“Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”
Just the other day I was meditating on this proverb while I was sitting in my office. As one of our custodians came in to straighten up, I mentioned it to her to see what she thought about this bit of proverbial wisdom. Let’s just say that she was tickled by it. She had no idea that the Bible directed us in such small and seemingly insignificant matters of the Christian life. But this is an amazing aspect of the Bible, isn’t it? The Word of God expounds great and glorious doctrines like the Trinity, and it also give us seemingly insignificant instructions that aid us in our relationships with others.
Enjoyment to Hatred
When the proverb above tells us that our foot should “be seldom in our neighbor’s house,” it is telling us that we shouldn’t frequent our neighbor’s house too regularly. Solomon then gives us the reason for this when he says, “lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” And this idea of having one’s “fill” of something was just used in the prior verse when Solomon said, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16). The idea is simple — eating just enough honey brings sweet contentment, while eating too much honey brings disgust. Considering verse 16, it is evident that verse 17 is teaching us not to overstay our welcome.
Though we may think spending significant amounts of time with ourselves is a foretaste of heaven on earth, our neighbor may not think so! In fact, overstaying our welcome may lead our neighbor out of the realm of love and into the realm of hatred. Just as too much honey may lead out of the land of enjoyment and into the land of to vomit, so too much Philip may lead my neighbor from delightful enjoyment of me to an utter hatred for me.
Considering our Neighbor
This wisdom, however, was not given to keep us out our neighbor’s house. God would never instruct us to do something that would halt the flow of neighborly love. Instead, God is teaching us that, in all our interactions, we must show consideration for those whom we are interacting with.
Our neighbors typically have a spouse that needs to be loved, children that need to be cared for, business that needs to get done, and a good night’s sleep that needs to be enjoyed. Aside from these, our neighbors may simply want to enjoy the creaturely comforts of being in their home without hosting a guest. Moreover, even the godliest of neighbors still have a sin nature that rears its head from time to time.
If we frequently enter our neighbor’s house without due consideration of these things, then they may become weary of us —perhaps even degusted with us! However, if we enter our neighbor’s house giving due consideration to these aspects of our neighbor’s life, then we won’t overstay our welcome.
Frequently Come Before God
Though our neighbors may have their fill of us, God will not. Our neighbors have a sin nature and creaturely limitations, but God is a perfectly pure being that has no creaturely restrictions. While God causes the grass to grow, provides food for the birds of the air, and sustains the life of every human being, He can still give undivided attention to all who enter the throne room of grace. Though millions pray to Him at the same time, He can give wholehearted attention to each one with loving care. This led Charles Bridges to say:
Blessed be God! There is no need of this caution and reserve in our approach unto him. Once acquainted with the way of access, there is no wall of separation. Our earthly friend may be pressed too far. Kindness may be worn out by frequent use. But never can we come to our heavenly Friend unseasonably….The more frequent the visits, the more welcome, and the more fruitful.
What an incredible thought! May we never forget that this kind of access to God the Father is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16).