Devise Not Evil
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Proverbs 3:29-30: “Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.”
Solomon continues to instruct us about how we are to treat our neighbour, our Christian lives as related to the second table of the Law where we are told to love the neighbour as ourselves. Living in such a way serves as proof that the love of God is in our hearts and that we love our Creator. Although we could consider any commandment from the second table of the Law, the instruction not to do evil against the neighbour and not to strive with him deals more closely with the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” than with the others.
God commands us to do much more than merely avoid taking somebody’s life through violence or negligence. God further forbids “envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge.” We are “to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.”
We know that Christ has instructed us, especially in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men are our neighbours. However, here we have a neighbour who dwells securely by us. This would seem to be more than just a passing stranger. These are the people with whom we come into contact in our daily living. These people have become familiar to us. Perhaps we work with them. Perhaps they live near our houses and we know their names and speak with them from time to time. He is confident that he will be treated well. He does not think there is any risk to him because he has us for a neighbour. He has not been losing any sleep because he is worried about what we might do to him next.
They may or may not be fellow saints. It doesn’t really matter, but although these people might not know much about us, they have noticed that there is something different about the family routine on Sunday. They might not know much about our church affiliation, but they would be able to put us in the category of being Christians. How we treat them will influence their attitude about the Church and God’s people. Will we claim to be members of the Kingdom of God, then treat the neighbour, believer or unbeliever, in a way which even the ungodly would condemn?
We are not to devise evil against our neighbour. Devise means that the evil is intentional. There are times when evil is done to a neighbour with no deliberate intent. In my younger days, I’ve broken windows and done some damage to flower beds while playing in the neighbourhood. Solomon speaks here of someone who thinks of a way to do deliberate harm. He comes up with some plot, a new idea to do damage in some way. This might be some way to cheat the neighbour out of some money. Years ago I worked on muck farms. Sometimes we were paid according to how many crates we could fill of a certain vegetable when the crops were harvested. Some kids would sneak filled crates from other’s rows of crops and place them in their own row with the result that they were paid for work they did not do, while someone else was not paid for the work they performed.
Other examples could be pulling pranks for the thrill of doing some damage or seeing if one can get away with something rather bold and daring. We might remember Tom Sawyer and his buddies “lifting” pies or sweet meats to supply their pirating adventures. We might take something a neighbour has carelessly left outside, take something from his garden or let the air out of tires. These are not innocent pranks, as some might claim. Neighbours of Christians have every reason to expect to be treated well, that their neighbours are not greedy opportunists.
We are also told not to strive with someone if they have done us no harm. This “striving” refers to contending with them in a legal manner. If a neighbour has done us harm, justice must be served, but we must also forgive. We often hear of frivolous lawsuits in our court system. Lawyers and so called “victims” are looking for a rich payday so they take somebody to court and sue. Some want to profit at the expense of others or to get someone whom they regard as a nuisance out of their lives. Jezebel fabricated charges against Naboth to take property. Jeremiah was falsely accused of being on the side of the enemy, when the Babylonians held Jerusalem under siege, so God’s Word could be muted.
Students sometimes pull tricks on one another. Pencils are hidden. Sweets from lunches mysteriously disappear. It is fun to watch the owners try to locate their missing property. False accusations about others are brought to the teacher to get someone into trouble. False reports are spread from student to student to damage someone’s standing in the class. Children have their own style of courtroom trials and justice for their peers. It is part of the social dynamic, and we could give more examples.
God certainly is an example for us. He does not devise evil against us, but He is gracious. We may dwell securely not only by His house, but even in His house. God could strive with us before His throne of judgment for we have certainly done Him harm. Yet, because of the perfect obedience of Christ, which obedience has become ours through faith, we are treated as though we have never done any harm to our Lord.