27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.
The phrase “do not” appears ten times in this chapter. Whenever we are given an instruction in scripture, a little light is cast on our natural inclinations. We may all agree that it is wrong to withhold good from the deserving, but there is still something within us which wants to do just that. It may be greed which drives us to be stingy with resources, or sloth which renders us indifferent to responsibility – but whatever it is we are instructed to oppose it. And in that sense it is an issue of hygiene. Just as we oppose the natural inclination of our bodies by bathing and grooming, we ought also to oppose the natural inclinations of our hearts with generosity and diligence.
“Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm.” Again we are given a glimpse of our own hearts. Most would agree that it is wrong to harm your neighbor, but here we are shown that plotting itself is unwise. What do imaginary arguments and fantasies of harm accomplish? Do they not feed the envy and anger which ought to be gotten rid of? The same can be said of slander – are we not better off without it? It is natural to be preoccupied with the flaws of others, but it is wise to focus first on your own.