Proverbs 18:23-24 – Spiritual lessons for the rich, the poor and friends

charityThe poor, a man or woman of minimum means, whether a consequence of foolish choices or a result of troubles, knows all too well the humility of need and often the humiliation of rejection.

Proverbs 18:23 – “The poor [destitute; needy; impoverished] useth [speaks; declares] intreaties [supplications; appeals to the heart; prays]; but the rich answereth [speak; respond] roughly [harshly; strong].

Americans are, by world standards, a rich people. Living in the midst of plenty, there is a danger that we might develop a callousness that not only turns away the petition of the poor, but also treat them with disdain. How easy it is to forget we would have nothing apart from God’s grace.

Let us not forget we reap what we sow and, knowing Christ has promised we will be the benefactors of the same, let us claim the joy of showing mercy and compassion.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

Proverbs 18:24 is an oft quoted proverb; however, I believe the application is often misinterpreted.

Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends [i.e. many friends; friend of many] must shew himself friendly [lit. to spoil or break in pieces; to make good for nothing; to do evil]: and there is [stands out; exists] a friend [beloved; love; i.e. The love between parents and their children] that sticketh [cleaves to;  join to] closer than a brother [relative; countryman; friend].”family

Notice the first half of the proverb has a potential negative application rather than the positive incitement often attributed to it. Briefly stated, a man with many friends may invariably find himself a slave to their whims, demands and opinions. Friendships driven by one’s need rather than one’s desire to serve, tend to be self-serving and detrimental.

Who is this friend that “sticketh closer than a brother”? Who is this one who, unlike the fair-weather friend that proposes friendship as long as it serves his/her need, is a friend who cleaves to you when everyone deserts you? Such a friend is rare.

David and Jonathan had such a friendship in the Old Testament. It is said of Jonathan that he, though the son of King Saul, loved David “as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Some have foolishly attempted to paint this friendship as something other than what it was—a mutual bond of love and respect based on the spiritual character of two men. In fact, the self-sacrificing bond between the two was so great that Jonathan accepted David as Israel’s next king at the sacrifice of his own legitimate claim to the throne (1 Samuel 23:16-18)!

This bond of love that is closer than that of brother’s is applicable, in my opinion, to the special bond a son or daughter might develop with their parents in their adult years. To see the parental bond with an adult child blossom into friendship and mutual respect is a wondrous thing.

God's loveFinally, recognizing Christ was said to be “a friend of publican and sinners” (Luke 7:34), we realize there is no greater friend of man than Christ Who not only loves us, but also died for us bearing the penalty and shame of our sin (Romans 5:8).

John 15:13-14 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Romans 5:8 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”