“endangers the life of your neighbor.” The Hebrew text reads that a person is not to “stand on the blood of your neighbor.” The exact meaning of the phrase is unclear, although the point is not. The verse before, Leviticus 19:15, is about a court of law, while the verse after, Leviticus 19:17, is about not hating your “brother,” i.e., a fellow Israelite. The idea is that people should not endanger others or stand idly by while another person is being taken advantage of or endangered (the context indicates that, for example, that would include being a witness on their behalf). These meanings are reflected in the different English translations. For example, the NIV reads, “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life,” while the NET reads, “You must not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake,” and the NRSV reads, “you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor.” The Hebrew text can encompass all these meanings.
Life is messy and evil, and many people are hurt or taken advantage of in many different ways in life, and there is a tendency for others around them to take the position, “I don’t want to get involved.” While there are some situations where that may be the correct position to take, too many times people who could and should get involved and help the disadvantaged person do not get involved. Proverbs 19:17 says that the person who helps the poor (or disadvantaged) “lends to Yahweh,” and Yahweh will repay them. The point of the life of a Christian is not to see how many messes they can avoid or how clean and simple they can keep their life, but rather, when, where, and how is God calling them to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a help and blessing to others. Helping others can get messy, but what we give we “lend to the Lord,” and he will repay that effort many times over in the future.