“A friend loves at all times.” When I was in high school one of my friends gave me a little sign that said this. I remember I centered it in a collage surrounded by our particular group of friends and brought it to college with me. Through 4 years of college that collage hung on my dorm rooms’ or apartments’ walls. I loved it!
Anyway, when she gave it to me, I remember saying, “I wonder what else the proverb says about friends.” Because when I find a Bible verse, I like to see what the rest of the chapter says to keep it in context. So I went to my Bible:
1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.
2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family.
3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.
4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.
7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool— how much worse lying lips to a ruler!
8 A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn.
9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.
11 Evildoers foster rebellion against God; the messenger of death will be sent against them.
12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.
13 Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.
14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the LORD detests them both.
16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?
17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
18 One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.
19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.
20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.
21 To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.
22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.
24 A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.
26 If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right.
27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
So what did I find? The chapter seemed to stress the significance of our words to our relationships. Did you see it? “A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Deceitful – not everything people tell us about other people is true. Destructive – in fact things that are said are only meant to tear someone down. Do we choose to listen to it? Do we pay attention? How do we know if it is deceitful and destructive or truth? So perhaps it’s best to not listen at all when someone is talking about another person.
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” I need to work on this. I sometimes will tell a friend about how another friend has wronged me in my eyes. My motive truly isn’t to make my friend angry or not like the other person. My motivation is more that I want to know I’m not crazy or irrational, that I’m justified in being upset. BUT… when I read this part of the verse, I know that what I’m really doing is tearing apart friendships – mine and others.
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Oh, how I need these words to take hold of my heart. Drop the matter – why is it that we find the need to let people know every time they hurt or frustrate or anger us? Learning when it is appropriate to talk about things and when it is appropriate to offer grace, look the other way and drop the matter is no easy thing. I’m pretty sure the majority of matters are droppable. I think in addition to dropping them in the sense of not starting a quarrel, it is important to drop them internally as well, because when we harness the bitterness in our heart, that dam will burst at some point.
Going along with starting a quarrel, “Whoever loves a quarrel, loves sin.” Do you have friends who seem to always want to fight about something? I hate to sound harsh, but perhaps those are not friends we should be spending a lot of time with, because they are causing us to sin. You wouldn’t hang out with a friend who was always trying to get you to steal or break the law (I don’t think…) so we probably shouldn’t be hanging out with a friend who is always trying to get us to break God’s law.
“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is evil-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Words once said are really hard to take back. We all have been told that, and we probably all have experienced that… but when are emotions are all worked up, it’s so hard to hold our tongues. But, I do believe that the more we spend time in the Bible, the more we are asking God to work in our lives, the more we are willing to look at others as imperfect people just as we are imperfect and offer them the same grace that God offers us, it does get easier.
P.S. Here’s a few more verses on speaking…
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:18-20)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Click here to read Wednesday’s post on this verse.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14) This was written by King David at the end of a psalm in which he was praising God and asking God to forgive him. I think this is an awesome prayer for all of our words and thoughts in relationships – that they would be pleasing to God.