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The book of Proverbs is considered one of the wisdom books of the Bible. Full of many wise sayings that can be applied to various situations throughout life, the guidance of the Proverbs teaches us to seek wisdom. Wisdom is personified as a lady. The Lord gives wisdom (Proverbs 2:6, NIV), and He has woven it into the fabric of the universe. Wisdom is available to us, and we are commanded to seek her out. We find wisdom when we revere the One True God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV), and the rewards of living a wise life are great. “For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you” (Proverbs 9:11-12, NIV).
Proverbs teaches us to seek God’s wisdom, be disciplined, be humble, love others, protect our hearts, work hard, and control our words. There are also numerous sayings about the value of friendship and how to be a good friend. By reading and applying these Proverbs, we can learn how to be a friend and how to choose friends. It is important to note the difference between those we are friendly with and our true friends. While everyone is our neighbor and we should show kindness and mercy to all, friendship is deeper. A friend is someone we trust and love on an intimate level. As we read the Proverbs to learn about what makes a good friend, we must also consider if we are acting out the advice. Am I a good friend? Am I kind? Loyal? Patient? Do I use my words for good? Am I easily angered? How can I use the wisdom found in Proverbs to be a better friend myself?
Many of the sayings in Proverbs, whether they are directly about friendship or not, emphasize how much words matter. We know that the way we speak represents who we really are. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV). Therefore, the way our friends speak shows us what is happening in their hearts.
Words can be helpful. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24, NIV). Words can be hurtful. “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19, NIV). Knowing when to restrain from using words is important. “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue” (Proverbs 11:12, NIV).
In seeking wisdom to guide words, a good friend offers encouragement in our challenging times, which lightens the burden and brings joy. Proverbs 27:9 (NIV) says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” while Proverbs 12:25 (NIV) tells us that “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
There are many Proverbs that guide us on how to use our words for good and not for harm, but listening is perhaps even more important to a friendship. Really hearing what friends are saying and trying to understand opens the door to true relationships and the opportunity for encouragement or guidance as needed. “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, NIV).
We may only need a few true, deep friendships in our lives, but loyalty is highly important in those relationships. Backstabbing and unreliability have no place in a friendship. Knowing that you can count on someone to be there when you need them is a sign of a true friendship. In fact, that kind of relationship goes beyond friendship and looks more like family. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV). “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV).
We should be able to trust our friends with our thoughts and fears and stresses and dreams. When I share something from my heart with a friend, I know that she will hold it with tenderness and not tell others. I trust her to speak truth to me and tell me things that may even be hard to hear. Trust is the backbone of relationships. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13, NIV).
Relationships, even the closest of friends, can test our patience at times, but we need to surround ourselves with friends who do not lose their temper easily. Having patient friends not only makes for a more enjoyable experience with them, but it also protects us from joining in negative ways. An easily angered person can quickly pull us into their anger, whereas a patient person bears with us and encourages us to have more patience ourselves. “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Proverbs 22:24-25, NIV).
Friends are people who can speak the truth while still being kind. What they say may hurt, but it is not mean. A true friend’s kindness and love will not let you continue on a path that is dangerous or sinful. They will be able to humbly listen when you speak truth to them as well. People who are quick to anger do not demonstrate the kindness needed for an honest friendship. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV). Kind friends look out for their friends and protect their relationships. “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels” (Proverbs 18:1, NIV).
We never want to take advantage of a friend or wear them down, but a generous friend is a good friend to have. Whether she is generous with her time or other resources, she will be refreshing to our souls and will reap a reward herself. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25. NIV).
Our friends may not live exactly the same way that we do, but it is important that they are pursuing the path of God’s wisdom alongside us. The more we associate with wise, godly friends, the wiser and godlier we become. Good friends lift up one another in truth and love.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20, NIV).
Ultimately, the Book of Proverbs has taught me that friendship matters to God. We were created to be in relationships with others, and He gives us friends as a blessing in our lives. There are several examples of friendship throughout the Bible- Jesus and His disciples, David and Jonathan, Job and his friends. Friendship is a gift from God and makes us better people. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). May God bless your life with good friends, and may you be a good friend to those around you.
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Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.
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