How are we to treat our neighbor? Here again we have a couple of verses in Proverbs that help us know how to love our neighbor as ourselves. This has to do with how we treat neighbors who are living next to us, around us - and who pose no threat to our lives. The reason for this instruction is to make sure that we truly do love our neighbor and treat them as we would have them treat us. When someone takes advantage of their neighbor - when that neighbor has done nothing to arouse suspicion or cause harm - there is a total breakdown of trust in a society. There should be a general safety that exists between neighbors that should make all of us not just feel safe - but actually be safe. When that general sense of a society governed by the golden rule is gone - that society suffers greatly.
We are told not to devise harm against our neighbor who lives securely along with us in our society. There should not be any kind of ill will toward our neighbor unless they have done us harm. Even then we should embrace forgiveness rather than bitterness in our dealings with one another. In commenting on this verse J. Vernon McGee had this great statement, "In relationship to your neighbor, don't do things that would be to your advantage and his disadvantage. And don't try to keep up with the Jones by undermining the Joneses."
Here is the crux of the wisdom that God is offering to us. When we truly love one another - and care for each other - we will not take advantage of one another nor seek to harm each other. This is the very core of how societies maintain a sense of well-being amongst the general population. The best government in any society is self-government. No human government can offer a sure protection to everyone in its borders. That would require a police force of millions - and even then you would have to answer tne question of whether you could trust the police. What is best for any society is self-government according to the Word of God. This is when the individual takes the responsiblity to govern their own heart according to a moral standard established by God. When this happens there is no need for a heavy police presence - because each person in the society is watching themselves first - to be sure that they are good citizens.
When a society degenerates - it always begins with a degeneration of its view of God and practice of His principles on a personal level. To the extent that we are no longer governed by ourselves and God's Word and Spirit - to that extent society will have to add rules and enforcement officers to try and rein in the wickedness of the human heart. As the society continues to reject God and His ways, that society will continue to degenerate in how they treat one another. Laws will eventually be downgraded to allow more and more ungodliness in the society - with the end being that good is called evil and evil is called good. With each devaluation of God's Law not only will the morals of that society slide, but the sense of safety and well-being will slide along with it.
When we first read these two verses they seemed almost too simplistic for us. Yet as we look at the true ramifications of a society with a high level of self-government versus one that has all but abandoned this concept, we suddenly realize the great wisdom of God in what is said here. This is how to have a peaceful, secure world. To the extent that we embrace this model - we will have the peace and sense of safety it will provide. But to the extend that we reject this - to that extent our society will lack safety, will lack peace, but worst of all it will lack among its people the nearness and blessing of God.