or may. Solomon now gives us instruction in this.
In this instance, we have something in our possession to which our neighbour has a legitimate claim. It is “due” them. Perhaps we owe them money for some service which they have rendered to us or we have made some purchase on credit. We may not keep back from paying them. “Withhold not.” Not to pay what we owe—and here we are told that we do have the ability to pay—is to steal from our neighbour.
Solomon is not dealing exclusively with our monetary dealings with each other. We are not to keep back “good,” as he says. He is not speaking merely of gold, silver or some form of currency but “good.” This is the same word used to describe God’s judgment upon His handiwork throughout the creation week. We are dealing here with something that is favourable, attractive, suitable for a purpose and commendable. This is something that has benefit. We may not withhold something which is right, that has a positive quality from our neighbour who has a right to it.
Each of us has troubles and challenges in life. Some of our neighbours’ struggles we know and perhaps there are even more which we do not know. Economic times are tough and we might wish our government printed its currency on rubber or latex rather than on paper so that we could make each dollar stretch farther. However, the problems we have which can be solved just by spending some money are not the worst of our problems. There are plenty of problems which money cannot solve.
We each struggle with sin and our fallen natures. Because we love the city of God, we all work hard to make sure this is a Christian school more than just because the word is on the sign by the street. We see sin in ourselves and in the students. When a colleague comes seeking advice or just needs a listening ear, we are not to send them away, telling them to go live on their own little island. If we have the ability to help, we may not withhold that help but we must give what good we can. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a claim on one another. The closer that friendship or relationship is as given by God, the greater the extent of the neighbour’s claim to what good we can give.
Solomon also tells us about when to give good to the neighbour. When we have that good right now, we do not tell the neighbour to come back tomorrow and we will give then. God has placed that neighbour with that need on our path at that time. If God commands us to help and do good, even to our neighbours who are our spiritual enemies, how much more should we be willing to help those who live with us in the city of God. Good given when it is needed is much better and more valuable than good given when perhaps the storm has let up somewhat or has already passed.
There are times, however, when we cannot give to the neighbour. Solomon recognizes this as well. Sometimes it is not in our power to help. We do not have what the neighbour needs or we do not know what advice to give. The neighbour’s need can be greater than what we can supply or our wisdom may not be sufficient for the trouble he faces. We do what we can.
God deals with us this way. He does not keep back the good that is due to us. We do have a claim to His good. Our claim is not based upon our works, what we are of ourselves or the choices we have made in life. Having been raised in the Reformed faith, we all know this. Thus, we can confidently knock on the door of God’s house and ask for help because Christ has merited all blessings for His elect. Just as our sins have been taken from us and placed on Him, so His perfect obedience has been placed on us. It is also certainly in God’s power to do good for us as well. As the Almighty Father, He is both willing and able to give His children every good thing.
However, from our point of view, it does often appear that God makes us wait for good. It seems God does wait, sometimes many days, to give us good. We bring our needs to Him in prayer, and the granting of our petitions does not seem to come as swiftly as we would desire. God makes us wait and He is under no compulsion to tell us why. Then we must humbly remember that His wisdom is vastly superior to ours. As the Creator, He may do whatever He wishes. His delays are based on his wisdom and love for His elect. He will give us His good as soon as He pleases.
Students can learn to give good to each other. Some are more sensitive than others to their neighbour’s needs and situation. This godliness needs to be encouraged and prayed for. Helping one another is one of the beauties of our schools where covenant children are learning to be part of the life of the church.