Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Key to Friendship (Proverbs 18:24; Ruth 1:1–17)

"A man who has friends must himself be friendly" (Prov. 18:24a).

The NIV and NASB translated Proverbs 18:24 as “a man of many companions may come to ruin” and “a man of many friends comes to ruin.” But the King James translates it differently: “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.” The former translations teach against an excess of friends in the pursuit of popularity. The latter teaches that if a person wants friends he must be willing to be a friend. While the accuracy of the King James translation of this verse might be debatable, the concept it conveys is true. If you want true friends, you must be willing to sacrifice your time, your interests, your concerns, your agenda for another person. You must be willing to love.

How many times has the complaint “I don’t have any friends” passed over your lips or crossed your mind? It would probably be safe to say many people have entertained such a thought at one time or another. Sometimes the complaint is legitimate. One might live in an isolated place where a friend is impossible to find. Or one might live in an area where there are plenty of people, but no Christians with whom one can share sweet fellowship. But, more often than not, the root of loneliness is one’s own selfishness. If you are not willing to love someone else, to spend time developing a relationship, to put another’s concerns above your own, to give of yourself, you might very well find yourself friendless.

While friendship cannot be forced, it does take work—just like any relationship. At the heart of that hard work, there must be love and a common union in Christ. Without these two principles, the foundation of a true friendship can never be laid. Jonathan was committed to David because he loved him, and they shared the same devotion to the God of Israel. Ruth loved Naomi and gave up her home and her gods to go with Naomi and worship her God. Both Jonathan and Ruth were willing to sacrifice their comfort, their homes, even their lives for a beloved friend. Are you willing to invest yourself in the life of someone else? Are you willing to be a Jonathan or a Ruth? If not, you may have a number of acquaintances, but it is unlikely that you will ever cherish the blessing of a true and loving friendship.

Are you willing to sacrifice your own time and agenda for another and to be a friend? If you are lonely, maybe the problem is your unwillingness to be a friend. Ask God to help you be a good friend. Think of someone in your church to whom you can be a friend. Ask that person to lunch or over for dinner sometime this week.