Choose Your Friends Carefully

March 12, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Friendship, Meditations

Proverbs 12:26 

26The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to choose our friends carefully.

Friendship is one of God’s good gifts to us as human beings. C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Four Loves, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” Friendship reveals that we humans are more than just material beings; we were created in the very image of the Triune God and, therefore, we were made to befriend others and to be befriended in turn. Such friendships provide comfort, stimulate good character, and inspire self-sacrifice. So our Lord Jesus proclaimed to the disciples: 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends… 15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:13,15). Friendship is a gift; and friendship with God in Christ is the greatest gift of all.

Like all other aspects of creation, however, friendship has been tainted by the Fall. At times, we find ourselves lonely, longing for a friend; at other times, we harbor sinful desires, looking for friends who will justify our bad choices. Such loneliness and sinfulness tempt us to befriend those who draw us away from God, from truth, and from virtue. And it is this temptation to which our Proverb points us today, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Choose your friends carefully. For, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33).

So Proverbs is filled with warnings about befriending certain types of people:

  • 2:12, 16 – Promises us that if we will but treasure wisdom, then she will guard us from befriending violent men and immoral women.
  • 20:19 – Warns us lest we befriend a flatterer, a gossip, a talebearer. “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.”
  • 22:24–25 – Warns us lest we befriend a man who lacks self-control. “Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.”
  • 29:24 – Warns us lest we befriend a thief. “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.”

So what of you? Teens, are you choosing your friends carefully? Or are you permitting your loneliness or your sinfulness to tempt you to befriend those who are drawing you away from God, from truth, and from goodness? And these friends can be “in the flesh” friends but they can also be online friends, movie characters, and even books. Whom are you choosing to let shape your longings and loves? Adults, are you choosing your friends carefully? Or are you permitting your loneliness or your sinfulness to tempt you to befriend those who would draw you away from God, from truth, and from goodness? “For friendship with the world”, James warns us, “is enmity with God. Therefore, he who desires to be a friend with the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4).

Reminded of God’s call to choose our friends carefully lest we be led astray from God, from truth, and from goodness, let us confess that we often choose friends foolishly; that we are tempted by our loneliness and sinfulness to befriend those we should not. And, as we confess, let kneel as we are able.

Communicating Face to Face

September 1, 2013 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, Friendship, Meditations
2 John 12–13 (NKJV)
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
Today we bring to a close our series of exhortations on the second epistle of John. John closes his letter with a warm greeting from his own congregation. The children of your elect sister greet you.
In the midst of his conclusion, John writes words that rattle our increasingly depersonalized interaction with one another. John writes, Having many things to write to you… John informs us here that his second epistle isn’t short because he had no more to say – he had many more things he wanted to communicate to them. So why didn’t he include them? …I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
As wonderful as it is to get a letter – John reminds us that it is yet more wonderful to have the person. And John’s awareness of this important distinction was built upon his years of fellowship with God Himself in the Person of our Lord Jesus. As wonderful as the written word of God is and as much as John treasured it, it was in Jesus that the light of the knowledge of God shone. Knowing Jesus enabled John to know the Word of God in its fullness. And so John wanted to speak with these folks, not just correspond with paper and ink.
So what is the equivalent of paper and ink today? Certainly we have stationery, but we have many other communication tools. Email, facebook, twitter, instant messaging, the telephone, even face time – all are substitutes for personal interaction, face to face communication. Many of them are wonderful tools, gifts from God that enable us to communicate with others when we are not face to face. But let us remember that none these things are a true substitute for the personal contact that John desires and that we desire. For it is that personal contact, modeled on the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, that makes our joy full.

One of the dangers of the many new technologies that we possess is that they can subtly separate us from one another by giving us the illusion of face to face contact. And so though they apparently bring us together, they can in actuality separate us further and spread the plague of loneliness. So John reminds us to pursue one another face to face, that our joy may be full.

And as we meditate on these things, let us remember that the origin of separation in our relationships with one another and with God is our own sin. We hid from God lest the light of His countenance reveal our rebellion. So as we come this day into God’s very presence in worship, let us not flee, but let us confess our sins and ask Him to forgive us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Let us kneel as we confess together.

Givers and Graspers

October 21, 2010 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Friendship, Meditations

“Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.”
Proverbs 19:6,7

Friendship is a precious commodity. Unfortunately we seldom give sufficient attention to those things which make friendships grow and blossom. The text before us today devotes this attention. And, with Solomon’s characteristic pith, he packs a mouthful into very short space.

The text contrasts two types of men—the one who is generous and the one who is grasping. The former is a man of many friends; the latter of many enemies—indeed even his brothers turn against him. We, of course, would prefer to have some friends as opposed to none and so let us consider this passage for a moment.

Who is this generous man? We are told that he is one who “gives gifts” and one from whom people “seek favors.” We are accustomed to think of these gifts in purely monetary terms. However, the text embraces no such limitation. The generous man is just that—generous, open-handed. He gives of himself; he gives of his time; he gives of his resources. In sum, he sacrifices his own desires to bless others. Consequently, he has many friends. When his co-worker asks him for help, he agrees. When his children ask him to read to them, he reads. If you are a generous child, you do chores for your brother or sister, you ask your mom or dad how you can help them around the house, you clean your room without being asked. The generous man gives—he is always looking for those in need not thinking how much he needs himself. And isn’t this truly the secret of friendship—to be a friend to others rather than to expect that others will be a friend to you?

Now contrast the generous man with the grasping man. “All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him.” Because Solomon is contrasting this poor man with a generous man, it is highly unlikely that Solomon is thinking solely of a man who is poor monetarily. Rather he is describing one whose poverty taints all his relationships. Th type of poor man Solomon describes is a grasper; he always wants more, always needs more. He is like a leech, never satisfied, ever consuming. He never seems to have enough. He is a bottomless pit. You can give him your fortune; he will still be poor. You can give him your time; he will demand more. You can do him a favor; he will expect another. Whereas the motto of the generous man is “My life for yours,” the motto of the grasping man is, “Your life for mine.” And so husbands and wives make demands of one another and grow embittered because their spouse just isn’t meeting their needs; girls demand that their friends spend more time with them or they won’t speak to them anymore; fathers neglect their families in order to have “time away” by themselves; children refuse to say “thank you” for their dinner. And all these actions, all these actions of the grasping man, estrange friends.

And so let me ask some questions. Do you wonder why your children seem distant? Wonder why your husband doesn’t want to talk as much? Wonder why your siblings can’t seem to get along with you? Wonder why you don’t have any friends? Let me suggest that the reason these things are happening is because you are grasping not giving. Covenant today to turn from your grasping self-centeredness and to become a generous man like our Lord Jesus Christ. The first part of this covenant is confessing to the Lord that we have been graspers. So let us kneel and let us confess our sin to the Lord.