Friendship in Proverbs

(Part of a series where I’m looking at different topics in Proverbs. Here’s the last one.)

A few weeks ago, I listened to a Tim Keller sermon on friendship. I had already decided that I wanted to grow in my relationships this summer, particularly with other brothers. This sermon got me thinking about what it looks like to actually do that. It’s a great listen and I recommend taking the time to reflect on it if you’re able.

Tim Keller focuses on friendship as discussed in Proverbs, and his teaching on these scriptures drove me back to look at them myself. Rather than try to repeat what he’s said since you can just listen to him yourself (and, frankly, because I don’t think I could do so this long after having listened to it), I’ll share the scriptures I looked at.

Your friendships shape you

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 13:20

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” 22:24-25

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 27:17

Friends stick close

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” 17:17

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” 18:24

Flattery, honesty, and counsel

“A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” 26:28

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love” 27:5

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” 27:6

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” 27:9

“Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” 29:5

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” 24:26

“He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.” 28:23


“Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” 20:6

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering towards slaughter. If you say ‘but we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” 24:11-12

“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” 17:9

“If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit. Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house - too much of you, and he will hate you.” 25:16-17

“Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’” 26:18-19

“Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” 27:10

The greatest friend

As I was listening to Tim Keller, and as I was going through the scriptures above, the picture of what a perfect friend would look like grew in my head. When that kind of thing happens, I generally default to thinking about how much I fall short of that perfect image. Tim Keller speaks to this. He raises the question “how do we get the power to be a great friend?” The answer? Look to Jesus - the perfect friend himself.

Think about it! Jesus cared for people enough that he met them and was with them in the worst times. He had the love to speak the truth to the disciples and to the crowds, even if it was sometimes hard to hear. Yet he didn’t just rebuke people: he wanted to be close to them.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Luke 13:34

And beyond all of this, he did what only the greatest friend does.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:9-17