...Friends & Fools
One of the first proverbs I memorised was Proverbs 26:11. (My juvenile male imagination found the nauseating image humorous).
The ‘fool’ makes frequent appearances throughout the book of proverbs. This shouldn’t surprise us as the writer’s goal is to promote Godly wisdom and to deter the reader from worldly folly.
Mistakenly, we could derive a checklist from proverbs which we can use to sift through our friends to identify ‘true friends’ and ‘total fools’. It’s true that Proverbs would certainly encourage us to be wise about the company we keep, (Pr 22:24-25 c.f. 1 Cor 15:33).
"“Yet, in the end, the emphasis should fall not on how we should choose our friends, but on what kind of friend we should be to others”" *1
However, this quote from Lindsay Wilson’s commentary on Proverbs helps us to understand that the most wise and godly way to apply the wisdom of this book is to begin by focusing it on ourselves.
Avoid Foolish Behaviour…
Construction sites all over the world have various ‘initiation’ rites for any new labourers or apprentices; often they’ll send them on a ‘fools errand’ - “Ask the boss for ‘a long wait’”, “Grab me the left handed screwdriver.”, “Buy some tartan paint.” Or “Find a new bubble for my level.” A duped labourer may return feeling foolish, but there is a vast difference between trusting your colleagues too much and being a fool.
‘A simple man believes anything’...
We are relentlessly bombarded with information; from our families, friends, jobs, magazines, papers, films, radios, TVs, computers, phones & watches. It has become impossible to process every piece of data we encounter but if we lack discernment we allow ourselves to become fools.
This is where we discover the connection between my last blog topic, ‘Speech & Words’, and this one. A wise person will weigh the information they receive before passing it on, but a fool will constantly speak out folly and then soak up even more (Pr 15:2;14). Another good reason not to share, repeat or retweet information if we haven’t ‘sense checked’ it first is…we’re not parrots!
This is where a fool will compound their folly, because they won’t listen to other people and they certainly won’t ask them for advice (Pr 15:12). Whereas a wise individual will actively seek and openly celebrate wisdom from others.
By these standards so much of modern public discourse is remarkably foolish. Politicians repeat nonsensical answers, pundits give us baseless opinions, celebrities express their vacuous ideas and friends share ill-advised Facebook posts - let’s try not to add to it!
"Don’t argue with a fool – They’ll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience!" *2
It’s sobering to read Proverbs 3:34, realising that the foolishness of the world doesn’t go by unnoticed. If we choose to mock God by our proud, rebellious lives, we will ourselves become objects of divine mockery; whilst the humble will receive God’s grace.
Be a Friend to Others…
Friendships have inspired acts of bravery & daring deeds, beautiful poetry, enchanting music and ‘moving’ lyrics…
"Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, get high with a little help from my friends
Oh, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends" *3
If rock ’n’ roll, screaming girls and global fame are what you’re after, I guess John, Paul, George & Ringo did alright as a group of friends but ‘getting high with friends’ would certainly fall under ‘foolish behaviour’.
Life can often test the substance of our friendships to the point of destruction; but it’s in our deepest struggles that the strongest friendships become more like family to us.
‘A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity’...
As friendships deepen we earn the right to speak ‘hard things’ to each other (Pr 27:6). Eventually you’re so comfortable that you can give each other truth in it’s working clothes, without dressing it up with flowery language.
I have been through distressing experiences with friends, who have needed to say painful things to me. It is certainly true that the more they’ve comforted me in my tears, the more comfortable I am in letting them reduce me to tears.
" Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes....
'Come, Mr. Frodo!' he cried. 'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get!.... Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he'll go.'
As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light." *4
In the movie adaptation of Lord of The Rings, this scene is so incredibly powerful as the ever faithful friend Sam picks Frodo up and says ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you…’. It’s such a wonderful picture of ‘a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Pr 18:24)
Our Trustworthy Friend…
Now, as each of us looks to be a ‘Proverbs 18:25 friend’, our example isn’t Samwise Gamgee - it’s Jesus!
At the very beginning of the book of Proverbs we are given the distilled essence of what makes a good friend;
‘Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act’...
In Romans, Paul makes it clear that God goes further than this;
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
It was entirely in His power to act, you & I certainly didn’t deserve it, but when we were still sinners Jesus died for us!
Praise God - this is the gospel!!
1. What is ‘friendship’? How many ‘friends’ do you have?
2. Have you ever shared a bonding experience with a friend?
Did the experience make you laugh or cry? How about now?
3. Would you be able to give your friend ‘hard truths’? Do you?
Would you allow them to give you ‘hard truths’? Do they?
4. What keeps you from developing deeper friendships?
5. How does knowing Jesus liberate you to be a better friend?
*1 – Lindsay Wilson – Proverbs Commentary, (IVP) 2017.
*2 – Mark Twain
*3 -John Lennon and Paul McCartney, ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’ - The Beatles, 1967.
*4 - J.R.R Tolkien, Lord of The Rings - Book 6 - ‘The Return of the King’ - Chpt 3, Mount Doom.