3/22/24: Friendship in the Book of Proverbs

3/22/24: Friendship in the Book of Proverbs

Only 4 months to train for the July 2024 Summer Olympics. You are all going to watch some part: track and field, basketball, rowing, swimming. Right now, the athletes who plan to compete in those games are on a training schedule which will land them in the best shape of their lives so they can compete for a gold medal. Perhaps one area you need to really work on is today’s topic…friendship.

In my opinion, the best movie about friendship is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. You could say, the whole movie is about the joys, the tensions, the brokenness and the power of friendships. Although there are many great friendships in the series, the friendship at the center of the series is the one between two hobbits, Frodo and Samwise Gamgee.

In case you are not familiar with the story, Frodo has been given the heavy burden of carrying a very powerful and corrupting ring to the place of its destruction. It’s a very treacherous journey and the burden of carrying the ring is heavy so Frodo needed many faithful friends to help him make it to the end and there is none more faithful than Samwise Gamgee.

In this clip, Frodo mistakenly concludes it would be better for him to complete the journey alone. Watch what happens!

“I made a promise – don’t you leave him, I don’t mean to.” So powerful! I hope you have a friend like that, I hope you are a friend like that! This scene is a perfect visual description of Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The book of Proverbs is a book about wisdom and one of the many things it tell us is, we cannot lead a wise life unless we are good at choosing, forging and maintaining friendships.

Financial expert Dave Ramsay says this about your salary, “Your income will be within 10% of the average income of your 10 closest friends.” Some of you are saying, I need some new friends! I want to tweak his statement, “Your spiritual wealth and wisdom will be within 10% of your 10 closest friends.” This is just restating Proverbs 13:30

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

In other words, you become like who you surround yourself with. Your choice of friends is critical in your life.

Friendships in the Book of Proverbs is under three headings:

  1. The Constancy necessary for friendships
  2. The Counsel provided in friendships
  3. The Care required to maintain friendships

Constancy (or faithfulness)

A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6

Look at what Proverbs 17:17 is saying: a brother is stuck with you, you don’t get to choose family, and in times of adversity family usually comes to help. But a friend, a friend chooses you and they are there “at all times.” Good times, the mundane times, the painful times. When someone sticks with you because they want to, not because they have to, then you have a very valuable friend.

One of the greatest friendships detailed in the Bible is the friendship between David and Jonathan. Here is the sentence which best describes their friendship: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved David as his own soul.”

King Saul was the first King of Israel and Jonathan was his first born son. Therefore Jonathan was in line to be the next king. Jonathan has quite an impressive resume. With just his armor-bearer, he defeats 20 Philistine soldiers, which leads to an even greater victory in battle for Israel. But in 1 Samuel 17, along comes David and David’s victories over the Philistines eclipse Jonathan’s. David defeats Goliath which leads to a resounding defeat of the Philistines. Following the victory, David and not Jonathan was hailed as the next savior of Israel.

When Jonathan and David meet in 1 Samuel 18, what would you expect? Rivalry, bitterness, envy? Instead a remarkable unity and friendship is formed.

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. 1 Samuel 18: 1-5a

Jonathan does the opposite of what’s expected. He strips himself of his robe and weapons and gives them to David, saying: You are my friend, whatever I have is yours. I will give you the shirt off my back. David gets the position Jonathan always wanted and Jonathan is happy to help his friend! Incredible sacrifice and a display of faithful friendship.

How about you? What’s your reaction when your friend gets something you have been wanting? Is your reaction bitterness, jealousy, or anger or can you celebrate with them and say, “I will do anything to help!” That’s true friendship! That’s one soul being knitted together with another!

Proverbs 20:6 asks, “A faithful friend who can find?” Do you have a friend like that? Are you a friend like that? You cannot lead a wise and healthy life without a few faithful, constant friends.


You must have friends with the courage to give good counsel if you want to lead a wise life.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:5-6

Verses 5 and 6 have parallel statements: open rebuke = wounds of a friend, hidden love = kisses of an enemy. If you are fortunate enough to have a friend with the courage to confront you with your flaws, then you need to thank them for loving you so much. Friendship requires both receiving and delivering this kind of painful feedback. This kind of feedback is required if we want to live a wise and healthy life.

Many years ago, one of my best friends asked me to be the best man in his wedding and I said yes. However, as I got to see his relationship with his fiancee, I thought it was unhealthy and potentially toxic. I will never forget sitting at a restaurant telling him I didn’t think this was the person he should marry. He was my friend, so I risked telling him what I thought. He knew I was his friend and that my wounds could be trusted and he didn’t marry her.

After speaking the first time at Windy Gap to 400 high school students, I asked my Young Life mentor for feedback about my talks. One week later, I got a paragraph of compliments and one page of corrections – ouch! I thought, “I will never ask him for feedback again.” But that’s how you get better, you invite someone you trust, a friend, and you are open to their feedback, even if it’s painful!

A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Proverbs 13:1

Are you open to a wounding assessment of your character? Or do you start defending yourself before assessment is done?

If you are the one delivering the wound, are you careful to examine your motives? Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Make sure your wounds are words meant for life, not death!

I love Ray Ortlund’s commentary here: “Our various family backgrounds left us all at least a little weird. So we need an honest friend outside of our family. We need to go to another person and say, ‘Help me see myself, help me get sharper for Christ.’ And if no other person in your church is good enough to play that role for you, then the problem is YOU!”


Because real friendships are rare and valuable, you must take care of them.

Whoever belittles his neighbor/friend lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Proverbs 11:12

In your friendships is there a hint of superiority? Does what you say or how you say it make the other person feel small? If so, then you are not caring for the friendship, you are crushing it.

If you detect this feeling of superiority rising up, then a friend of understanding knows to remain silent. I hope you know that everything your friend says doesn’t require your brilliant insight! Sometimes it’s more caring to remain silent and just to listen.

I am reading a book called Soul Keeping. The author tells a story about Dallas Willard, a brilliant professor and Christian writer. “Toward the end of one of his Philosophy classes a student raised an objection that was both insulting toward Dallas and clearly wrong. Instead of correcting him, Dallas gently said this would be a good place to end the class for the day. Afterward, a friend approached Dallas and said: ‘Why did you let him get away with that?’ Dallas replied, ‘I was practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.”

Caring for a friendship requires wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to remain silent. If you feel the need to constantly correct, you won’t have many deep friendships.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9

Real friendships shouldn’t be fragile, but they do require care. You might ask, is there some care I need to give to one of my friendships?


  1. Proverbs 20:6 says, “A faithful friend who can find?” Can you name one friend who has been faithful to help you in your walk with the Lord and in your life? What did they do that was most impactful?
  2. Sam was committed to Frodo. Do you have a friend you are committed to and will make sacrifices for? How was that friendship forged?
  3. Talk about your reaction to “receiving wounds from a friend” and “delivering wounds to a friend.” Do you have friendships like this?
  4. Proverbs 17:9 – “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” How do you know when to cover an offense rather than confront in your friendships?

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