Proverbs 3:27-28

An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
Charles Bridges

"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 neighbor,
'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,'
when you have it with you."

The wise man now comes to practical points. He shows the fruit of selfishness -- withholding what is due. Many are the forms of this dishonesty: borrowing without payment, evading taxes, keeping back the laborer's wage. But the rule probes deeper than this surface. If we have no legal debt to any, we have a Gospel debt to all (Rom. 13:8). Even the poor is bound by this universal law to his poorer neighbor. Everyone has a claim upon our love. Every opportunity of doing good is our call to do so. Our neighbors are the real owners of our good. The Lord of all has transferred his right to them [our good deeds], with a special reference to "his own brethren." Kindness is therefore a matter not of option but of obligation, an act of justice no less than of mercy. Not indeed that it may be demanded by our fellowmen, but the obligation lies upon our conscience. To withhold what is due will be our eternal condemnation.

Christian benevolence will also do good in the kindest manner. Delay is an offense against the law of love. Too often the cold repulse -- Go, and come again -- is a cover for selfishness. There is a secret hope that the matter will be forgotten, dropped, or taken up by some other party. Often an application is put off because of mere thoughtlessness -- We have it with us, but it does not just now suit our convenience. This is a serious injury to the applicant. A little given in time of need is more than a larger sum when the time is gone by. We should cultivate a quick sensibility of the needs and sufferings of others, putting ourselves as much as possible in their place, not only "doing good" but "ready for every good work." If we are to "do justly" (which sometimes may be our sorrow, as in the punishment of criminals), then we are, like our gracious God, to love mercy, seizing the present and perhaps the only opportunity, anticipating the need rather than wantonly or thoughtlessly delaying to relieve it. The Gospel presents every neighbor before us as a brother or sister needing our help and to be loved and cared for "as ourselves." Why do we not more readily acknowledge this standard? The Lord raise us from our selfishness and mold us to his own image of mercy and love!

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