Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
Great men have great friends. Here is precious wisdom. But very few men qualify as great friends. It is very prudent to keep such friends, even above a blood brother. A small band of committed and virtuous friends is far better than the natural relationship of family. Blood may be thicker than water, as it is said, but it is not thicker than godly character in Jesus Christ! “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Pr 18:24).
When trouble comes, and it will come, you want a real friend to stand with you, one that loves at all times and considers your problems to be his own (Pr 17:17). You want a friend that thinks the same as you and will stand with you no matter the cost or difficulty. A cultivated friendship based on character, conviction, truth, and wisdom will far surpass the expected help of a natural brother that is only connected to you by blood and name.
Your success depends on great friends, for there are four benefits (Eccl 4:9-12). When God gives such a friend, it is a great blessing. Solomon used this proverb to help his son rule a great nation that stretched from the Euphrates to Egypt. He himself had benefited much by his father’s friends, Hiram the King of Tyre (II Sam 5:11; I Kgs 5:1-18) and Benaiah, captain of the bodyguards (II Sam 20:23; 23:20-23; I Kgs 1:38; 2:25-46).
Consider inspired history. Joseph found greater kindness from foreign captors than his brothers. David found greater loyalty and service from vagabonds than his envious brothers, and he found greater love and loyalty from Jonathan. Jesus found greater sympathy and loyalty from His disciples than His brothers (John 7:1-5; Luke 22:15). He knew His true friends were those who heard the word of God and kept it (Matt 12:46-50).
God chose David for his pure heart (I Sam 16:6-13). Jonathan saw this clearer than his envious brothers did (I Sam 17:28). Though losing much, he loved him dearly (I Sam 18:1-4). Loving virtue above family and career, Jonathan chose David over his own father (I Sam 19:1-7). They made a vow against the blood ties of Jonathan (I Sam 20:1-17) and included their children (I Sam 23:42). David valued Jonathan’s love above women (II Sam 1:26), and he saved Jonathan’s son when he was in need (II Sa 9:1; 21:7).
Godly friends are superior to blood brothers, for the relationship is built on a better foundation. They are superior for their regenerated hearts, the precious blood of Christ, the absolute truth of God’s Word, godly hatred of compromise, a life pursuit of holiness, and the hope of eternal life. The Bible recognizes these friends as dear as one’s own soul, even distinguishing them from a precious wife (Deut 13:6; I Sam 18:1,3; 20:17).
Do you understand the importance of this lesson? Without great friendships based in godliness, who will help in the day of your calamity? You will go down and stay down. Two are better than one for four reasons, and you risk your future by not securing good friends for it (Eccl 4:9-12). A wise man will secure his life and that of his family by doing what is necessary to preserve vital friendships with noble and virtuous men.
There is a place for godly networking, though the objective and methods are infinitely superior to the world’s effort to find contacts and customers for their own selfish ends. The great God instructed His messengers to be lovers of good men (Titus 1:8), as Paul was of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; Phil 2:19-23; II Tim 1:1-5). Most so-called Christians have no clue about great friends, because they despise men that are holy (II Tim 3:1-5).
What kinds of friends meet the intent of this proverb? The context, unusual in Proverbs, gives valuable traits of godly friends (Pr 27:4-5,9). True friends love at all times, whether you are in good or bad circumstances (Pr 17:17). They are chosen for their fear of God, love of truth, and personal righteousness (Ps 119:63). Do you know such men? You cannot cheat on any of these measures, or you will lose the benefit you are seeking.
The blood of Jesus Christ creates an immediate bond greater than human blood, when two lovers and followers of Christ meet by the kind providence of God. There is no selfishness, self-protection, fear, doubts, or hidden agenda between such friends. They fully trust each other (I Sam 14:6-7), and they strengthen each other in God (I Sam 23:14-18). And they love to unite their zeal in doing great things for God (II Kgs 10:15-16).
False friends, who make up the vast majority of all men in the world, are fair weather friends – they only stand with you while it is easy and profitable (Pr 14:20; 19:4). Or they are carnal friends, whose friendship is based on worldly compatibility. Or they are weak friends, whom you must constantly help due to their lack of character. David had no use for false brethren or the harsh spirits of his nephews (Ps 101:3-8; 144:11; II Sam 3:39).
Do you deserve great friends? Loners do not have them, for they are too selfish to give. Rebels lose out because their unruly spirits are dangerous and offensive. Compromisers will not have any, for they cannot be trusted. The greater zeal a man has for Jesus Christ, the greater he will be loved by such men. Godliness and virtue attract godly and virtuous men; and godliness and virtue drive away carnal men. Holy living will bring holy friends.
To have great friends, you must be friendly (Pr 18:24). To keep them, you cannot forsake them (Pr 27:10). Friendship is a two-way street, and you are foolish to think great men need no encouragement. The proverb teaches to keep and cultivate your friendships with godly men lest the relationship decay or disappear. A brother offended is very hard to recover (Pr 18:19), and so is a brother disappointed by your compromise (Acts 15:36-40).
It is God’s providential blessing that brings great friends into your life, and most of them should be found in your local church, if it is a church sold out to Jesus Christ and the apostolic truth of the gospel (I Cor 12:18; Heb 10:23-25). Paul, often traveling, had such friends in several places (Acts 19:31; 27:3; 28:14-15). Some can even be thankful they have double brothers or sisters, united by both family blood and Jesus Christ’s blood.
The sky is the limit when you have friends like described above. The encouraging and synergistic benefits are very great, and Solomon clearly listed four of them (Eccl 4:9-12). While Jonathan and David were a great pair, and so were Jehu and Jehonadab, three mutual friends like a threefold cord are even greater, as Solomon wrote in the same place.
But consider the powerful and rich relationship of many church members truly committed to one another and Jesus Christ – each joint and part contributing to the growth of the body (Eph 4:16). They provide numerous services to one another in a way no worldly organization would consider (Matt 20:25-28; I Cor 12:12-27; Phil 2:1-4; I Thes 5:14). Such an organism living by the direction of the Holy Spirit will surpass an earthly family.