Tom and Beth lived on Harmony circle in a quiet and friendly neighborhood. It was the kind of place where the neighbors kept an eye on each other’s kids when they were playing outside or in the cul-de-sac. They held a block party every 4th of July weekend. They grilled their food and lit their fireworks. There was Harmony on this circle until it all fell apart.
This is how it happened. Al and Des lived two houses over. Al was a contractor and his garage had every tool and gadget that a man could love. Al was hard to shop for on Father’s day, he didn’t need any of the tools that they advertise and he never wore a neck tie.
Tom asked if he could borrow Al’s chop saw so he could use it to build a deck. Al agrees and even brought over the new contractor quality saw. He joked a bit by saying that the tool makes the carpenter – usually.
Tom started to work. Things when south fast. He decided to use recycled lumber and as he was cutting, he hit a steel spike. In a shower of sparks the blade was as dull as a butter knife. Tom was not put off by that so he continued to work with the dull blade and did not notice that the saw overheated from the extra work and starting to smoke. “Oops” he said then it stalled out. I guess I better take it back to Al. So he took it over and put it by Al’s front door with a thank you note. He did not replace the blade or admit to the error. And it rained that afternoon. Al came back to a broken tool that was soaking wet. Tom was a Lawyer, very successful, so he could have bought a couple of saws, but he did not think about that, or even of replacing the blade.
Al was pretty nice about it. He just said, “Hey Tom, I guess you owe me a new blade.” Tom said, “What?’ and walked away. Then next day Al got this note in his mail box from Tom. “Dear Al, thanks for the tool, though the blade is not very sharp. You really ought to replace it. Your friend, Tom.”
Al decided to keep his distance from Tom and not to lend him tools any more. When Tom asked about a power nailer, he just said his was not available. Tom looked kind of mad.
A little later Tom decided to see for himself. He noticed that the garage door was not shut and he went in. There was the nailer. So he took it. “I won’t say anything and he won’t miss it.” While he was at it he also borrowed with a shop-vac and a power painter.
Al called the police thinking he had been robbed. This makes Tom laugh and he decided to play along. He thought, “If Al gets the insurance, I’ll just keep the tools. Well the police simply followed the scrape marks that the tools made as Tom dragged them from Al’s house to his. So they came and took him in for questioning. He had to pay bail and hire a lawyer for a $10,000 retainer.
A funny thing happened. Harmony Circle became Security Circle – the neighbors became worried. They beefed up their security. Some put up cameras and one got a pit bull. Another family moved away. The Kids started to get into fights over name calling. It went like this: “Your dad is a thief.” “Well, your Dad is a wiener.” “Oh yeah”, “Yeah…” The barbecue was canceled. In the end, no one talked to each other; they just drove into their garages and shut the doors with their automatic garage openers.
This story illustrates the decline into chaos that can occur with our neighbors. It is written to illustrate the five prohibitions in Proverbs 3:27-31 (NIV)
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.
31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.
`In the story and in the verses the progression is from withholding good to envying the violent.