Solomon also spends a large amount of time talking to his son about who he spends his time with on a regular basis. The reason Solomon wants to teach his son about this topic is because the people we spend our time with will make us or break us. We do not realize how much other people rub off on us. We can begin to speak the way another speaks, think the way another thinks, and act the way another acts. Many times this assimilation happens involuntarily. By being exposed to this person, we start changing. Perhaps the most dramatic way we see this truth is in marriage. I dare say that every person who is married for any significant amount of time will recognize that they are a different person now than they were before marriage, and the reason is because of the relationship with the spouse. Therefore Solomon wants to warn his son about his companions.
The Problem With Evil Friends
We become like them.
We have a saying “You are what you eat.” Solomon says that you are who you spend your time with. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20). Solomon’s proverbs are so useful because there is the stated meaning and the implied meaning. The implied meaning is what we would expect the proverb to say: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but whoever walks with fools will become a fool.” There is an implied contrast that Solomon is giving. But not only will spending time with fools make us a fool, but we will also suffer harm.
We receive bad advice from them.
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26). We need to be careful who are friends are because we will receive bad advice from them and be led astray. This is certainly among Christians as well. Christians can sometimes give terrible advice. The advice is not God-seeking and does not have an emphasis on spiritual things. We cannot assume that because a person is the same age, same gender, or has the same interests that he or she is a good person to be a friend. Carefully choose your friends. Choose friends that will help you go down the right path and not lead you astray.
We will find trouble being with them.
“Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble” (24:1-2). Too many times we find trouble because we go along with the crowd. Too often we do not refuse to get away from the foolishness of our friends, even though we know we should, because we do not want to seem strange. We should not want to be in these people’s company. When people are interested in engaging in hurtful, harmful, and evil actions, why in the world would we want to be in their company? Think enough of yourself and enough about God to get away from those people and be friends who do not plot violence and speak about making trouble.
The Benefits of Righteous Friends
A friend in your darkest hour.
One of the great benefits of having true friends is that they will not leave you when you do have times of trouble. They will stand beside you through the difficulties. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). We can have a large number of friends and think that they are reliable. But a true friend is few and far between and it is that person that we ought to be seeking. But the true friend is worth it because that friend will be more useful to you than even your own family members. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17). You will be eternally grateful to the friends who helped and stood by you when you went through your traumatic times. You and I should not be concerned about what people think about us such that is causes us to compromise our values, beliefs, and faith. True friends will help us and stay with us and would never want us to compromise our faith. If you have friends trying to make you do something you do not want to do, quite simply, those people are not your friends.
Your life will be better.
We already notice the negative part of this proverb, but let us review to see the positive side of it. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20). You will have a better life by choosing good friends. You will become wise by being around wise people. Now, kids, I know you will not like this but your parents are wise. You can learn many things from them that will help you have a good life. I know that you think that they are old and outdated, not knowing anything about the world today. But we need to see that Solomon’s wisdom, which is 3000 years old, still has great value today. Your parents’ wisdom and experience still has great value today even though it may have been 20-30 years since they were your age.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (27:17). A good, righteous friend will make you a better person. You will learn and grow by surrounding yourself with the right people. Might I suggest that this is another good reason among many as to why we should spend as much time together as possible and not avoid the assembly? The more time we can spend with each other, the more we can sharpen each other so that we can have a life pleasing to God. We need to choose friends who will sharpen our lives, not dull our minds. We need to choose Christians who will sharpen us spiritually, not dull our zeal and knowledge.
Maintaining Godly Companions
We have to realize that good friendships do not grow on their own accord. Good friendships require time, effort, and consideration. Friendships are easily destroyed and only hard work will keep our relationships maintained.
Watch your words.
“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘Was I not joking?'” (26:18-19). What an outrageous picture! The best way to destroy a friendship is to be reckless with your words. Here is a “friend” whose words are painful barbs, but justifies himself by saying that he was just joking. Have you ever noticed that when someone says that they were just joking that it does not fix the barbs and arrows from what they said? It still hurts. The point: even if you think you are just joking, don’t joke if the comedy involves saying something hurtful. It is not funny and such words will destroy relationships.
“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; otherwise, he’ll get sick of you and hate you” (25:17). If we want to have good friends, do not wear out your welcome. Of course, they did not have the technology we have today. We often are not setting foot in our neighbor’s house. But we frequent call someone, email someone, instant message someone, or use some other form of technology. Be considerate. Good friends respect each other’s time. Yes, I would like to talk to you. But I cannot talk every day, three times a day. I have responsibilities to work, school, family, and home. We want people to be considerate of our time; we also need to be considerate of other’s time.
“He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him” (27:14). Solomon makes a similar point in this proverb: be considerate. Too often we think about ourselves in a friendship and not about the other person first. In this proverb, he thinks about himself by rising early and blessing in a loud voice, not thinking about how annoying this would be to the one he is blessing. We think we are being so helpful and kind to this person and that person wants to ring our necks.
Forgive, not gossip.
“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (17:9). There are two keys aspects that Solomon touches upon that maintains godly friendships. First, when someone harms us, we do well to let it go. Essentially, we must assume the best out of the person rather than the worst out of the person. To seek the best out of the person, we must accept the likely possibility that the offense was accidental and harm was not intended. However, too often we assume the worst. Therefore, we put our head down, give the silent treatment, try to ignore them, give short answers, trying to manipulate the person. This action does not promote the friendship and does not show love. Trying to manipulate apologies through pouting is childish and certainly not like Christ. Let the offense go and assume the best intentions in the person.
The second point from the proverb is that not only do we refuse to cover over the offense, but we tell other people about what the person did. There is no better way to lose a friendship but to tell other people about what this person has done to you. I think we really need to watch this problem in marriages. No better way to destroy the trust of the marriage and ruin a marriage but to tell other people about the problems you are having with your spouse. We may think we are doing it in an innocent way, wanting advice on what to do, but it is completely improper because the act destroys the relationship. If you want to know what to do, talk to your spouse, not to someone else. He or she can tell you what would be helpful, not everyone else. If you repeat the matters that take place in the relationship to other people, you can consider the relationship over.
Know the consequence of inconsiderate actions.
“A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a fortress” (18:19). We need to let this proverb sink in. We must realize how hard it is to win back an offended friend. When we violate that trust through gossip, inconsiderate acts, or hurtful words, we will lose a friend and may not get him back. We take friendships for granted, and it is foolish to do so. When we violate the friendship, we may not get the friendship restored.
Do not turn against helpful friends.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (27:6). Don’t turn on your true friends when they are trying to help. Too often we burn bridges and destroy friendships because a faithful friend has enough courage to tell you something you need to hear. But we do not want to be told that we are wrong, so we run into the arms of the enemy rather than listen to the wounds of a friend. We need to not be so defensive and truly listen to the help our godly friends offer us. Many are the kisses of the enemy, and those kisses are deceitful. They are not looking out for your best interests, but your friend is.
- Choose your friends carefully; evil friends will bring you troubles
- Spend time with people who make you a better person; iron sharpens iron.
- Seek to build strong relationships with godly people; do this by being forgiving and considerate in word and deed.