Who Is Really My Neighbor?

A reading for Tuesday, October 20, 2015: Proverbs 14:21.

In my church community, we have been talking a lot about neighbors. Who are our neighbors?

Are they the people who live beside us, literally next to our house or apartment? Are they the people we associate with in our social and business networks? Are they the people of our city, or our nation, or our world? Who is my neighbor?

The Proverbs contain wisdom beyond human understanding. Linking neighbors with the poor is  curious. Most in my church community do not live beside the materially poor. Their networks are not inhabited by the materially poor. Certainly our city, and our world contain the materially poor, and we are required to attend to them. But is that the only definition of poor?

But what if the definition of the poor were expanded to include those that are poor in spirit, or poor in relationships. I read over the weekend about a man in NY city who died and was not found for over 5 days because he had nobody he was in relationship with. By the way, the story reported that he had over two hundred thousand dollars in his checking account.

If this were the poor referred to in the Proverb, then I wonder if it requires us to consider our neighbors a little closer to home. I wonder if it even requires that we consider ourselves poor at times, and in need of our neighbor to look after us.  Suddenly we are no longer in a position of power or privilege caring for the materially poor, but in one of relationship... One poor sinner to another poor sinner.

The truth is our neighbors are all of the above, and we cannot neglect those that live next to us in favor of those we choose to associate with. "Happy are those who are kind to the poor..." All the poor, in every way.


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