Proverbs 19:6-7 (ESV) “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words but does not have them.”

What do you think of the friends mentioned in these Proverbs? If you are like me, you recoil in disgust. But perhaps this is the kind of friend I am naturally inclined to be. I want the benefits of friendship flowing toward me. I don’t naturally gravitate towards the hardships or hard work associated with real friendship.

In a recent blog I said that “Friends are not Facebook Visitors.” Your friends can be fickle, but then that really means their friendship was lacking depth. In fact, a good definition of a true friend would include two key ingredients:

  • It would be someone you know.
  • A bond that isn’t easily broken by either party.

Exploring those two elements a bit more, friendship means you will take time to get to know someone. What are their strengths, weaknesses, priorities, goals and desires? Clearly if you are a person who gives gifts, you will have many friends. But those friends aren’t interested in you – they are interested in what they can get from you. In the same way, be careful about trying to gain friendships by giving gifts. Those relationships are likely to be shallow and lacking in benefit for both you and for the person receiving the gifts. This will often result in disappointments and disillusionment. I have friends who give me gifts, but the real value in those relationships, as a friend, is the friendship itself. It isn’t the trappings that may come with the friendship.

Someone set the standard for friendship. Jesus was the best example of a true friend. In Matthew 11:19 he was accused of being the “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” He wasn’t a friend to the tax collectors so that he could get favors, and the sinners had nothing of value to offer him. He was a friend because he understood their plight and had a goal of helping them like no other Friend ever  could.

The other element of true friendship is a bond. It is a strong bond. It is not a bond easily severed. It is a Liquid Nails ®  bond. The bond of friendship can be so strong that it means you would sacrifice yourself for your friend. The amazing thing is that Jesus did just that on the cross. Adam’s gift for all of mankind was death. The Savior’s gift of death resulted in a grace gift for many.

Here is a helpful way to see friendship as it is meant to be as modeled and commanded by Jesus:

John 15:12-15 (ESV) “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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.”