Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
Who dwells trustingly beside you.
Do not contend with a man for no reason,
When he has done you no harm (Prov 3:29-30, ESV).
Wise people put others first, protecting their well-being. They don’t steal possessions by borrowing and not returning. They don’t steal time by not listening well. They don’t pick fights. They don’t argue about meaningless things. When a disagreement is significant, they work to persuade and woo, rather than coerce or manipulate.
“Do not contend” (Prov. 3:30) has a legal ring to it, referring to foolish lawsuits, but it implies much more than court proceedings. We ought to avoid damaging someone’s reputation needlessly. We ought to be as concerned for others’ reputations as we are for our own. Wise people don’t spread the dirt on others (Prov. 20:19), refusing even to listen to it (Prov. 26:20-22). Whenever they hear someone’s “concerns” about another person or group, they make sure to get the whole story before coming to any conclusions (Prov. 18:13, 17).
I must confess that I am guilty. I have jumped to conclusions about others. I have listened to bad reports, and I’ve spread them foolishly. I haven’t always done my research, making sure to hear all sides of a matter. I can think of times when my information was true, but still should not have been passed on (Prov. 25:7b-10). I once prided myself on my ability to discern what needed to change for any person in any situation, and all along I was the one who most needed to change.
When we put ourselves at the center, we commit all kinds of evil against others, and we train ourselves to make it look good and religious. We stop listening to the Word of Wisdom, and we listen instead to the world around us. For example, I once sat innocently in a fast food restaurant, and my cup started preaching at me. No joke. It said:
This cup makes a statement about you. It says, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m an ambitious yet responsible person.’ You could have gone larger, but you didn’t. You could have gone smaller, but again, you deferred. No, you know exactly what you want in life, nothing more, nothing less. It’s good when you have things your way.
We fall for garbage like this all the time, but the Lord calls us out of a pat-yourself-on-the-back, you-know-what’s-best-for-you mindset. When we fear him, being open to change, our focus steadily moves off ourselves and onto others. Our pride melts, and loving others becomes our delight. Before we know it, our relationship with the Lord hits fifth gear.
Next: God Opposes the Proud (Prov. 3:32-35)
 Printed on the cup of a Burger King® medium-sized soft drink.