Humility means putting other people first. This discipline excludes a number of proud and self-protective behaviors.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
Tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you (Prov 3:27-28, ESV).
“Do not withhold good.” Easy, right? It means you get out of the way when other drivers want to merge into your lane. At least if they’re not too aggressive about it. But who are those “to whom it is due”? Believe it or not, this question requires wisdom, as we can easily fall into several self-justifying errors.
The first error is to define “those to whom it is due” so broadly that you invest all your time and resources in the wrong people. There will always be poor and needy among us who require assistance. Christ’s followers should be known as those who give and serve as generously as their Lord did. But there are certain kinds of people who won’t be helped by our charity. We ought to exercise discernment in such cases.
To give a few examples: Proverbs warns against angry people whom we ought not rescue (Prov. 19:19), gossiping people whom we ought not associate with (Prov. 20:19), and foolish people whom we ought not even try to convince (Prov. 23:9). Don’t err by expending the Lord’s resources on the wrong people in the hope of being the kind of savior that only Jesus can be for them. Solomon will return to this point in Proverbs 6:1-5, so I’ll expand on it there.
The second error, however, is to define “those to whom it is due” so narrowly that no mortal person could ever qualify. In this case, we’re willing to help those who have real need; we just haven’t ever met any of them. We’ll give money, as long as the person has a job, a history of successful financial management, and a foolproof system of accountability in place. We act as though there is no room for mistakes with God’s resources.
Take note, however, that Solomon uses the word “neighbor” in Prov. 3:28, and the Bible suggests that “neighbor” is a pretty broad category. (See Luke 10:25-37.) We can’t justify our failure by obscuring what God has made clear.
Both errors result directly from pride. The first one says “I can be Jesus for this person.” The second one says, “Not even Jesus could help that person.” In both, I put myself at the center, and I have not cultivated the fear of the Lord.
Next: Do Not Withhold Good, Part 2: Application (Prov. 3:27-28)