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Last week, Solomon talked about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value. This morning, we’ll dig into biblical poverty and biblical friendship.
Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:23-24 where Solomon says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly. A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Have we turned the corner on this? Our first verse speaks of something I think we need to get an accurate picture of so before we look at that verse, I’d like to give you some biblical perspective on this topic. In Matt. 26, the famous story is told of the precious ointment in the alabaster box. I encourage you to check out the account of the event in Matt. 26:6-13 because I want to focus on just a couple of key points. It’s never a waste to make financial sacrifice on behalf of Jesus. The disciples were, “indignant.” Indignant means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. They argued that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ response should serve as a warning to us. “For you will always have the poor with you.” Money is not the answer. It may provide temporary relief, but does not provide a solution. We’ve bought the lie that if we’re not giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked, that we’re somehow failing as believers and as a church.
As I have shared, we get frequent calls from people needing monetary help with everything from their rent to vehicle repairs. Why do people call churches instead of calling a bank, or a convenience store, or a restaurant, or a realty company? Have you ever thought about that? Somewhere along the way, the church became the answer. According to National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million charities in the United States. The largest organization with over 84 billion in assets might surprise you: the Harvard Corporation. Next at over 66 billion is the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care consortium. Third is one you probably have heard of. It’s the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with assets over 54 billion. Those organizations are classified in the same 501(c)(3) category as churches. I wanted to give you this background to help you understand where we are. Over and over again in Scripture we are warned of the dangers of having an unbiblical view of money. Money is not evil. Whether you are rich or poor by some arbitrary, shifting standard is irrelevant to your status with God. Often in Scripture, the rich or greedy are spoken of in a negative light. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Eccl. 5:10) “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Lu.6:24-25) The opposite is often true regarding the poor. Maybe you’re familiar with the widow of Luke 21. The reality God shows us over and over again is that money can be a barrier in a person’s relationship with God.
So here’s the verse. “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Poverty can be an incredible problem, but it can have a positive effect on your relationship with God. Supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. The poor person seeks help from God. Rich people rarely learn to rely on God for provision. Unfortunately, many times our prayers of supplication turn into a glorified wish list that we want God to fulfill. It is absolutely okay to go to God for your needs. Ja. 4:2b says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” We often quote Phil. 4:19 where Paul reminds us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” What we fail to do is recognize the context in which Paul gave us that truth. Let’s take a look at the context. Another passage we need to understand is found in Phil 4:10-19. The Philippians had been long time investors in the Kingdom of God through Paul’s work. We use that ask not verse and neglect the remainder of the thought when James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” (Ja. 4:3a) Prosperity can lead to arrogance as well as a desire to hold onto what one has. Of course, that mentality takes God out of the equation when someone thinks that they have achieved something. Remember from a recent message: everything that occurs in this life is allowed by God. When the rich think they’re someone because of their wealth, they fall into that money trap. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The poor offer entreaties or supplications and in return, “The rich man answers roughly.” Just because you have achieved wealth or some status, does not give you the right to treat others harshly. As is often the case with Solomon, he offers a very distinct contrast between two types of people.
Can friendship lead to ruin? Michael W. Smith sang a song that said friends are friends forever. As with many things, we tend to stick to the good part and leave out the caveat or reason behind something. The rest of that line goes: “If the Lord’s the Lord of them.” The idea is that when the Lord reigns supreme in your life, then any issues or differences can easily be worked out. Solomon says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.” When I was growing up, I seemed to have multiple sets of friends. I had sports friends, neighborhood friends, school friends, and then I had my real friends. Too many friends can lead to trouble. There are the tag along friends, the fifth wheel friends, the needy friends. But those kind of people aren’t really friends. Friend is defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. A couple of months ago we looked at Pro. 17:17 where Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” So you really can’t have too many friends can you? Solomon says if you do, you will come to ruin. If we understand that ruin literally means broken in pieces, I think we might begin to understand. When we have issues or hurts in life, we expect that our friends will come running and will be there for us. As I said in the message from Pro. 17:17, if you have one, two, or three real friends, consider yourself blessed. If you have too many friends, there won’t be much time to cultivate those relationships, to strengthen them, or to invest in them. Even if you don’t have any so-called real friends, Solomon reminds us, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is an often quoted verse to remind us of the friendship of Christ. Did you notice the contrast word? Solomon presents the idea that if you have too many friends, they will not be there for you, but there is One that always will be there. There is a friend that sticks closer to you than a blood relationship. Think about that. There is a closeness associated with blood relationships. As members of a family, you might argue or fight and generally not like one another for a time, but if someone goes against a member of your family, all bets are off, right? See, there’s a bond within the family.
Many people think that the friend Solomon is talking about is Jesus. Jesus certainly fits this profile. He became the Son of man in order for us to enter into the closest relationship possible between the Creator and the created. H. D. M. Spence-Jones said it this way, “More tenacious than the mere natural love of kindred, because [it is] founded on the affinity of soul with soul. All the purest types of earthly affection and friendship are but hints of the eternal love of Him who calls the soul into espousal, friendship, and eternal communion with himself.” The bond of Christ is stronger than the bond between family. But good exegesis is more important than eisegesis. The contrast is between a man of many friends and a man of few friends. When you have few friends, you have deeper relationships. It’s better to have a friend that sticks closer to you than any blood relative than it is to have a bunch of shallow acquaintances that call themselves friends. Jesus can be your friend, but He is much more than that.
This morning started with a biblical perspective on poverty. As with so many things in this world, we need to understand God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can actually cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God.