Proverbs 11:12 “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.”
The one who sees the circumstances and character of his neighbor as fodder for criticism, instead of prayer, lacks sense. To be wise is to see as Christ sees. To minimize the worth of your neighbor; to belittle them, is to say something profound about yourself, not something meaningful about your neighbor. Self-righteousness, arrogance and unwarranted spiritual pride are all tied up in the belittling of neighbors.
A proper judgment of your neighbor – understanding that your neighbor is created in God’s image, is a being in the process of sanctification, is a blessing to be received, served, built up, thought well of – is true wisdom.
The scoffer is the one who sees his neighbor as material for a joke. The righteous sees him as an object of service, prayer, love and compassion.
But what if my neighbor is doing something foolish, or is a crook; shouldn’t I point out my neighbor’s folly for the benefit of other neighbors? Shouldn’t I confront sin?
Indeed, but the example here is not that noble. The word belittle is closer to the word despising. It’s in the family of “cursing.”
Don’t look at your neighbor’s speck and forget your plank. The standard of judgment that you use for neighbors will be used for you. Don’t curse your neighbor. Think better of others than you do yourself. Love covers a multitude and true benevolence is covering sin, not exposing it.
The second half of the verse says to remain silent. Don’t gossip. Don’t repeat sins. Don’t judge one another ungraciously. If you see something and it feels good in your flesh to say something about it, don’t say it.
If a couple is obviously having trouble, pray for them and otherwise remain silent. If you counsel a friend who has a problem don’t go repeating it to others. If someone is struggling with their kids and it’s causing a lot of noise don’t mention it to them or to the people around you.
As Charles Bridges commented on their verse, “A man of understanding may see much in his neighbor to excite his pity, and stir up his prayers, but nothing to despise. He may be called openly to condemn him. But his general course will be loving forbearance: holding his peace; keeping himself from speaking or doing anything in scorn of another. Self knowledge shows the man of understanding and forms the man of love.”
Self-knowledge demonstrates grace, compassion and forbearance. Use your eyes to find ways to love, pray for and serve others. Do not use your eyes as tools to stroke your ego, to stand in judgment – to belittle. Learn understanding by being silent. Show love by turning what you see into the material of prayer.
Let us repent of our harsh spirit and our condemning self-righteousness. Let us look on one another with compassion and understanding.
Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”