He that despises his neighbor sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
We are in danger of despising our neighbours. The rich despise the poor, the learned despise the ignorant, the strong and healthy despise the weak and ailing, the devout despise the irreverent. But we are wrong in doing this. There is, indeed, one thing which may draw down a strong and even intense reprobation - moral baseness, meanness, a cruel and heartless selfishness, or a slavish abandonment to vice. But even there we may not wholly despise our neighbour; unmitigated contempt is always wrong, always a mistake. For -
I. WE ARE ALL THE CHILDREN OF GOD. Are we not all his offspring, the creatures of one Creator, the children of one Father? Does it become us to despise our own brethren, our own sisters? Inasmuch as we are "members one of another," of one family, we are bound to let another feeling than that of contempt take the deepest place in our heart when we think of men and women, whoever they may be, whatever they may have been.
II. SELF-GLORIFICATION IS EXCLUDED. What makes us to differ from others? Whence came our superiority in wealth, in knowledge, in strength, in virtue? Did it not come, ultimately, from God? Trace things to their source, and we find that all "boasting is excluded." It is by the favour and the grace of God that we are who and what we are. Not a haughty contemptuousness, but a humble thankfulness, becomes us, if we stand higher than our neighbour.
III. NO MAN IS WHOLLY DESPICABLE. He may have some things about his character which we deplore and which we condemn, on account of which we do well to remonstrate with him and to make him feel that we have withdrawn our regard and confidence. But no man is wholly to be despised.
1. Much of what is bad or sad about him may be the consequence of misfortune. What did he inherit? Who were his earliest counsellors? What were his adverse influences? Against what hurtful and damaging forces has he had to contend? How few and how weak have been his privileges? how many his privations?
2. There is the germ of goodness in him. There is no man, even among the most depraved, who has not in him that on which wisdom and love may lay their merciful hold, and by which the man himself may be redeemed. Many marvellous and most cheering facts prove that the worst among the bad may be recovered - the most profane, besotted, impure, dishonest. The Christian thought and faith is that all men are within the reach both of the mercy and the redeeming love of God. Let Divine truth be spoken to them as it may be spoken; let Divine and human love embrace them and lay its fatherly or brotherly hand upon them; let the Divine Spirit breathe upon them, and from the lowest depths of guilt and shame they may rise to noble heights of purity and honour. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.