1. Be careful the company you keep.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Prov. 13:20). In other words, it’s important who we choose to be friends with. The company we keep matters. The company we keep has an impact on our character.
The most obvious biblical example of this is when Moses comes down off the mountain and the people see that he is glowing because he has been in the presence of the Lord. This was a visible image for the people that Moses had been with the Holy God. They could see the company he had been in physically (Ex. 34:29-30).
If we think about human relationships, we can see how spouses often pick up character traits and phrases from each other. We see it in children who copy how their parents behave and talk—the good and the bad! We see this with unbelievers that start hanging around with believers. Slowly, over time, we can see that they swear less and they change the things they talk about. When this happens, it can be hard to discern if they have actually become Christians or if they have just started to imitate the Christians they are spending time with.
The opposite can also be true: If we are spending more time with non-Christians, then we can easily slip into unhelpful talk and can become more accepting of things than we would have before. We are all both influencers and influenced. When we are spending time with people, whether they be Christians or not, do we influence them for good? Are our words and the things we talk about glorifying God, or are we getting sucked into gossip, bad mouthing, and unwholesome speech? When thinking about your friendships, are they good for your soul or do they drag you down and take you away from Christ?
2. Be careful about the basis for friendship.
“Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friends. . . . All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him”. (Prov. 19:4, 7) These proverbs warn us of the dangers of false friends. Wealth can attract people to us. We can think people are our friends, when actually they are only our ‘friends’ because of what they think they might get from us. Oprah Winfrey said: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Now, most of us aren’t rich, but there might be things that attract people to you. People might still think they are going to get something out of the friendship, even if you don’t have loads of money. It might be material things, it might be status, it might be emotional support.
This is actually something to be aware of when working in schemes. We have lots of people who are craving any sort of friendship, people who are vulnerable, and people who have never experienced true friendship. We have to be so careful how we start relationships with people—if we start them by being the one who is always giving out, always paying for things, always giving a lift, always bailing them out when their money has gone, etc.—then we can easily create dependency. Then we might think that we have a great friendship with them but actually they couldn’t care less, they are just using us for what they can get. This is a trap I have fallen into a few times and it has been a hard lesson to learn.
3. Be careful with your words.
There are a whole bunch of proverbs that talk about our speech. Women apparently speak 20,000 words a day. That’s a lot of words! But are they wise, helpful, and godly words? In order to be friends with someone, you have to speak to them! It’s the only way they will get to know you, and you get to know them. So, it’s no wonder that the Bible has over 400 verses that mention the use of words, so obviously it’s important to God too. He is a God who speaks, and He has created us to speak too. So, what do the verses in Proverbs tell us about our words? We will look at some verses briefly.
- A dishonest man spreads strife and a whisperer separates close friends. (Prov. 16:28)
- Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Prov. 17:9)
- Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Prov. 20:19)
All these verses highlight how harmful gossip is. To be a good friend means to not break confidentially. I’m sure we’ve all had experience first-hand of times when we have shared something deeply personal with someone, only to find out later that they told someone else. This is very hurtful and it can cause untold damage to not only current friendships but also future ones.
We as Christians have to be super careful of this. We are not immune to having loose lips. Sometimes we even hide it under the guise of “sharing so you can pray”. This is not okay unless you have first asked the person who shared it with you if you can pass it on. As women who are involved in full-time ministry, we also have to be mindful of this. We will have lots of people who share very personal things with us, and the worst thing we can do is get on the phone to our Mum or our best mate and share all the things we have been told. We should love and care for the other person so much that we wouldn’t want to do anything that would hurt or upset them.
Now obviously there are times when it is appropriate to share things with another person—in cases of abuse or if someone else is in danger, for example. But even in those situations we should say that we are going to tell someone else and specify the reason for doing it.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). This verse talks about the power of our words. We live in a world that tells us we have the right say whatever we like, but when we become Christians, we give up that right as we enter into a new community and culture.
Proverbs 29:11 says: “A fool gives vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds back.”
Our words need to be glorifying to the Lord. We shouldn’t feel the need to go on about things that aren’t godly or to go on a massive rant about something. Think about the damage that our careless words can do. James tells us in 3:5 “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Our words have weight, they matter, they can either build up or tear down.
As the proverb says here they can bring life or death. In Proverbs 12:18 we are told that “the tongue of the wise brings healing”, this is because the tongue of the wise person is more concerned about soothing an injury than winning an argument. Some of the most powerful words are “I am sorry.” Our friendships aren’t going to grow and mature if we aren’t prepared to say those words. We need to remember that we will let people down. We will say things without thinking. We are still sinners, but we have the opportunity to bring restoration to those we have hurt.
This is part two in a series on choosing friends wisely. You can read part one here.