Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
Friendship is truly one of the greatest gifts in life. In our friends we find trusted companions who know us and love us for who we are, no matter what. Friendship can also be challenging and messy, as it takes a lot of work to keep relationships with friends happy and healthy, but our friends are the people who get us through rough times—the people who very often come to us with compassion. They always have the right words because they know our needs. I’ve never heard anyone say they wish for fewer, less-meaningful relationships. Each one of us longs to be more connected, more deeply, with friends. And this is because God made us for true friendship.
Proverbs gives us wisdom for navigating the complexities of our relationships. And it doesn’t just address relationships in general, but also friendship in particular. For example, it teaches us what to look for in finding true friends. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed,” and Proverbs 22:24-25 tells us, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.”
We often treat relationships as consumers: we befriend for the benefits we receive. But like a contract, when the relationship doesn’t give us the goods we want, we leave. However, the Bible shows us that real friendship is more covenantal than contractual. Proverbs 18:24 teaches us, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” God commands us in Proverbs 27:10, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” God warns us in Proverbs 19:4 about the fickleness of fair-weather friends: “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.”
Our greatest joy is found in our fellowship with God and one another. This is why Jonathan Edwards said that friendship is “the highest happiness of moral agents.” According to the Bible, our chief happiness is in fellowship and friendship.The Bible gives us everything we need to recover a greater vision of true friendship. It shows us even our feeblest of efforts at forging friendships echo a more glorious reality—every friendship is a small and imperfect echo of God, who made us in his image to enjoy friendship forever. Friendship didn’t come from us; it came from God. And he gives us everything we need—through his word and his Spirit—to cultivate it well, for the glory of God.
Friends bring us great comfort in times of need, and the Bible tells us about the importance of our friendships. God’s Word can also be a great comfort in itself. Gary David Comstock wrote in Gay Theology Without Apology, “Instead of making the Bible into a parental authority, I have begun to engage it as I would a friend- as one to whom I have made a commitment and in whom I have invested dearly, but with whom I insist on a mutual exchange of critique, encouragement, support, and challenge. Such investment and commitment hinge on deeply felt and shared experience, meaning, and outlook- a cooperative project to live fully that both changes and remains steady through joys and sorrow.”