Category Archives: Friendship

What About the Vegetables?

Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate. (NLT)

I remember a television comedy sketch in the UK concerning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet sharing a meal. Puppets were used to portray the scene. Mrs Thatcher was served first. The waitress placed several slices of meat on her plate and then asked, “and what about the vegetables?” The Prime Minister looked around the table briefly at her cabinet colleagues, many of whom were regarded as ineffective by voters. Then she replied, “oh, they’ll have the same as me.” This was not a meal shared in love!

Mrs Thatcher was known in the press as the ‘Iron Lady’ and her methods of leadership were not always respected. Despite this, and despite the attitude of her fellow cabinet members, Mrs Thatcher needed them, and they needed her. While a bowl of vegetables shared lovingly may be considered superior to prime steak shared begrudgingly, the common denominator between the two parts of this verse is that meals are not meant to be taken alone. The question is less about the menu and more about the company, and the attitudes of those around the table to each other.

In my work travels I often eat alone. It doesn’t matter how good the food is, a meal taken alone is not something I enjoy. Mostly I can’t wait to leave the restaurant. A conversation with a friendly waiter or waitress is a bonus. The fact is that God created us to be together. The need to share is woven into our DNA. So here’s a question. Is there someone you know who eats alone and who would benefit from an invitation to a meal at your home? A meal shared in love and a meal representing love. Jesus said:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)


Friends and Neighbors

Proverbs 14:20

“The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.”

Definition of a Neighbor

An expert in the law once asked Jesus the question: “Who is my neighbor?” This man knew that the law told him to love his neighbor, but while the purpose of the question was to test Jesus, it is doubtful that he was head over heels in love with all his neighbors. So Jesus told a story and put the expert in the law on the spot. The story involved a Samaritan, a person the expert in the law was least likely to want as his next-door neighbor. At the end of the story the legal expert begrudgingly accepted that out of three people, the Samaritan was the only true neighbor to the injured Jew in the illustration provided by Jesus. The mercy, compassion and love showed by the Samaritan enriched him as the giver, and the injured Jew as the receiver. It must also have enriched the innkeeper.

Poor Neighbor or Good?

While mercy, compassion and love bring enrichment, the process of hating another human being brings impoverishment to all parties. Hate is a strong and unpleasant word, but if there is a person or group of people we despise, don’t like, disrespect, look down on, etc., then is that any better than hate? What gives us the right to judge ourselves better than another human being? Are we good neighbors or poor neighbors? Are we rich in mercy, compassion and love? Should we be friends of the rich or good neighbors to the poor?

Who are Your Friends?

It is said that we can choose our friends but not our families. Similarly, it is not possible to choose our neighbors, especially if we consider how Jesus defined neighbors. Jesus quite deliberately spent much of his time with the impoverished of society, rather than with rich people, famous people, or clever people. His friends were fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and the like. Jesus wasn’t intimidated by learning, wealth or position, He looked at the heart. So when a rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. By enriching the lives of others in this way this young man would have become wealthy in a different way, with riches that would last forever.

Who is your neighbor?


Got Fleas?

Proverbs 13:20

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Just about everyone has heard the old English proverb, “He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” If not, let me explain. This proverb involves two things: a person and a dog. What is the action that is involved? They are very close to each other. So close, in fact (“lies down with”), that the fleas that are on the dog would move to the person.

So what does Proverbs 13:20 have to do with fleas? Answer: Association.

If the person was not associated with the dog, then there would be no possible way for that person to get fleas from the dog.

Solomon is explaining to us that we must be careful with whom we associate. He is telling us that we need to be very careful who we have as our friends and those we depend on.

This verse is simply saying that we need to make sure that we associate with wise men and not with foolish companions.

As I was preparing for this post, I came across this saying,

“Your friends are like the buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or they will take you down” – Author Unknown

I am asking you today, based on Proverbs 13:20, are the people that you associate with bringing you closer to God or taking you further away from Him?

I love the way the New Living Translation says this verse, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”

Psalms 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…”

So, do you have fleas? Are you associating with people that are getting you into trouble? If so, it’s time to “de-bug or de-fool” your life and seek out people of wisdom. Just as the verse says, “walk with the wise and become wise”!

Lord, help us to be careful who we associate with in our lives. We know that we are to be salt and light in this world, but help us to make sure we seek the counsel of wise men and women and not those who will lead us into trouble. Give us wisdom each day to seek out those who give wisdom based on your Word.

Folk Wisdom:

  • “Tell me your companions, and I will tell you what you are.”
  • “He that lives with cripples learns to limp” (Dutch Proverb)
  • “He that goes with wolves learns to howl” (Spanish Proverb)

You Think You’re Better than Me?

Proverbs 12:26

“The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.”

I’m No Better

How many times have you been told that you should never think of yourself as better than anyone else? I have to remind myself of that every time I get behind the wheel of a car. You may have to be reminded every time you go through the checkout isle at the grocery store.

So, if we are to believe that we are all human and no better than our neighbor, why does today’s proverb say that “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor?” Maybe it would help to look at some other ways this could be translated.

Three Versions

The English Standard Version reads, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Now, let’s read what the Holman Christian Standard says: “A righteous man is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.”

Finally, the Revised Standard Version says, “A righteous man turns away from evil, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Even though the last part of the verse remains consistent, the first part does not. What’s the deal?

Translating

I am no Hebrew scholar by any definition of the term. However, if you were to look at the Hebrew text for this proverb you would find that there are only 6 words. What is interesting is that it takes anywhere from 15 to 19 words to say the equivalent in English.  The key is “equivalent.”

Interpreters of Scripture sometimes have to translate meaning, not just word for word definitions. And when this happens, the idea of what the original is saying may take more than just a few words to express. That is possibly why there are so many different versions of this one verse.

What’s the Idea?

Well, the idea of this verse is not that we as believers should think of ourselves as better than anyone else, but that the righteous should care about where the unrighteous are heading.

The contrast between the two parallel parts of verse 26 is meant to highlight who cares more for his friends – the righteous man. To put the KJV in a way that compares more with the other versions, it is saying that the heart of the righteous and the way he cares for his friends is much different than the wicked man who only wants to deceive and lead astray.

The righteous man is not “better” than his neighbor; he only cares about where his neighbor is going.

A Prayer: Lord, help us to be good neighbors. Help us to care about others and guide them to You. Don’t let us lead others astray.


What’s In Your Heart?

Proverbs 11:12

He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”

Have you watched any TV or movies in the past few decades and seen those stories with neighbors that fight about who has the best lawn, the best toys, or the best Christmas decorations?

Most of the best end (or at least have middles) with these enemies coming together to work together or even in friendship.

War and Peace

The funny thing about all of these stories is that these neighbors (usually men, but sometimes women or both) fail to see just how much in common they have with each other, even to the point of hating something both parties have in common, or go beyond reason in their hatred. It is as if they have declared war, not only against their neighbor, but against common sense and reason.

These neighbors spread rumors, sabotage each others’ endeavors, and openly mock each other without realizing how foolish they look to most other people.

Many times, this attitude ends up carrying over to others, including family and friends.

Compare this to the neighbor everyone loves and wants to be around.

This neighbor often lends a helping hand to others, even those people others might not be inclined to help … including unliked neighbors.

This neighbor rarely, if ever, has anything bad to say about others, oftentimes because of an understanding of how bad hurtful words can feel.

You and I

What about us? Have you considered the words that leave your mouth? Do you think about what you say before you say it?

Do you know what is in your heart?

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: – Matthew 15:18-19 KJV

Perhaps the reason neighbors can not get along, people look and sound foolish, and we say things that we are ashamed of later is that we have those things listed above in our hearts.

You and I need to lift each other up as we seek the heart of Jesus Christ. We must help each other in our desire to have Jesus change our hearts to be like His.

You and I, to be able to hold our tongues and no longer have the need to hold our tongues, need the Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, dwelling in our hearts.

Heavenly Father, without You we have evil hearts and defiled tongues. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, live in our hearts and change them to be like Your Son’s. Teach us to love our neighbors. Give us Wisdom to not only say what needs to be said but to want to choose You.


Does Your Dog Bite?

Proverbs 10:10

“He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.”

Biting Dogs

If you have ever owned a dog, or been around them, I am sure you have heard someone say, “Does your dog bite?” The reason they ask this question is because one can never tell if a dog is safe by appearance.

One of my favorite scenes in any movie came in the Peter Sellers classic, the Pink Panther Strikes Again. In that scene Inspector Clouseau asks a hotel manager, “Does your dog bite?” The manager replies as he shakes his head, “No.” Clouseau then reaches down to pet the little dog and gets bit.

Angrily, Clouseau said, “I thought you said your dog did not bite!” The manager replied, “That is not my dog.”

Commenting on this verse, the great Matthew Henry said, “The dog that bites is not always the dog that barks.” In other words, the dog that bites is not always the one you expect.

Prating Fools and Winkers

Some fools are easy to spot (Spot – get it?). They run around acting like idiots, saying things that are obviously out of line with all wisdom, and make their true colors known. They are the barking dogs with foaming mouths. They are the wild hounds running the streets. They are the ones you know are trouble, so hopefully you stay away.

Other people are like the quite, fluffy dogs who look at you with big brown eyes, just begging to be petted. Then, just as you trust them, they explode into a white hot ball of canine terror* and rip your arm off. They are the ones who seem so friendly, so sweet, yet anything but nice.

The prating fool is someone who will come to an end by his own making. He is dangerous, but mostly to himself. But the man that “winketh” is bound for destruction, but not before he hurts the unwary who trust him.

Fakers are Biters

If there is anything I hate, it is fake concern. God hates it, too. “Winking” friends allow you to think they care about what you are going through; that they are concerned with your pain; that when the time comes they will find a way to help you through your difficulties. They may even say things like, “I’ll be praying for you, brother.”

The fakers, the winkers, want to let you think they care, but their goal is to use you for their own gain, even if the gain they seek is their own self-edification. Shame on those who say they care only to look pious and holy! They are nothing more than biting dogs, and somebody always gets hurt.

*”White hot ball of canine terror” is a line from a great Steven Spielberg cartoon, “Family Dog.”

Self-controlled

Proverbs 9:12

“If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.”

The Loud Mouth

Have you ever been around (or even been) that person who has to point out all the flaws? What about that person who gossips or cannot keep a secret? What about that person who just seems like a jerk?

Would you trust this person with a secret? Would you trust this person with almost any information? Would you want to hang out with this person?

Imagine for a moment (if you have to) that you are that person?

How would you feel if no one trusted you? How would you feel if no one wanted to be near you (at least for very long)?

What if you were struggling with something? What if you were depressed or in need?

That person – you – would have to bear that burden, and every burden, alone.

The Self-Controlled

The person everyone wants around them is the one who is trustworthy, can keep your confidence, and is generally genial.

Some people do not like these people (such as loud-mouths, jerks, etcetera), usually because the one who is self-controlled and wise embodies everything they are not. They might assume that the self-controlled person is arrogant and conceited. (This happens with many Christians)

The benefit to be self-controlled, though, is that life can seem pretty good. You have friends who can help you. You have loved ones near you when you are in need in any way.

We could almost say you should be wise and self-controlled for your own good.

As a reminder, Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God. Therefore, the only true way live a wise and self-controlled life is with Christ.

O Lord, Your way is the only way. Give us our self-control that we do not destroy ourselves. Send Your Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us in all wisdom. Not only that we may benefit and even find eternal life, but that You may be glorified in our lives.