Today’s proverbs highlight an all too rare commodity—genuine, lasting friendships. Like you, I have known many friends in my life, but can honestly testify I have had too few lasting friendships. The kind of friendships that weather storms of discouragement, span generations and are grounded by heartfelt commitment. To be transparently honest, the rarity of selfless friendships is one of the most discouraging facts of Christian ministry.
Proverbs 27:9 – “Ointment [oil; ex. – olive oil] and perfume [sweet incense] rejoice [makes glad; cheers] the heart [mind; seat of man’s feelings & emotions]: so doth the sweetness [pleasant discourse] of a man’s friend [brother; i.e. pal or companion] by hearty [soul; life; breath; i.e. heartfelt] counsel [advice; prudence; practical wisdom].”
Do you remember the joy of transparent, honest, guileless and youthful friendships? Do you remember when friends were friends for friend’s sake with no hidden agenda? The kind of friends that could be angry, take their bat and ball, go home only to come the next day and pick up the friendship as though nothing had happened the day before (Ephesians 4:26)? Do you remember when sincere love of friend covered a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)?
Perhaps the loss of the art of friendship is a major contributing factor for why so many Christians are joyless. Many long for the sweetness of a friend’s company, but are too guarded and self-centered to set aside agendas and be friends for friend’s sake.
Proverbs 27:10 – “Thine own friend [brother; i.e. pal or companion], and thy father’s friend, forsake [leave; abandon; fail; refuse] not; neither go [enter] into thy brother’s [kindred] house [household; family; land] in the day [time; year; moment] of thy calamity [trouble; misfortune]: for better [gracious; pleasant; good] is a neighbor [fellow citizen; resident] that is near [at hand] than a brother [kindred] far off [remote; distant].”
Continuing the subject of friendship, Solomon makes two important observations we would be wise to heed. The first is the value of generational friendships.
The mobility of our society has sacrificed the joy of friendships that span generations. I grew up knowing my father and grandfather’s friends and neighbors. I was known as Ted Smith’s son; Travis Shelton Smith’s grandson and Roland Whitley’s grandson. I was welcome into homes, not for who I was, but for who my kindred were. It is wise for sons and daughters to know and value generational friendships.
Solomon makes a second observation regarding the value of friendships: A friend near at hand in a day of trouble is more valuable than a brother living a great way off. The king is not minimizing kinship; however, he is making a practical observation—a neighbor and friend can come to your aid when family are unable to help.
Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Copyright 2014 – Travis D. Smith