Debates with Your Neighbor
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame,
and thine infamy turn not away.
Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself…
1. Debate thy cause:
a. To strive; dispute; contend; fight (either physically or with words); to quarrel; to bring forth a lawsuit.
b. This word is translated “strive” in verse eight.
c. Solomon is speaking of all kinds of arguments, fights, quarrels, and disagreements of various levels that arise among neighbors, friends, and brothers.
a. Friend; companion; fellow; another person.
b. The debate described here is not limited to certain circles, but is a debate that might occur with ANY other person. (Friend; foe; family; boss; co worker; teacher; classmate; etc.)
c. The exhortation is broad enough to be applied to ANY debate with ANY person.
a. The main verb in this command is debate, but the point of the command is not that we should get into a debate; it’s better not to get into a fight with anyone.
b. But if we do find ourselves embroiled in a debate, we should keep it PRIVATE.
c. Debate with your neighbor himself (him alone)—not with your neighbor and drag lots of other people into the argument.
d. Verse 8: Here the advice is, “Don’t go HASTILY into a debate or strife.” Don’t be eager to argue. Don’t jump in on a whim or without knowing all the facts. Be SLOW to enter into a controversy.
e. Verse 9: Now the advice is that if you DO find yourself in a debate, as much as lieth in you, keep it private.
f. The PURPOSE of speaking to the person in private is to deal with the matter in a peaceful, amicable way.
g. Reconciliation is the goal.
h. Remember, these are proverbs. They don’t cover every possible situation. Sometimes it may not be possible to keep it private. But if you can, then do!
4. This principle of dealing privately with controversy is found elsewhere in Scripture.
a. Matt. 18:15 – Here Jesus speaks of a controversy between two Jewish brothers in a synagogue setting.
• If you have a controversy with a brother, go to him alone and try to bring about reconciliation.
• Try to resolve it privately if possible.
• If you can resolve it at that level, then you have gained a brother.
b. Prov. 11:13 – A faithful man will try to conceal a matter. Don’t bring others into the fray. Try to keep it private—just between the two parties involved.
And discover not a secret to another…
a. Uncover; reveal; show; disclose; to make known; expose; etc.
b. The term used here does not speak of a person finding out a secret for himself, but rather, it speaks of exposing it to others… causing others to discover it.
a. This term speaks of counsel; inward or intimate conversation or counsel; intimate fellowship; something shared in confidence.
b. The term is used in Ps. 55:14: “We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”
3. From time to time someone will confide in us.
a. They will share something that is heavy on their heart—something very private.
b. Perhaps you have given some personal information to a friend that you gave in confidence… something you didn’t want anyone else to know.
c. If you give private information out you expect others to keep it private.
d. Therefore, if others give private information to you, they too expect you to keep it in confidence.
e. The second expression in our proverb forbids us from revealing the secrets of others.
4. Prov. 11:3 – It forbids us from being a “talebearer.”
a. Talebearers blab to others things that were shared in confidence.
b. When someone violates your trust and shares YOUR private matters publically, it can be humiliating, embarrassing, and extremely frustrating.
c. It can be painful:
• Proverbs 18:8 – “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
d. Revealing secrets does not help end the debate. It stirs up the debate and keeps the fire going.
• Prov. 26:20 – “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
5. So far Solomon has given us good advice when we find ourselves embroiled in a controversy.
a. Keep it between the two parties involved.
b. Don’t drag others in.
6. The proverb does not make clear WHOSE secret is revealed.
a. It could refer to the secret of the one accused.
b. It could also refer to the secret of a third party not directly involved in the controversy.
c. What the proverb says is that in the midst of a controversy, when tempers are flaring, when the battle is raging, and the flames are hot, DON’T reveal secrets.
7. Don’t reveal secrets of the one with whom you are debating.
a. If somebody stole something from you, deal with that person alone.
b. You don’t have to tell others what he did. Keep it private.
c. If you start revealing this person’s secret (his sin) it only adds fuel to the fire and makes the controversy more difficult to resolve.
d. The person with whom you are embroiled in a debate is not only angry at you for the original cause of the debate; now he is also angry at you for blabbing what he did all over town!
e. It doesn’t matter what the sin is either.
• If someone was gossiping about you, then deal with that person in private. Nobody else needs to know.
• If someone committed some other indiscretion against you, deal with him or her privately. Don’t blab it all over town. That doesn’t help; it hurts.
• If someone lied to you, offended you, cheated you, etc. —deal with it one on one. Don’t reveal that person’s secret sins to others. They don’t need to know anything.
• Debate the cause with your neighbor alone and don’t reveal any secrets.
8. The “revealing of secrets” described in this proverb could have another application as well.
a. It could be the secret of a third party.
b. A possible scenario:
• There is a debate (controversy; strife) between two people over stolen property.
• Tom (the man who is accused of the crime) says, “I wasn’t even in town the night they were stolen. I couldn’t have taken them.”
• But YOU (the accuser) were told by a third party (Pete) that he saw Tom there that night. You now know that Tom is lying.
• However, Pete gave that information in confidence. Pete wanted to help you, but he didn’t want to get himself involved in the controversy.
• It’s tempting to use Pete’s information in the debate. It would end the argument.
• However, Pete gave you that information in confidence and you promised Pete you wouldn’t reveal his secret.
• If you DO, it will cause a third fight between Pete and Tom. You have not resolved the debate; now you have expanded it!
9. Regardless of whose secret it is, when you are in the midst of a heated argument, it is tempting to reveal the secrets of others… to tell many people to win them over to your side of the debate.
a. Either to bolster your side of the argument.
b. Or to drag down the other side.
c. Solomon’s advice is timely in such a situation:
• Debate with you and your neighbor alone
• Don’t reveal secrets in the process.
Two Consequences of NOT keeping the matter private
A. Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame
1. The result: Shame: to bring shame, disgrace, or reproach.
2. If in the midst of controversy and strife, you begin revealing the private secrets of others… there will be consequences to that action.
a. He will shame you by making it known that you are not trustworthy; you are a talebearer; you cannot be trusted. You violated his confidence.
b. Even if you were on the right side of the original debate, by breaking the confidence of others, or by revealing secrets in any other way, you will earn the reputation of one who is a talebearer… unreliable…
c. That will bring shame upon your name.
3. Verse 8: In a slightly different scenario, the result is the same: Shame.
a. If you enter into strife hastily, it could end in shame.
b. If you make a private matter public, it could end in shame too.
c. We could save ourselves a lot of shame by taking this good advice.
B. Thine infamy turn not away
1. Your INFAMY will not turn away.
2. You betrayed the confidence of a friend.
3. You will become the infamous violator of trust.
4. You will have gained a reputation for being two faced; double tongued; unreliable.
5. Nobody will want to entrust private information with you again.
6. Your infamy will follow your steps wherever you go.
7. The reputation you earn will not turn away. It will stick with you.
8. It’s hard to shake a reputation. The best way is to not earn it in the first place!