The Expository Files


Jehovah's Advice on How To Be A Good Friend


The Old Law said, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18). Following this advice would not only help the citizens of Israel get along during the time of the Law, but it would help citizens of spiritual Israel, the church, get along as well. In fact, we are reminded of Paul's discussion about not taking vengeance (Romans 12:19) and his instructions about putting away wrath, bitterness and malice (Ephesians 4:31).

We are also aware that Jesus referred to this very passage and said that this commandment about loving one's neighbor as himself is the second greatest commandment, second only to fully loving God (Mark 12:29-31).

God evidently has determined that it is an important matter for His people to learn how they ought to interact with others. He has provided instructions on how to be a good friend, and what to look for in a friend. We are often influenced by our friends, and Satan would like nothing better than for us to nurture friendships with people who would take us away from our best friend, Jesus. Satan would also enjoy tempting us to be less than what God says we need to be as friends of others.

The book of Proverbs is full of practical advice for living. It is not so much law as it is advice based on righteousness and the wisdom of God, and is compatible with keeping the commandments of God successfully. "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Choose Friends Carefully
There are several types of people to avoid when we consider developing friendships. We need to avoid heavy drinkers and gluttons. "Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat..." (Proverbs 23:20; cf vss. 17-21). It is suggested that such will lead to poverty.

We are told to avoid the selfish (Proverbs 23:6,7) and the hot tempered (Proverbs 22:24,25) and, of course, the violent man (Proverbs 3:31). We are advised to avoid friendships with liars (Proverbs 6:12-15).

There are positive things to look for in choosing friends. We ought to choose friends who have respect for God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7; see also 9:10 and 15:33).

We ought to look for others who are seeking to live righteously before God. It makes sense to make friends of good people. "So you will walk in the way of good men, And keep to the paths of the righteous." (Proverbs 2:20; see also 4:10-19 and 10:29-30).

We have heard of "fair weather friends" who stick around only during good times. You don't want friends to be like that; and should not be one either. Some of the Proverbs are a little sarcastic. Note this one: "The poor is hated even by his neighbor, But those who love the rich are many." (Proverbs 14:20). Of course, we know that the "love" of the rich here is not genuine at all.

The Proverb writer uses a little comedy to describe "fair weather friends." He says, "Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble." (Proverbs 25:19). If you have ever had the opportunity to run to answer the phone while your foot is asleep, you'll understand this Proverb!

God says that a true friend "sticks closer than a brother" and "loves at all times" and is "a brother born for adversity" (Proverbs 18:24 and 17:17) . You want this kind of friend, and you ought to be one as well. "Do not forsake your own friend or your father's friend..." (Proverbs 27:10).

One important part of friendship is to have someone to confide in and to share your problems with. You would want someone then who is trustworthy and honest with you. You do not want (or rather, you ought not to want) someone who will agree with you even if you are wrong. You desire help, not necessarily agreement. "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend." (Proverbs 27:9).

Good friends are those who can level with each other without becoming angry because they know that they each have one another's best interests at heart (Proverbs 27:6; 28:23). These kinds of discourses will make both friends better. "As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17).

In friendship, kindness and truth go together. A good friend will be honest, but will use tact. He will speak the truth to his friend kindly. "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3,4).

The man or woman of God looks down on nobody (Proverbs 14:21). A generous friend will be an unselfish friend. Again, not only should we look for friends like this, but become such a friend to others (Proverbs 3:28 and 21:26) .

It needs to be noticed here that while too often we spend too little time in the company of good friends (as God defines a good friend), it is also true that we could err in the opposite extreme. We need to make sure our friends have time for privacy and not monopolize their time "Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, Lest he become weary of you and hate you." (Proverbs 25:17). My mother used to say, "Don't wear out your welcome!" I always thought that I was so much fun to be around that this would be difficult to do. But the Lord and mom say otherwise.

Another area of friendship in which we ought to show restraint is we need to be careful not to amass too many friends. That may sound strange, but it could become difficult to distinguish between true friends and false ones. "A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24).

God gives us good advice on friendship. We won't find a better Friend than Him. We would do well to heed His words. Our friends will appreciate it.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.4; April 2006