Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.
Money buys friends, lots of friends. The rich easily have an entourage of happy and serving friends. Poor men, without money, cannot even get neighbors to be friendly. A wise king wrote this proverb for lessons to help you be understanding and successful.
Friendships based on money are false, and the happy and helpful entourage is selfish and looking out for themselves. Once the money runs out, the fair-weather friends fly away, the entourage disappears. Even once-helpful neighbors avoid and reject a poor man.
Some proverbs teach an obvious lesson. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” is not difficult to grasp (Pr 22:6). The value is obtained by exploring the full sense of proper training, the nature of a child, the way he should go, and what is an old child. The lesson is clear, but you must dig for the details.
Other proverbs declare an observation from life. The lesson is only implied, and it is your duty to find it. Solomon wrote many proverbs of this kind, and here is one of them. He wrote his observation about the effects of money on relationships, and it is your privilege to identify the lesson, which is a condemnation of measuring people mostly by money.
His observation is true. Men follow those with money, for they hope to get some of it for themselves. Learn to see through the false words and actions of such men, who worm their way among the friends of the rich. They are not there for the rich man; they are there for the man’s riches. They hope to get whatever may spill over of his wealth.
Numbers of friends should not impress you: the crowd is only temporary – while the money lasts. The popularity does not prove anything good or noble by the one being followed or the followers. You must recognize the power of bribes and the greed of men, and you should have a jaundiced view of popularity due to financial success or influence.
The love of money is the root of all evil. It causes men to make friendships based on financial gain rather than character. These are not real friendships, but relationships of greed and covetousness. When the money runs out, the friendship ends. Even neighbors, who should have a sense of duty to one another, will avoid and reject those who are poor.
Solomon made this observation for his son several times (Pr 14:20; 18:16; 19:6-7). Being the son of a rich king, he would have fawning leeches following him. He had to be wise and see through their facade of friendship to measure their character. Men of principle do not care about money or advantage; they are there for the long haul (Pr 17:17). Kings, and successful men, demand character to survive (Pr 25:4-5; Ps 101:1-8; 144:11-15).
Financial success, by itself, is not an accurate measure of a man. There are too many factors contributing to riches other than character and ability. There are rich fools, and there are poor wise men. Time and chance happens to them all (Eccl 9:11). Be instructed: a poor wise man is far superior to a rich fool (Pr 19:1; 28:6; Eccl 4:13; 9:13-16).
Consider two Bible examples of how wealth affects friendships. Job, once very rich, complained how his most intimate friends and family members had forsaken him in his horrible poverty and trouble (Job 19:8-19). But Jonathan, the prince of Israel, the greatest example of a friend, gave up his lofty position and great riches to befriend the poor shepherd David (I Sam 18:1-4; 20:30). True friends are not influenced by wealth at all.
Do not love others for what they can do for you. Jesus said, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). Merely loving those who love you is unacceptable (Luke 6:32).
Jesus Christ, Who was very rich, became poor to befriend and save poverty-stricken wretches, that they might become rich by His poverty (II Cor 8:9). Here is friendship unknown to natural men. Here is the unspeakable gift of the gospel. Those who know Jesus Christ will easily burn themselves out serving those who cannot pay (II Cor 12:15).