Are You a Good Neighbor?
‘OF COURSE I’m a good neighbor. I mind my own business and let my next-door neighbor mind his. The less dealings we have with each other the better it works out.’
That may be a very common reaction to the question, Are you a good neighbor? But really, is it not sidestepping the question? Surely one must be displaying some good qualities in order to be a good neighbor, something beyond simply not being inquisitive about the neighbor’s private affairs.
True, there may be certain neighbors that tend to repel rather than attract you—gossipy people, untidy, noisy people, and those who like to put on a big front. Yes, some neighbors may be grumpy and uncommunicative, responding to your cheerful greeting with a cold nod or a grunt. So easy, is it not, to catalog the shortcomings of one’s neighbors?
But stop and think about that. Are you going to look only at their weak points? What about their good qualities? Perhaps you could get to know them better. You do not have to go to extremes, practically living in each other’s home. (Prov. 25:17) But perhaps you could have a friendlier atmosphere. You do not have to get socially involved with them, but you might get to talk to them now and then.
Let us suppose that all the members of your family were incapacitated through sickness, all at one time. Would it not be deeply appreciated if someone nearby, such as a next-door neighbor, were to inquire how things were and offer to do some vital errand for you? Most of us would like that done for us, but what about first doing such friendly acts for your neighbor?
If in your absence sometime burglars attempted to enter your home or fire broke out, would you not be grateful to some near neighbor if he were sufficiently interested in your welfare to call the police or the fire department? Such prompt action could save you much expense and inconvenience. But can you rightly expect such help if you avoid every friendly overture by your neighbors, or if you do not show a similar interest in their welfare? As the wise man wrote at Proverbs 27:10: “Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far away.”
There is no doubt about it. There are practical reasons for cultivating neighborly relations with those who live right around you, unless you have evidence that they are haters of God and of all that is good. However, you will find many neighbors who are not in this category, and who would benefit greatly from conversations with you, perhaps even in time come to share your faith in God and his Word.
There is also another consideration. Is it not important to take into account God’s view of how we should deal with neighbors? What he expects of Christians in this regard is not left to guesswork. It is set down in the Bible in clear terms Let us see what we can learn about the matter in the Scriptures.
Replying to one who inquired, “Which commandment is first of all [foremost in importance]?” Jesus answered: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31) And this requirement to love God and one’s neighbor survived into the Christian system of things, as may be noted from the writings of Jesus’ disciples.—1 John 5:3; Jas. 2:8.
But who is your neighbor? Jesus himself explained this term. He told the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead by the roadside. Two men passed by, refusing to become involved. Finally, one compassionate person stopped and rendered help. Then Jesus put the searching question to his inquirer: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?”—Luke 10:29-37.
You, too, can make yourself neighbor to others in need of whatever help you can give. It may be some fresh fruit or flowers when they are on a sickbed, or the offer to help with household chores or to do some errand for them. It may be fine, encouraging conversation that aids them to get a better outlook on the future. It may even be that their undesirable traits could be corrected as a result of some tactful discussion. If their children are noisy or obstreperous, for example, you could watch for an appropriate occasion to explain how you discipline your children in harmony with Bible principles.
It is true that some neighbors will dislike and shun those who apply Christian principles. There is no need to force friendliness on these. Other neighbors will respond appreciatively, and it may be that as a Christian you can transmit to them the finest benefit of all—knowledge and appreciation of Jehovah God’s purposes.
The role of good neighbor is not filled by one who is withdrawn and uncommunicative. The injunction to Christians is: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men.” (Rom. 12:17) As a good neighbor you too can provide comfort where needed, upbuilding conversation where appreciated, and so be a blessing to those who are worthy in your neighborhood.