On Friends and Being a Friend (Proverbs 18:24)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Proverbs 18:24
I. A 'Friendship' Cap?
Did you know that in the early of years of Facebook, the social media site capped the number of “friends” you could have at 1000? Several years later, they upped that number to 5000. As of this year, according to a few sites I found, Facebook is no longer enforcing that restriction.
Now to be clear, Facebook (which is expected to reach 1.69 billion users this year... Facebook) distinguishes between page followers and the “friends” of a user's personal profile.
So who has the distinction of having the most Facebook “friends”? Well, it's kind of hard to tell. Some sites indicate there are around 25,000 users worldwide that have over 5000 friends. But as of 2014, the documented honor went to wrestler and actor William Scott Goldberg with 6,223 “friends”.
Now you may be asking, “Why does any of this matter?” Well, I find that word “friend” interesting, especially in a social media context. Even though we know many of our online “friends” are not really friends in the traditional sense, I think the idea that someone has a large number of online “friends” still makes us think there is something special about that person. Who wouldn't want to be able to say, “How many friends do I have? Thousands!”
II. The Passage: "There is a Friend" (18:24)
But keep that sentiment in mind as you grab your Bible and turn over to Proverbs chapter 18. In Proverbs 18, verse 24, we find a proverb that speaks to this issue of have many friends. Listen to what Solomon tells his son...
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Now, you may say, “Pastor Bryce, that first statement is only talking about 'companions', not friends.” Yes, that's the way it's translated here. And the words we find in the first and second halves of this proverb (“companions” and “friend”) are different in Hebrew. The first word is, more often than not, translated 'neighbor' in the OT. But the listen to how that first word, the one translated “companion” in verse 24, is translated in Exodus 33:11...
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
But we find that second word, the one translated “friend” in Proverbs 18:24, we find that same word in Isaiah 41:8, where God says,
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
So both can rightly be translated as “friend”. But the choice of “companion” seems to make sense here, since both the context and how the word is used generally point to a difference.
But the more important question is this: “What does Solomon mean? What's the point of this proverb?” Well, let's 'divide and conquer' in order to answer that question.
1. Friendship and Quantity (v. 24a)
First of all, look at that first half of the verse, A man of many companions may come to ruin...
That doesn't sound very promising, does it? It almost sounds like having a lot of friends is a bad thing. That can't be right, can it?
Well, remember, the proverb only makes sense as a whole. There is nothing inherently bad about having a lot of people in your life; a lot of people with whom you have some connection; a lot of people with whom you are friendly.
But when it comes to finding yourself in a situation that may in fact lead to your “ruin”, what God wants us to know about friendship, is that quantity can never, ever replace quality. And that drives us to the second half of the verse.
2. Friendship and Quality (v. 24b)
Look again at the verse in its entirety: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Now notice, if you haven't already, what is being contrasted here. The first part mentions many “companions” (i.e., many friends, many buddies, many mates, lots of people in your 'crew', your 'posse', your 'squad'). But in the second part of the verse, that is contrasted with “a friend”. Just one. “Many companions” versus “a friend”.
So what distinguishes this one “friend”? He or she “sticks closer than a brother (closer than a sibling... that is, closer than even a family member)”.
With that in mind, the whole proverb becomes clearer: just because you have many people in your posse, just because you have thousands of friends on social media or hundreds in your phone's “contacts” list, it doesn't mean any of them will really be there for you when you need them to be there for you; when you find yourself in trouble. Why is that the case? Because the man or woman, the young man or young woman, the boy or girl, who works harder at collecting friends (plural) than he or she does at cultivating a friend (singular), will discover in a time of need that quality is far better than quantity. (let me say that again)
III. Solomon on Friendship
But this idea should lead us to ask another question: “What else does Solomon tell us here, what else does God reveal through this book, about friendship and being a friend? What are some important things to know about how to and how not to cultivate a friendship?”
Let me share a few more verses with you from Proverbs in an attempt to answer those questions. Here are some lessons on friendship (on which more could be said). For example:
1. Cultivate a friendship with discernment.
We read in Proverbs 13:20 that... Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
I don't think Solomon is telling us to only make friends with those who are full of wisdom. I think he's warning us about how a friendship can shape us. That reality should cause us to be very careful with whom we are making that friendship investment. Later in the book we hear a call to discernment in these warnings...
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,  lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Proverbs 22:24–25)
Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them,  for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble. (Proverbs 24:1–2)
Choose your friends wisely, brothers and sisters. Young people, think about with whom you are surrounding yourself. Pray for solid friends, those who truly care and can encourage you, like that friend in 18:24. There's nothing wrong with reaching out to people who are struggling; to people who live foolishly. But draw the right boundary lines. Make sure you are the influencer, not the influenced.
2. Don't exalt family to the detriment of friendship.
Some wrongly pit family against friends. They close themselves off to friendships, thinking they are protecting their commitment to family. But God's word says otherwise. We read in chp. 27...
Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend, and do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away. (27:10)
God puts friends in our lives, just as he put us in a family. And he calls us to be faithful to both. In fact, he wants to use friends to bless you in a way your family cannot. Do you believe that?
3. True friends stand with one another, especially in tough times.
We read in Proverbs 17:17... A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Just like a committed family member, if we are interested in being a good friend, in being a true friend, tough times should drive us to step toward, not away from a friend in need. Even when you're not sure how to help, make it clear you want to help. Sometimes that's all someone needs to hear... so they know they're not alone in that season of adversity.
Also, take a look around you. Who has stuck with you, to whatever degree, especially in those difficult times? Take time to thank God for those people, & keep cultivating those relationships.
4. True friends speak the truth in love.
We find an excellent reminder in Proverbs 27:5–6...
Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
A true friend will not always make you feel good. In fact, sometimes it will feel like they are just plain hurtful. But think about that for a minute. Isn't that what all of us need? And isn't that who all of us need to be? As wayward sinners, we need true friends who speak God's truth to us, and we need to be true friends who speak God's word, even when it's hard to do so.
5. True friends care first about each other, not what they can get from each other.
Proverbs 19:6 tells us Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
Maybe this morning God is calling you to repent for using a brother or sister, or a coworker or neighbor, rather than being their friend. Think about it: do certain people only hear from you when you want something? Consider your friendships. Are they characterized more by you getting than by you giving? Is that what you expect? Is that how you determine the worth of a friend? Pray more about what you can do for your friends, rather than what they can do for you.
IV. “You are My Friends”
Now, in light of these things, if you're like me, you rightly feel convicted about your failures in regard to friendship. Or you simply recognize that you have surrounded yourself with “companions”, but have kept your walls up in regard to a genuine friend. Or maybe you know that a certain friendship is dragging you down morally/spiritually, and it's time to move on.
Whatever thoughts about friendship are stirring in you this morning, in light of Scripture, I want to reassure you: whatever God is doing in you, he will help you move forward. How? Just listen to this incredible passage from the Gospel of John. This is John 15:12–15. Jesus said...
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
When Christ laid down his life, he did so (v. 13) “for his friends”. What those first disciples came to understand is that the friendship of Jesus is the foundation we desperately need, both in regard to our personal failures as friends, and in terms of the help we need to be better friends. The cross is both the mark of true friendship to us, AND, the means to true friendship thru us.
Did you notice the shift Jesus indicates in verse 15: “No longer do I call you servants”. Does that mean we are no longer his servants? No. I think it means while we are servants, we are now more than servants. We joyfully serve the one who has revealed to us the Father's will. What an awesome thing to be called, as Abraham was, a friend of God... a friend of Jesus.
Did you know both Proverbs 18:24 and 17:17 can only be fully fulfilled in Jesus Christ? Though we are in no way worthy of it, only his friendship can help us weather the ups and downs of every earthly friendship. Only his friendship can fill us up in such a way that we are the very best of friends to those God has given us. Let's receive or give thanks for his friendship even now!