Summary: We are created social beings. Friendships are one of the Lord’s great blessings. This is a look at the traits of true friendship as revealed in the Scriptures.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.”
When we read these words of Solomon we tend to think in terms of marriage, and I have certainly quoted this passage in one of the weddings I officiated. But I believe the author had a much wider application in mind. This is for people who are on this lonely earth who are wondering how to survive in our dog-eat-dog culture. The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that Friendship is a good investment (v. 9). When the author says in verse nine, “Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their labor” the words “good reward” can also be translated “good return” for it means ‘dividends paid on a wise investment’.
The very best investment you will ever make in life will not be a financial one, but rather the investment made in relationships - first, with the Lord and secondarily with other people. We will get the best return on that investment over any other investment that we will ever make.
As we go through life there are two kinds of things we can give our lives to. If we spend all our lives trying to accumulate more and more possessions, we will never truly be happy and fulfilled. On the other hand, we can decide to focus on building relationships, trying to make friends and to be a friend. That brings true riches.
Now I want us to turn our attention to some general characteristics of a real friend and friendship based on this passage and other Scriptures.
1. A Real Friend Is Someone Who Provides Emotional Or Physical Warmth In A Cold, Cruel World. (v. 11)
Some times we have a tendency to take a passage so literally that we miss the point of the whole idea. This is more than just about keeping each other physically warm. Sometimes it’s cold out there in the world. We all want and need the warm affection of other human beings.
When I think of the love of friendship as it should be, I think of the relationship between Jonathan and David in the Old Testament. These two became acquainted with each other when David was brought to King Saul after he had defeated Goliath. Jonathan was Saul’s son and the presumed heir to the throne. 1 Samuel 17:57-18:3, “So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand. Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’ Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”
In true friendship there is the knitting of souls together in love and affection. We all want and need the warm affection of other human beings. We want and need unconditional love. People you can talk with, laugh with, sing with, pray with and even cry with. They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They like and love you for who and what you are….and what you can become. Such a relationship is priceless.
It is interesting that the Scriptures state, on a couple of occasions, that Jonathan and David entered into a “covenant” with each other. And, truly, friendship is a covenant relationship. It is an unspoken and unwritten covenant of love and loyalty.
True friends are people with whom you can dare to be yourself. You do not have to be on your guard. With them, you breathe freely. Your soul can be naked with them. You can say what you think and share what you feel. You can admit your little vanities and weaknesses and faults and in opening them up to your true friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. You do not have to be careful because a friend will never betray your trust.
Nothing destroys friendships faster than betrayal of trust. It is a disgrace to expose to others what your friend has shared about themselves in confidence … especially their confessed weaknesses and faults. Proverbs 17:9, “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”