HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Some may not realize that the traits of a good friend relate to the character of one’s mate, but a little reflection shows why this must be so. The breaking of the marriage covenant is a sin against a companion, a close and intimate friend.
That leaves the companion of her youth And forgets the covenant of her God (2:17).
The term rendered “companion” here is used elsewhere (cf. 16:28; 17:9; Psalm 55:13) for the closest of friends. If my mate is not a friend, what is she? And yet some have foolishly chosen to marry one who fails to qualify even as a friend. We will briefly summarize the qualities of a good friend, considering also the characteristics of those with whom we should avoid associating.
1. A GOOD FRIEND IS FAITHFUL. Fairweather friends are numerous, and Proverbs mentions these (cf. 14:20; 19:4,6,7). But a true friend is a person who is still there even when the going gets tough.
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity (17:17).
A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (18:24).
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother far away (27:10).
2. A GOOD FRIEND REBUKES US WHEN NECESSARY. There are things that may need to be said to a friend that is not easy to say. I am disappointed by the sentimentalism that pervades our friendships so that we flatter our friends when we need to frankly rebuke them. A true friend is the one who is honest enough to tell us what we need to hear, rather than to flatter us.
A man who flatters his neighbour Is spreading a net for his steps (29:5).
Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (27:5-6).
Why is it, then, that we seem to think that a wife should never criticize her husband? Is it not better to be corrected by our closest friend than by an enemy? Sometimes the kindest thing a wife can do for her husband is to tell him that his idea is absolutely ridiculous–in a gracious way, of course.
3. A GOOD FRIEND IS THOUGHTFUL AND TACTFUL. A good friend is sensitive to our needs and speaks in such a way that we are encouraged and enriched. His sensitivity is demonstrated in his understanding that gaiety and goodwill are not always appropriate nor appreciated. “It matters not only ‘what’ we say, but ‘how,’ ‘when’ and ‘why’ we say it.”
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart (25:20).
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him (27:14).
4. A GOOD FRIEND SHARPENS US. Not only do we need to be criticized when necessary, but sometimes we need to be probed or stretched in our thinking. A good friend does not allow us to become intellectually stagnant but prods us on to higher and greater thoughts.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another (27:17).
A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out (20:5).
Isn’t this true to life? Don’t you seek to develop friendships with those who will challenge your thinking and present you with new avenues of thought? Why should one of these friends not be your mate?
5. A GOOD FRIEND OFFERS US, WISE COUNSEL. Those whom we choose as friends should be marked by wisdom and thus have godly counsel to offer.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend (27:9).
Think back for a moment to the account of David, Nabal, and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. David was angered because of the ungracious words of Nabal to his young men. He was determined to wipe out every male in the house of Nabal (25:13,34). Abigail quickly formulated a plan to appease David’s anger and then spoke words of wise counsel, pointing out how detrimental David’s actions would be to his future rule as king (25:28-31). David’s reply indicates his appreciation of the wisdom of her words:
Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed, and from avenging myself by my own hand” (1 Samuel 25:32-33).
I would simply point out that David was indeed wise to marry a woman who could offer such wise counsel. And we would do well to marry one who offers wise counsel as well. Why is it, then, that husbands seem to think that the biblical instruction concerning the submission of the wife to her husband precludes her offering him wise counsel, if offered tactfully and in a submissive spirit? Let us learn from David and Abigail.
While we should seek those with the above-mentioned qualities to be our friends, we must also shun those who have characteristics that would hinder our walk in wisdom. If we are not to associate with the following kinds of people, certainly we ought not to marry them either. Here are some character traits which would seem to disqualify a person as a partner in marriage:
1. WE OUGHT NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH A FOOL.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm (13:20).
Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge (14:7).
2. WE OUGHT NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO HAVE AN UNCONTROLLABLE TEMPER.
Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself (22:24-25).
3. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO ARE EVIL:
Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble (24:1-2).
He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He hears the oath but tells nothing (29:24).
4. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ONE WHO IS A REVOLUTIONARY.
My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change; For their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them? (24:21-22)
There are some who are always out to change things–society, government, other people. It is not wrong to try to improve things, but the revolutionary is more bent on removing than improving. The revolutionary wants to change for the sake of change, not change for the sake of improvement. Incidentally, some seem bent on finding a mate who needs improving–a sort of life-long project. Proverbs do not recommend it.
5. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THEIR APPETITES.
He who keeps the law is a discerning son, But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father (28:7).